Mt Cuba Center
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Mt. Cuba is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm.

An ecological gardening certificate student completes a Native Plants of Fall exam in Mt. Cuba Center's naturalistic gardens.
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Program Guide

Classes offered year-round. Learn to garden in harmony with nature, take an art or wellness class, and more!

Wide shot of flowering Amsonia.
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Trial Garden

Mt. Cuba Center evaluates native plants and related cultivars for horticultural and ecological value.

Mt. Cuba Center's natural lands pictured at sunset.
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Ecological Land Management

Mt. Cuba conserves and stewards more than 1,000 acres including meadows, forests, streams and riparian corridors.

Two guests walk down the West Slope path in spring at Mt. Cuba Center.
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Mt Cuba Center

Meet the instructors who make Mt. Cuba Center a great place to learn.

Class Acts

Élan Alford, PhD

Élan Alford, Ph.D, is the plant conservation scientist at Mt. Cuba Center. She coordinates volunteer research, including rare plant monitoring. Prior to joining Mt. Cuba, Élan worked in environmental consulting and has volunteered as Rare Plant Chair for the California Native Plant Society Santa Clara Valley Chapter.

Liz Allen

Liz Allen is the horticulturist for the Marian Coffin Gardens at Gibraltar as well as NCCL School. In addition to caring for gardens, she teaches classes for Mt. Cuba Center’s Ecological Gardening Certificate. Liz conducts classes and presentations for garden clubs, environmental schools, nature centers, and elementary schools. As a certified Delaware Master Naturalist, she is dedicated to involving children in local ecological restoration. You may find her observing a cardinal flower, patiently awaiting the arrival of a hummingbird.

Susan Barton

Susan Barton, PhD, is an extension specialist and professor in the Plant and Soil Sciences Department at the University of Delaware. She helped develop the Plants for a Livable Delaware program and, in 2015, received the Land Ethics Award in the residential category from Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve for her work on a sustainable demonstration project in New Castle County.

Nancy Bell

Nancy Bell is the Education and Garden Coach Coordinator at Gateway Garden Center in Hockessin. She has Certificates of Merit in Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design from Longwood Gardens.

Kelly Billing

Kelly Billing is a Maryland Certified Professional Horticulturist with more than 32 years of experience in the water gardening industry. She compiled and maintains the Aquatic Plant Invasive Species List for the nursery trade and is coauthor of The Water Gardener’s Bible and The Lotus: Know It and Grow It.

Leah Blanton

Leah Blanton is a planting designer and horticulturist, using her artistic eye and plant knowledge to create functional urban landscapes for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, where she designs a diverse range of public horticulture projects in Philadelphia. She co-owns an ecological garden design company and earned her certificate of Sustainable Garden Design from the New York Botanical Garden.

Emma Brittain

Emma Brittain is a studio artist and planning committee member for Black Birders Week. Her art often involves social commentary with animal or plant symbolism. She hopes to spread wonder and hope through her work.

Leah Brooks

Leah Brooks is Mt. Cuba Center’s Public Programs Assistant. She is a University of Delaware graduate with dual bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Science and Wildlife Ecology. Her passion is sharing the joy of nature and native gardening with others.

Karin Burghardt

Karin Burghardt, PhD is an assistant professor in the Entomology Department at the University of Maryland and a research associate at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Karin received her M.S. and PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale University and her B.S. from the University of Delaware in 2007, working with Douglas Tallamy. Trained as a community ecologist, she specializes in understanding plant-insect interactions in human-modified landscapes ranging from suburban yards to abandoned agricultural fields to managed forests.

Sean Camilleri

Sean Camilleri is a senior horticulturist for the Woods Path and Trillium Garden at Mt. Cuba. He has a degree in horticulture from Ohio State University and several years working experience in public gardens in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Beth Castelletti

Beth Castelletti is a Horticulturist working in the Upper and Middle Naturalistic gardens at Mt. Cuba Center. Prior to this, she spent three years as a Seasonal Horticulturists’ Assistant rotating in several areas of MCC. She earned a degree in Sustainable Horticulture from the Community College of Baltimore County.

