Christina Cook

Courses Taught



Ecological Plant Knowledge 1 - Natives
Ecological Plant Knowledge 2 - Ornamentals


Ecological Landscape Design 1 & 2 (classroom)
Organic Master Gardener (classroom)
Organic Horticulture for Landscape Professionals
Plant Knowledge for Organic Gardeners (classroom)


The Art of Online Facilitation, Gaia College (2019)
Director, SOUL (2005-2019)
Pollinator Steward Certifiation, (2018)
Diploma in Organic Land Care, Gaia College (2011)
Growing Food in the City, Gaia College (2011)
Organic Horticulture for Landscape Professionals, Gaia College (2006)
SOUL Certified Organic Land Care Professional (2005)
Organic Landscape Management course, Gaia College (2004)
Master Composter/Waste Advisor, Calgary (2000)
Landscape Architecture degree, Germany (1996)
Landscape Gardening apprenticeship, Germany (1991)


My current main occupation is running The Organic Gardener's Pantry in Victoria, B.C., which I took over from Phil Nauta, a friend and colleague at Gaia College, in 2010. Up until then I've been offering garden design and consultation as well as gardening services, sometimes as a garden centre staff member and also in self employment. I still do the odd design and maintenance job, for fun and diversion. Together with teaching Gaia College courses in the fall and winter, this keeps me nicely busy.

Before immigration to Canada, I had received a degree in landscape architecture and extensive industry training in Germany. However, I always felt that there was something important missing. In the first few years I spent in Calgary, I inched closer, initially studying and then teaching composting, recycling, and waste diversion.

I finally found the answer to that "something" upon moving to Victoria in 2003, joining SOUL, and meeting Heide and Michael Hermary who had just founded Gaia College. My approach to horticulture shifted completely, joyfully embracing organic principles. Looking back, I can say this has been a life changing development, not only professionally but also personally. Finally a lot of pieces clicked into place!

An early graduate of Gaia College, I became a SOUL Certified Organic Land Care Professional in 2005 and soon after that, an instructor with Gaia College, teaching a range of courses both in-classroom and on-line. In 2011, I completed the Gaia College Diploma — and the journey goes on.

I look forward to further broadening the mind by exchanging thoughts, knowledge, and experience with a diversity of people. A "student of life" in times of considerable local and global challenges, I feel a strong dedication to living in harmony with each other and with the earth.

My (rented) garden is home to a happy mix and mingle of many beautiful ornamental/ native/ food plants. Puttering around the yard keeps me grounded, as does reading and listening to music from Renaissance to Pink Floyd. I enjoy Victoria's lively cultural scene, walking the beaches, practicing yoga, kayaking, and zooming around on my 390 KTM Duke.


The Organic Gardener's Pantry

Green Calgary

I co-wrote the three free e-books you can find at the SOUL web site:

Society For Organic Urban Land Care

Heide Hermary (September 30, 1948 – March 18, 2016)


Heide Portrait small

Master's degree in Sustainable Agriculture
Diploma in Horticulture (Landscape Design, Installation & Maintenance)
Graduate Diploma in Sustainable Agriculture
SOUL Certified Organic Land Care Professional
CNLA Certified Horticultural Technician (retired)
ISA Certified Arborist (retired)
IIABC Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor (retired)
Landscape Inspection Certificate
Provincial Instructor Diploma with Post-Secondary Endorsement
BC Landscape & Nursery Association Educator of the Year, 2007
Organic Master Gardener
Master Woodland Manager
Naturescape Ambassador
Co-founder and past chair of the Society for Organic Urban Land Care (SOUL)
Author of Working with Nature - Shifting Paradigms (book), The Essence of Organic Gardening - Seeing and Doing Things Differently (book) and What pesticides really do in your garden (DVD)


Heide worked many years in her landscape design and installation practice. She enjoyed creating all these beautiful, thriving gardens - from the tiniest urban backyard to 10 acre rural estates. Two of "her" gardens were even featured on the CBC "Canadian Gardener" television show with David Tarrant (a Canadian gardening celebrity).

