Winter/Spring 2018 Instructor Bios

Alan Li is an artist with a focus on nature. He supports conservation efforts through the sale of his artwork and is active in volunteering. Alan believes that drawing can open people’s eyes to the planet’s wondrous diversity and show them that it matters. Alan grew up near the Niagara Escarpment and spent much of his childhood exploring the cliffs and forests. Those early encounters with nature have influenced both the direction of his life and choice of subject matter for his art. He currently pursues his own projects, teaches nature drawing workshops and collaborates with grassroot environmental groups.
Teaching: Intro to Nature Drawing
After three successful decades working in the motion picture industry, husband and wife team Arlene Hazzan Green and Marc Green co-founded The Backyard Urban Farm Company, an award-winning, organic vegetable landscaping business that builds, installs, plants and maintains edible gardens in homes, schools and businesses in the Greater Toronto Area. Their mission is to ignite people’s passion for growing their own food and to reconnect them with nature. BUFCO was established as a response to Arlene and Marc’s growing awareness of and resulting unease with their own contribution to climate change and their need to find a meaningful solution.
Teaching: Backyard Urban Farming for Beginners


Cathy Kozma is a Toronto Master Gardener and chair of the Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative, is a popular speaker in both beekeeping and horticultural society circles.
Teaching: Urban Beekeeping


Colleen Cirillo has spent many years in the world of nature interpretation, protection and restoration, including over a decade at Toronto and Region Conservation and 2.5 years at Ontario Nature. In October 2015, she took over as director of education at the Toronto Botanical Garden. Colleen is also a board member of the North American Native Plant Society, and a committee member for the Ontario Invasive Plant Council.
Teaching: Bring Back the Birds


Danette Steele is a professional herbalist and is registered to practice with the Ontario Herbalists Association. She has a clinical practice in Toronto and Halifax and teaches widely throughout Ontario and Nova Scotia. Danette has been planting gardens and farming since she was 3 years old – and she loves to plant beautiful, edible gardens filled with plant medicines for people and pollinators!
Teaching: Heart Warming Tonics


Franco “Frank” Tofano of Organic Chef Foods is one of TBG’s food vendors at the Organic Farmers’ Market, He supports local growers who follow traditional farming methods and uses organic ingredients to produce Indian, Italian and Portuguese pastries and Italian family dinner dishes “like the way grandma used to cook”.
Teaching: Mangiamo! An Italian Cooking Class


Kat Gibson is passionate about facilitating connection to self, community, and the natural world through the process of growing food. She honors food as medicine and sees food and nature connection as catalysts for learning, healing, vitality, and joy. She holds a Master of Education from the University of Toronto with a focus on community food security and transformative learning. She is a Community Garden Programs Coordinator with Ecosource, an urban farmer with nine years of growing experience, as well as a restorative yoga instructor and reiki practitioner. She spent two growing seasons coordinating and farming with The Cutting Veg Farm followed by a season at Everdale Farm. In 2014, she started a small farm business, Lady Gaia, at Fresh City Farms and offers programming on site.
Teaching: Soils 101


Leslie Staple is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art. While majoring in textiles, her love of colour, pattern and texture inspired her to take up painting the plant world! Leslie has been exhibiting her botanical watercolours in numerous group shows since 1998, has had two solo shows and won two first place awards. She has been instructing botanical drawing and watercolour courses, community workshops and private lessons since 2001.
Teaching: Botanical Art and Botanical Watercolour for Beginners


Lil Taggart is an accredited Design Judge, Instructor and Demonstrator and has had ribbon winning Floral Designs exhibited at W.A.F.A., (World Association of Flower Arrangers), Successful Gardening, GCO Triennial Show, O.H.A. Conventions, Canada Blooms, Regional Lily Show, etc. She continues to take classes and assist with or organize various workshops. Like many, she is an addict and loves to share the beauty of Floral Art.
Teaching: Miniature, Small & Large Floral Design


Margaret Nevett is a Registered Horticultural Therapist. Her company, Gardening For Life, provides Horticultural Therapy consultation and individualized programs in long term care and rehabilitation facilities. Margaret’s passion for garden making developed through studies in horticulture from the University of Guelph, garden design with international garden designer John Brookes, and Horticultural Therapy training in Ontario and British Columbia.
Teaching: Horticultural Therapy Module Three: – Horticultural Therapy Techniques and Settings


Margaret Taylor is the coordinator of the floral design certificate program at TBG. Margaret has been involved in floral design for 18 years and is an accredited floral design, horticulture and rose judge and has taught, demonstrated and judged internationally. She is a member of the Garden Club of Toronto, the North Toronto Horticultural Association, the Canadian Rose Society and Ikebana International. She has a huge love of gardens and floral design.
Teaching: Advanced Creative Design


Margo Martin began her career with an education in fine arts and the visual arts. Her natural curiosity led to a career in travel and event management. In the 1980’s she moved into a house with a decrepit yard. Working the land and determined to beautify the tiny plot she became smitten with gardening with an emphasis on the challenges of small urban gardens. To satiate her passion for gardening and glean more practical experience she went to work for a landscape maintenance company. She spent several years working in private and commercial gardens. With more than 30 years of gardening experience she returned to her artistic roots and started a garden design and consulting business. She is also a Graduate of the George Brown College garden design program.
Teaching: Garden Design 101