Jeffrey “Doc” Cheskin

Jeffrey “Doc” Cheskin has been making ciders for over a decade and has won some of the highest honors given to a cidermaker in the US, including producing one of the top 15 ciders in America in 2020. He founded Liquid Alchemy Beverages in 2012 with his partner Terri Sorantino, and their hard ciders are now available in over 20 locations throughout Delaware.

George Coombs

George Coombs, director of horticulture at Mt. Cuba, leads a team of horticulturists, arborists, and grounds maintenance technicians who cultivate and improve formal and naturalistic gardens and play a pivotal role in the implementation of Mt. Cuba’s long-range master plan. He holds a degree in Plant Science from the University of Delaware with a focus in landscape horticulture.

Jules Davis

Jules Davis is an art teacher and gardener. She holds a BA in Studio Art from the College of Wooster, and is currently pursuing in M.Ed. in Art Education at Tyler School of Art. Jules has over twelve years of horticulture experience and brings her combined passion for ecology and education to everything she does. Her favorite native flower to spot in the spring is rue anemone.

Nicole DeLizzio

Nicole DeLizzio is the Arborist Assistant at the Mt. Cuba Center. She graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in Agriculture and Natural Resources and a minor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. With a combined passion for trees and art, she has deep dived into the art of pyrography and wood burns frequently.

Lucy Dinsmore

Lucy Dinsmore is a horticulturist and certified arborist who loves learning and teaching about all things growing. She worked in public gardens for ten years, at the Morris Arboretum and Chanticleer Gardens, and now runs Plant Lady Lucy, a garden design and consulting business in Kennett Square. Her first job as a young tween was at a garden center, and she later earned her master’s degree in horticulture from the University of Minnesota.

Susan Dixon

Susan Dixon is the perennial plant buyer and department manager at Gateway Garden Center in Hockessin, DE. She has attended classes ornamental horticulture at New York Botanical Garden and is currently earning her certificate of merit at Longwood. She has a passion for wildlife and the native plants that support them.

Kathy Elliot

Kathy Elliot works as an Educator at Mt. Cuba Center. She has bachelor’s degrees in Plant Science and English from the University of Delaware and earned a Certificate of Merit in Landscape Design from Longwood Gardens. She worked for fifteen years at a family-owned, plant-focused garden center in south-central Pennsylvania, where she multi-tasked between landscape design and garden center management.

David Greaves

David Greaves is a biologist at the EPA, wildlife photographer, and founder of Nature Under Your Nose (NUYN) brand. His love for nature and the outdoors was discovered while growing up in the Washington, D.C. area. He uses his photography and his NUYN brand to encourage people of all ages, colors, and backgrounds to explore and enjoy the nature they can find all around them.

Eileen Hazard

Eileen Hazard, community outreach coordinator at Mt. Cuba Center, enjoys sharing her passion for ecosystems, plants, and the natural sciences with students of all ages and with local communities. Eileen earned a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, with a focus on environmental engineering, from Lafayette College and a master’s degree in Water Resources from the University of Vermont. She has supplemented her degrees with plant-focused biology classes at West Chester University and a PA Master Naturalist certification. Prior to joining the Mt. Cuba Center team in 2014, Eileen worked in environmental consulting and education.

Mark Highland

Mark Highland received an MS from the Longwood Graduate Program, focusing on compost and potting soil. He is the founder and president of The Organic Mechanic Soil Company, LLC, a local supplier of organic, peat free soils. Mark is the author of Practical Organic Gardening: The No-Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally.

Duncan Himmelman, PhD

Duncan Himmelman, PhD, is the former Education Manager at Mt. Cuba Center. He earned his doctorate in Ornamental Horticulture at Cornell University, taught college for 24 years, and has contributed to a number of horticultural publications. Duncan managed a 20-acre estate in Greenwich, CT and has designed landscapes for both private and public clients in New York City, Toronto, and Chicago.

