Meet Our team



With a background in non-profit management, Ms. Schelin assumed responsibility for managing the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden (EBMJG), California State University, Long Beach in 1995. With a staff of three full time employees, approximately 25 part time employees, and more than 500 volunteers, EBMJG’s mission is focused on cultural education for the CSULB campus and community. Under her direction EBMJG has been recognized by garden scholars as one of the most widely utilized and socially conscience gardens in North America. Amongst her academic and creative activities, Ms. Schelin serves as the editor of The Lantern, a CSULB publication that has won numerous awards and co-chaired the International Conference of Japanese Gardens held in Long Beach in March 2009. She is a founding member of the board of the North American Japanese Garden Association, currently serving as Vice President and serves on the CSULB Sustainability Task Force. The EBMJG was acknowledged for Excellence in Sustainability by the California Secretary of Natural Resources and the California Museums Association in 2018. Ms. Schelin is the recipient of the David Gray Leadership Award from CSULB. She serves on numerous boards and community committees including the Long Beach-Yokkaichi Sister City Association, The Museum of Teaching and Learning, and the Howard Asian Art Collection. 


Vice President

Ben has an AA in Horticulture and has worked at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG). There, he has supervised the Japanese garden since 1985. In 2012, he received the Foreign Minister’s Commendation from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for his contributions to Japan/U.S. relations in the cultivation and promotion of the Japanese Garden. He has also served in various capacities on the NAJGA board. He is a member of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and is an ISA Certified Arborist. Ben teaches pruning and Japanese Garden Design at MBG and through the University of Missouri Extension Master Gardener program. He has consulted, designed and built private Japanese Gardens and regularly consults and prunes at the Japanese Garden in Terrace Park in South Dakota.


Immediate Past President

Larry Rosensweig is president of LFR Consulting whose mission is building capacity for museums, gardens and other nonprofits. He was the founding Director of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida, growing the organization from a startup to a $4 million annual budget, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, and a $5 million endowment. As the Norton Museum of Art’s Director of Advancement, he raised $4-$6 million a year for operations and personally solicited and closed gifts from $100,000 to $3.5 million. Larry earned his BA and MA in East Asian Studies from Harvard and University of Michigan, respectively, and lived in Japan for two years. He periodically organizes and leads study tours of Japan.

Michelle Day


Michelle is the Executive Director of Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden where she is working with the Lethbridge and District Japanese Garden Society on their largest expansion. Michelle has years of volunteerism and currently represents the University of Lethbridge as a Senator. She is chair of Tourism for Economic Development Lethbridge and Vice-President for Lethbridge Tourism DMO. 



Steven Pitsenbarger is the Garden Supervisor at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. He has been working there as a gardener and historian since 2007. He has presented on the history of the garden for many groups including the APA, San Francisco City Guides, San Francisco City College, as well as the 2018 NAJGA international conference in Portland, Oregon.


Staff: Manager

Marisa Rodriguez is Manager of NAJGA. Marisa joined the NAJGA team in 2018, first as a volunteer, then as a part-time employee. She is very excited to join NAJGA as a full-time staff member and help build on the work of her predecessors to grow the organization into a strong multi-national network of Japanese garden professionals and enthusiasts.

Prior to joining the NAJGA Team, Marisa had been the Operations Assistant at the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego from 2009-2019. Marisa holds a BA in Community Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego.


Barrie Agar has over thirty-five years of experience in the horticultural world. Her training on old estates in Ireland was useful for her tenure as Head Gardener at Hatley Park, Victoria, B.C. Trips to Japan to study some of the classic gardens laid the groundwork for restoring and adapting the current Japanese Garden at Hatley Park.

Peter Bowyer is owner of DBA Garden Form & Composition. Shaping earth, water, stone and plants individually, and in a larger scheme. Inspirations range from natural landscapes to cultural ones. Specializing in the intersection of arboriculture and landscape design by pruning plants and arranging landscape features to work together. Instructor for service-learning projects in public gardens.  Aesthetic Pruners Association and Merritt College Pruning Club functionary. Lead for sister city gardens in Oakland CA and Fukuoka Japan. CA Landscape Contractor License 712862; Certified Aesthetic Pruner 007, Merritt College Certificates in Aesthetic Pruning, Advanced Landscape Design & Construction, Advanced Parks & Gardens Maintenance; University of California Santa Cruz Certificate in Biological Horticulture.

K.T. Cannon-Eger is a founding member of NAJGA and Friends of Lili’uokalani Gardens in Hilo, Hawai’i. She is a writer and photographer with an avid interest in Japanese gardens and travel, and is a past editor of the NAJGA Journal and currently serves on the Editorial Advisory Board.

Bonnie Clark is professor and curator for archaeology in the University of Denver’s Anthropology Department. Since 2005 her primary research focus has been the DU Amache Project, a collaborative endeavor committed to preserving, researching, and interpreting the tangible remains of Amache, the World War II Japanese American incarceration camp in Colorado. She is author of Finding Solace in the Soil and coeditor of Archaeological Landscapes on the High Plains and coauthor of Denver: An Archaeological History.

Andrew Deane is a humanities teacher at an international school in Tokyo. His interest in Japanese gardens began during his first stay in Japan in the mid-1990s, and he is the author of the Japanese Garden Reference Guide available through the NAJGA website. He maintains a Japanese garden in the suburbs of Tokyo, and recently joined the NAJGA Board

Nick Esthusis the Senior Gardener at the Fort Worth Japanese Garden and previously was the gardener at Memphis Botanic Garden’s Japanese garden. He attended the 2013 Japanese Garden Intensive Seminar in Kyoto and has assisted with previous NAJGA regional workshops across the country. Mr. Esthus holds a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Horticulture from The Ohio State University.