Marion Jarvie is a passionate plantswoman who has been gardening in Thornhill for over forty years. She loves plants and invites any and all to her garden where you will find the hardiest of varieties side by side with plants from all over the world. Marion has been involved with both the Toronto and International gardening communities. Marion is an accomplished photographer and enthusiastic educator. She teaches regularly at the Toronto Botanical Garden and has lectured all over North America and in the UK.
Teaching: Irresistible Dreamy Woody Plants


Monika Ghent, RH, PSMA, is a Western Traditional Herbalist, Plant Spirit Medicine Healer and Natural Skincare Specialist and has a private practice where she sees clients in both Toronto and Maple, Ontario, Canada. Her company, Dreaming Willow Natural Therapies provides therapies blending traditional western herbalism, contemporary scientific knowledge, and plant spirit wisdom, to support natural healing and holistic balance. Monika also has a school of herbalism with her husband, Living Earth School of Herbalism, which offers general interest workshops and online classes, and certificate and diploma programs in Western herbalism and related fields of study.
Teaching: DIY Herbal Body Cream


Oliver Couto is an urban beekeeper and one of the co-chairs of the Toronto Beekeepers Collective and one of the instructors of the introductory beekeeping course at the TBG. He is producing The Sacred Bee film series and is owner of The Bee Shop in Toronto.
Teaching: Urban Beekeeping and Beeswax Candle Making 101


Pat Ware has enjoyed teaching a number of different Floral Design Courses at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. She is a Design, Horticulture and Rose Judge. Pat continues to participate in and learn about Floral Artistry at local, Provincial and international levels.
Teaching: Classic Design Fundamentals I


A certified Tea Sommelier, one of the first 15 in Canada, Raelene Gannon is truly an expert in all things tea, including countries or origin, ceremonies, manufacturing and in particular tea menus, food pairings and recipe development. Merging her professional background in the chocolate, gift, confection and food service industries with the expertise in tea, Raelene brings her vast marketing, sourcing and retail operational experience along with her unique business acumen all together to inform, entertain and inspire. Her cookbook, tea: from cup to plate was released Feb 1, 2015.
Teaching: Cooking with Tea


Rosemary Passafiume-MacLean is an accredited floral design judge from the Garden Clubs of Ontario. She is an accomplished designer with her work appearing in two international publications. Rosemary has also been recognised with numerous awards. She is 2017 winner of the Founder’s Gold Cup award at the Toronto Flower Show at Canada Blooms. Rosemary has been teaching and sharing her love of floral design for a number of years and this will be her second year with the floral design instructional team at the Toronto Botanical Gardens.
Teaching: Classic Design Fundamentals II and Spring Garden Centrepiece


Named by GardenMaking magazine as one of “20 Making a Difference”, gardening has been Sean James’ hobby and profession for over 30 years. A graduate of Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, a Master Gardener, a public speaker, writer, and teacher; Sean focuses on eco-gardening techniques, which makes sense since he grew up surrounded by nature near Crawford Lake in Campbellville. He sits on several environmental committees and has appeared on many television and radio shows. Sean founded Fern Ridge Landscaping & Eco-consulting and ran it for over 20 years, recently handing it over to his leadership team. He now owns ‘Sean James Consulting & Design’, with projects including designing, consulting, teaching, speaking and writing.
Teaching: Grow Me Instead and Groundcovers & Mulches to Reduce Maintenance


From Hudson, Quebec, now living in Port Hope, Ontario, Signe Langford is a restaurant chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories, creates delicious recipes, and published her first book – Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden with 100 Recipes – in 2015. She studied Fine Art History and Humanities at the University of Toronto, and York University; she graduated with honours from OCAD University; she earned her Wine Specialist Certificate from George Brown College.
Teaching: Elevating Herbs from Garnish to Greatness


Steven Biggs has worked in horticulture and agriculture for more than 25 years. Along with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Guelph, he has worked in greenhouse and nursery production, plant propagation, biological controls, horticultural supplies, and farm marketing.
Teaching: No Fuss Backyard Fruit


Tabitha Lindsay is a former executive pastry chef and baker who took her experience in food science and applied it to the study of oenology and mead. Recently, she conducted an extensive research project on the effects of different factors on mead production, such as yeast selection, pollen addition and floral origins, and completed an oenology internship with the world-renowned winemaker Luis Pato in Portugal.
Teaching: Honey Mead Making


Writer by profession and planting designer by passion, Tony Spencer is the creative force behind The New Perennialist, an award-winning blog exploring the frontiers of naturalistic garden design. Deeply inspired by the work of Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf and others, Tony is a puckish ringleader in social media helping to capture the zeitgeist for a growing international and intergenerational community of plantspeople. He’s currently at work on experimental planting design projects at his country property in the rolling hills of Mono, Ontario.
Teaching: Wild-ish at Heart: Naturalistic Planting Design


Ursula Eley has been playing with flowers for over 20 years. She is an accredited judge of floral design and of horticulture. Floral design is a particular passion because it is always evolving, with great opportunities to try new techniques and ideas. Sharing that passion with others makes it even more special. Ursula’s designs have been featured in international journals. Recently, she won a 1st prize at the World Association of Floral Artists Show, 2017, in Barbados.
Teaching: Designing with Roses, Lilies, Tropicals & Orchids


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