Sam Hoadley

Sam Hoadley is the Manager of Horticultural Research at Mt. Cuba Center where he evaluates native plant species, old and new cultivars, and hybrids in the Trial Garden. Prior to working at Mt. Cuba, he was the lead horticulturist for Longwood Gardens’ Hillside Garden. He earned his degree in Sustainable Landscape Horticulture from the University of Vermont.

Diane Keesee

Diane Keesee has a passion for creating interesting signature cocktails, spirit infusions, shrubs, and bitters, using unique seasonal ingredients. She has been involved in hospitality management and the beverage industry for more than 20 years, including having worked for Greenville Country Club and Vicmead Hunt Club.

Scott Kelley

Scott Kelley is the Head Arborist at Mt. Cuba Center. He is an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist® and qualified tree risk assessor.

Olivia Kirkpatrick

Olivia Kirkpatrick is a designer at GreenWeaver Landscapes, a design-build company providing ecological landscape design, construction, and gardening to southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware. Olivia worked in public gardens for several years before returning to landscape design with a renewed interest in landscape management and sustainability. They are particularly interested in artistic planting design, taking cues from native plant communities and environments. They hold a degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Delaware.

Jay Kratz

Jay is a Mt. Cuba Center educator. Before coming to Mt. Cuba, he spent twenty years as a college instructor, and working with his wife at her family business, Hill House Herb Gardens in Providence, RI. In addition to being the luckiest boy in the world to spend his days with guests marveling at Mt. Cuba's gardens, he shares his enthusiasm for native plants outside Mt. Cuba's gates as the co-horticulturist and Rancocas chapter leader for the Native Plant Society of NJ, and as a native plant garden designer and landscaper.

Ellen Lake, PhD

Ellen Lake, PhD, is the Director of Conservation and Research at Mt. Cuba Center. She taught environmental education and was the Education Director at the Brandywine and Red Clay Valley Associations. Ellen has a master’s degree in Entomology and Ph.D. in Entomology and Wildlife Ecology from the University of Delaware, where she researched biological control of mile-a-minute weed and how to integrate weed management techniques to restore plant communities. Ellen has extensive experience researching insect-plant interactions, including work for the USDA in the Greater Everglades ecosystem.

Jessica Lewis

Jessica Lewis, CPT, CNC, is an accredited T’ai Chi Chih instructor, personal trainer, and nutritional counselor. Sculpt Your Life, her private practice, provides a unique blend of customized exercise routines, solid nutritional advice, and movement-based relaxation principles for a diverse population of clients.

Monica Lopez

Monica Lopez is a proud Mexican visual artist. Ever since she was little, textures and colors of all sorts were a big part of how she viewed life. She uses her art to reflect on the person she is inside, showcase her feelings and emotions, and express her deep love for her roots and her heritage. By sharing her art, Monica helps others explore her rich culture in the hope that they fall in love with it too. Monica works with Healing Through the Arts at the Delaware Art Museum as an instructor for the Latin community.

Lynn Mahaffy, PhD

Lynn Mahaffy, PhD, earned her doctorate in Natural Resources (Wildlife Conservation) at Cornell University. She currently teaches courses for the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Delaware, including Environmental Biology, General Ecology, and her favorite, Field Ecology, which exposes students to all the fascinating organisms and habitats surrounding us.

William McAvoy

William McAvoy is Delaware’s state botanist. He extensively studied and published on the flora and habitats of the state. He is the lead author on a comprehensive native plant resource, Flora of Delaware Online Database.

John McElderry

John McElderry is a sound therapist and credentialed Yoga Alliance teacher with over 20 years of experience.

Rob Medicus

Rob Medicus has served as a Delaware Master Gardener since 1994. He loves creating and delivering horticultural workshops. Venues have ranged from UD Cooperative Extension to Osher Academy, Friends of White Clay Creek, lots of gardening clubs and more. In addition, Rob has headed the MG Vegetable and Fruit Demonstration Garden (2012-2014) and the Workshops and Speakers Bureau Committee (2016-2018). Rob gardens on 1/2 acre in Newark.