Daniel A. Hirshberg is an award-winning educator and scholar who left academia during the pandemic to launch the non-profit SŌTERIC Studio in Boulder, CO. It offers evidence-based contemplative training in cognitive skills and designs immersive, hands-free audio tours for Japanese-style gardens. He has presented and published in numerous professional forums on Tibetan Buddhism, history and arts, Japanese-style gardens, and contemplative pedagogy

Nicole LaPlante owns and operates Land Art Fine Gardening in Peru, NY. She applies her formal education in Landscape Architecture and Restoration Ecology to Japanese-influenced garden building and aesthetic pruning practices. Nicki’s goal in each garden is to raise users’ sense of belonging in the natural world and the benefits of that connectivity, all in an artful and ecologically- mindful manner.

Junko Liesfeld, founder of Zoen Garden Creation, is a native of Japan and has been immersed in the art of Japanese garden design all of her life. She grew up surrounded by and exposed to many different styles of Japanese gardens. In 1995, she founded Zoen Garden Creation. Since then Zoen has designed and constructed gardens of various sizes. The goal of Zoen Garden Creation is to create a sanctuary for clients and allow them to interact with nature and enjoy a constantly evolving work of art.

Luanne Kanzawa is the Executive Director of the Japanese Friendship Garden Society San Diego, CA. Luanne’s extensive background in nonprofit leadership and management provides direction and support for the Japanese Friendship Garden Board and staff. With a passion for working with nonprofit organizations, and her enthusiasm for serving the community, Luanne currently serves on the board of Balboa Park Cultural Partnership and Balboa Park Committee as well as on the California Association of Museums Program Committee. Luanne holds a B.S. in Psychology, a certification in Professional Grant Writing, and a Masters in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from University of San Diego. Luanne served as the 2018-2019  President of the North American Japanese Garden Association.

Shozo Kagoshima is Executive Director of the Hakone Foundation in Saratoga, CA. Shozo is a native Californian, born and raised in the San Jose area. He spent the first 35 years of his career at the world-famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. He has spent the past five years as Executive Director for the Hakone Foundation leading a team of 10 staff members in managing the historic Hakone Estate and Gardens. He enjoys his “office view” every day because it is so tranquil and beautiful no matter what season it is.

Don Meiners has never been associated with Japanese gardens in a professional capacity. He has loved gardens since he was very young, and decided early on that Japanese gardens are the most remarkable of all. He is a retired software engineer / project manager. He and his wife Akiko reside on acreage in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area, where they maintain a tea garden, a (koi) pond and hill garden, and a large pond that is a work in progress. Akiko is active in the Urasenke school,and hosts tea ceremonies in their home.

Ayse Pogue is the senior horticulturist for the Malott Japanese Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden. In addition, Pogue assists with gardening classes, leads tours, and gives demonstrations. Pogue has worked for the Garden since 2007, when she started out as a seasonal assistant horticulturist in the Farwell Landscape Garden, the Graham Bulb Garden, and the Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America. Inspired by her work at the Garden, Pogue decided to continue her formal education and received a master’s degree in natural resources and environmental sciences from the University of Illinois in December 2013. 

Don Pylant is a retired Horticulturist.  Four decades in horticulture, garden design, construction and maintenance led to his passion for Japanese and Japanese-inspired gardens.

Karen Szyjka has been active in horticulture and landscape design for more than 25 years. Since 1995, she has held the position of Operations Support Manager in the Department of Natural Resources of the Chicago Park District (CPD). Prior to joining CPD, Karen owned and operated a Chicago landscape company and developed a reputation for creating small, unique and imaginative landscapes.  Among her works were garden designs for Roger Ebert and Lester Holt, and sculpture gardens for local art dealers and prominent international artists such as the Zhou brothers. Karen first developed her interest in Japan as a child from her father, who had been stationed in Okinawa and would share many stories about his memorable experiences in Japan.  Her work in the Osaka Garden during the past 17 years has provided her an extraordinary opportunity to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for Japan.

Daryl Toby is owner of Aquafina Gardens International. He started his business ventures at the age of 12, towing a lawn mower behind a bicycle, doing odd jobs and gardening. He attended Michigan State University, graduating with honors in Resource Development / Environmental Management. While at MSU, he participated in an overseas study program in Brazil, a transformative experience. The experience of travel, meeting and working with designers, artists and craftsmen from around the world, visiting estates, gardens, museums, studios, botanic gardens and simply exploring nature have all inspired his work. Integrating his passion for cultures and travel with the drive as a designer and land artist, Daryl has created a flourishing unique business. 

Sadafumi Uchiyama is the Chief Curator and Director of the International Japanese Garden Training Center  at Portland Japanese Garden.  He is a third-generation Japanese gardener from southern Japan where his family has been involved in gardening for over a century. He has been involved with NAJGA since 2009 and is currently a board member. Sada has taught landscape design courses and lectured on Japanese gardening at colleges and other public gardens. He is actively engaged in public education and regularly speaks at horticultural societies, garden clubs, and schools and professional conferences in Japan and throughout the U.S. Sada is a registered landscape architect in Oregon and California with a BLA and MLA from the University of Illinois. The traditional apprenticeship in Japanese gardening combined with formal training in Western landscape architecture allows him to design and build a unique and wide range of private and public landscape projects. His representative projects include the renovation of the Osaka Garden, the site of the 1893 Great Columbian Exposition at Jackson Park in Chicago, Shofu-en at the Denver Botanic Gardens and most recently, he completed Shoun-Kei Japanese garden at Sarah Duke Gardens at Duke University, NC. He is working on the Rolex Headquarters in Dallas, TX. in collaboration with Kengo Kuma.

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