Holly Merker

Holly is an avid birder, educator, writer, and lecturer, who has a passion for bird conservation. She is an instructor for National Audubon and the American Birding Association and is the lead data reviewer for eBird in Pennsylvania. Holly believes in the powerful benefits nature holds for our wellbeing and is lead author on a book on the subject, aptly called Ornitherapy: For Your Mind, Body, and Soul, guiding readers into deeper connections to the birds around them.

Michael Moore

Michael Moore, PhD recently retired from being a biology professor after 38 years. He learned a love of the outdoors from his father who was an avid outdoorsman and fisherman. He has published nearly 100 papers in scientific journals. He was on the faculty at Arizona State University for 27 years but moved to the University of Delaware in 2009 and retired from there in 2020.

Maria Phillips

Maria Phillips is an artist and art therapist from Philadelphia, PA with a background in woodworking and printmaking. After a hiking trip to Glen Onoko Falls, she began wood-burning wildflowers and ferns. Using nature as the canvas, she hopes to encourage others to reflect on their relationship with the environment.

Vic Piatt

Vic Piatt is the Gardens Manager at Mt. Cuba Center and a graduate of Longwood Gardens’ Professional Gardener Program. He has held many positions at Mt. Cuba, including Plant Evaluation Gardener and Rock Outcrop/Scree Gardens Horticulturist.

Robert Raguso, PhD

Robert Raguso, PhD, is a professor of Chemical Ecology at Cornell University. His research interests run the spectrum of insect-plant interactions mediated by chemistry, especially the role of fragrance in pollination ecology and animal behavior. He has promoted his research by organizing symposia, short courses, and workshops world-wide.

Laura Reilly

Laura Reilly is the trial garden assistant at Mt. Cuba where she evaluates native plants for horticultural and ecological value. She earned Longwood Gardens' Certificate of Merit I and II and has spent several weeks at symposia at Great Dixter, an iconic British garden where respect for the natural environment goes hand in hand with gardening excellence.

James Rockwell

James Rockwell is the Greenhouse and Nursery Production Manager at Mt. Cuba Center, where he oversees plant production in our conservation research greenhouse. Prior to his tenure here, James earned two bachelor’s degrees from Virginia Tech and was a TRIAD Fellow at Longwood Gardens.

Margaret Saylor

Margaret Saylor is the editor/designer of ASBA’s The Botanical Artist journal. She earned a Certificate in Botanical art and Illustration, with distinction, from the NYBG.

Joe Sebastiani

Joe Sebastiani is the Ashland Nature Center Manager for the Delaware Nature Society. He is passionate about birds and wildlife, founded the Ashland Hawk Watch, and edits Delaware eBird, an online checklist program, for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Sara Setzer

Sara Setzer is a fiber artist who specializes in the art of felt work. Inspired by nature, she creates eco-dyed and printed scarves, wraps, and collars using natural materials and leaves.

Jessica Shahan

Jessica Shahan is a biologist and educator at Newlin Grist Mill Park in Glen Mills PA. She earned her MS at the University of North Dakota, focusing on landscape ecology and grassland bird communities. In her spare time, she can be found banding birds at Rushton Farm Preserve in SE PA, leading youth trips for the DE Ornithological Society, and gardening for wildlife.

Nathan Shampine

Nate Shampine, CERP, is Mt. Cuba Center’s Natural Lands Manager responsible for implementing land conservation practices and developing healthy and functional ecosystems. He is a graduate of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and he is also a Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner through the Society for Ecological Restoration.

Judy Simon

Judy Simon is a botanical artist and freelance illustrator who has combined her love of gardening with her drawing and painting career. She is a member of the Philadelphia Society of Botanical Illustrators and the American Society of Botanical Artists. Her work is in many private collections.

Melissa Stanley

Melissa Stanley has been a yoga instructor for children and adults since 2015. Melissa teaches a variety of styles, levels and ages.

Melissa Starkey, PhD

Melissa Starkey, PhD, is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Mt. Cuba Center. She earned her PhD in biology from Northwestern University and an MSc in plant biodiversity and taxonomy from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and University of Edinburgh in Scotland. As part of her studies, she completed a certificate in field botany in Colombia. Melissa is an active Philadelphia County Master Gardener and PA Master Naturalist and serves on the Board of Directors at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center in PA, where she grew up.

Ian Stewart, PhD

Ian Stewart, PhD, was raised in Newcastle, England and received a doctorate in ornithology from the University of Leicester. He has conducted research on tree swallows and bluebirds and how local land management activities are affecting bird numbers and diversity throughout the year. Ian is currently an Ornithologist at the Delaware Nature Society. Ian is currently studying the effects of non-native plants on birds.

Michael Strengari

Michael Strengari is a Senior Horticulturist at Mt. Cuba Center, where he works in the Formal Garden. During his career in horticulture he has gardened private estates, public institutions, and his home. He is a graduate of the Longwood Gardens Professional Gardener Program. With an eye for design and a passion for native plants he hopes to continue to inspire the public by creating and maintaining beautiful garden spaces.

Liana Thompson

Liana Thompson completed the Vibration Sound Therapy Certified Practitioner training with the Vibrational Sound Association in 2019. Her passion is in helping others gently address stress and emotional trauma using the healing sounds of the Tibetan singing bowls.

William Trescott

William Trescott is the Arboriculture Manager at Mt. Cuba Center where he has worked for 33 years. He is an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist®.

Brian Tuel

Brian Tuel has over 20 years of experience with the Art of Bonsai. He has numerous trees in his personal collection and has displayed at the Philadelphia Flower Show. He is a devout gardener with a wealth of experience in the fundamental elements of horticulture and Bonsai.

Kass Urban-Mead

Kass Urban-Mead is a Xerces Society pollinator conservation specialist and a partner biologist providing technical support for the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s conservation programs. For her PhD work at Cornell Entomology, she studied pollen collection by wild bee communities active in early spring forest canopies and apple orchards.

Alice Waegel, PhD

Alice Waegel,PhD first became a moss enthusiast when she completed a sabbatical semester at the Mt. Cuba Center in order to identify their moss species. At the time, she was a Professor of Biology at Neumann University, where she taught and worked with students on club moss tissue culture. Since her sabbatical she has given many presentations and workshops on bryophytes including moss gardening, moss identification and bryophyte biology. In addition to her moss work, Dr. Waegel is an avid gardener and photographer. Currently VP of the West Chester Garden Club, she is in the Garden Club of America photography judging program. She spends a lot of time in the garden with her camera, taking pix of both plants and animals.

Timothy Waller, PhD

Dr. Waller’s major responsibilities are to provide leadership and support for the commercial agriculture industries of southern New Jersey, specifically commercial nursery production in Cumberland County. He holds a PhD in Plant Biology (focused on Plant Pathology) and is tasked with mitigating pest issues (insects, diseases, weeds, herbivores), intercepting invasive species, improving farm sustainability and production techniques, as well as developing best management practices (BMPs) for the growers and green industry professionals of the region. Dr. Waller is serving in his second year with Rutgers Cooperative Extension but has worked in various sectors of agriculture for the last decade and has held a pesticide license since 2014.

Jenna Webster

Jenna Webster is a designer with Larry Weaner Landscape Associates where she works on meadow and habitat plans for public parks and preserves as well as landscape master plans for residential properties. She holds a Master of Science in Ecological Design from the Conway School.

Kevin Zuidervliet

Kevin’s passion for plants has taken him from farms on the Tasmanian shore to Longwood Gardens. He currently works as the Head Propagator at Octoraro Native Plant Nursery where he now focuses on producing the highest quality native trees and shrubs.

Claire Zuidervliet

Claire Zuidervliet is the Conservation Propagator at Mt. Cuba Center, where she propagates a large variety of native plants in the conservation research greenhouse. She enjoys investigating the unique propagation needs for each of the species she works with and finds great joy in the first signs of germination. Before MCC, Claire worked as a Senior Grower at Longwood Gardens, where she managed the stock plant collection and specialty Chrysanthemum propagation. She earned her B.S. in Floriculture and Nursery Production from Delaware Valley University.

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