As an educator she developed and taught seminars, short courses, and comprehensive professional development programs in all aspects of horticulture. Her audience included landscape professionals and arborists from the private and public sector, horticulture students, master gardeners, high school students, and the general public. Her focus was the continuing curriculum development for Gaia College, but she still taught occasional intensive professional workshops for landscape professionals.

Heide was very grateful to have been blessed with such an interesting professional life. 

Heide stated: "When we choose to dwell in joy and love every day, we lead enchanted lives and are so much more effective."...words to live by!

Ken Nentwig

Courses Taught

Ken 200

Rainwater Harvesting & Management - online
Landscape Design Basics with Sketchup Pro - online

Gaia College, online facilitator


University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus, College Professor
Landscape Architect (retired) and Educator
Bachelor and Masters degrees in Landscape Architecture, University of Guelph


Transplanted to Victoria, BC in 2012, Ken was active as a landscape architect in Ontario for twenty-five years prior to his retirement. He taught at the Ridgetown Campus, University of Guelph from 1994 to 2010. Prior to the U of Guelph, Ken worked in landscape management, design, and construction, having graduated from Humber College in the first landscape technician and technologist courses there. Other project work included waterfront park masterplanning in Halton Region (Burlington to Hamilton) as part of a design team in 1985 and 1986; CAD training in Singapore in 1990; and skills development training with Skills Ontario, Skills Canada and World Skills, which took him to Brazil in 2006 and Japan in 2007.

Currently a trainer for the Canadian Association for Rainwater Management (CANARM) and the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ACRSA), he has set up an awareness, training and certification course system across Canada. Ken also teaches an online SketchUp Pro course for landscape designers through Gaia College, and has been engaged in part-time apprenticeship training at the Pacific Horticulture College. Some community projects in conceptual landscape design, and project-based rainwater harvesting consultations, round out his professional activities on the Island.

Ken maintains two certifications, Certified Landscape Manager and Designer, and has been active in international certification committee work in previous years with CNLA and PLANET.  


David Tracey

Courses Taught


Ecological Landscape Design
Living Green Infrastructure

Gaia College - Online Instructor


Organic Master Gardener, Gaia College
Art of Online Facilitation, Gaia College
Masters degree in Landscape Architecture, University of BC
Bachelors degree in Politics, UCSC
ISA Certified Arborist and Certified Tree Risk Assessor


My work involves helping people connect with nature. I do this as a writer, designer and community ecologist.

I started my working life in journalism. I was based for 10 years in Asia reporting for global media including the International Herald Tribune, the Economist, CBC Radio and many others. I still report and write, although my focus is now more on books. My latest publication, Vancouver Tree Book, made the BC Books Bestseller List. I also wrote Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto, Urban Agriculture: Ideas and Designs for the New Food Revolution and The Earth Manifesto. If all of that sounds too serious or even dire, it's not meant to be, and I've also written two novels including a comedy called The Miracle Tree.

I work in environmental design and consultation through my company EcoUrbanist. Whether providing a site design or advising on policy my strategy is always rooted in the fact that an ecological approach to healthy development is best for now and future generations. I also head a small environmental nonprofit organization called Tree City which aims to "help people and tree grow together." I also now appear regularly on the CBC North by Northwest radio show as its "urban forest correspondent", and blog about trees for Vancouver Is Awesome.

I am also a public speaker and an occasional teacher for Simon Fraser University's Continuing Studies program. 


David Tracey 

Jennifer Burns-Robinson

Courses Taught

Growing Food (Online)
Organic Horticulture Specialist (Online)
Organic Master Gardener (Online)
Organic Master Gardener (Stony Plain)

Gaia College - Online Instructor
Stony Plain


2015 Organic Master Gardener Certificate in Stony Plain (Gaia partnership)
2008 Received Certified Arborist status with ISA (International Society of Arboriculture)
2007 Completed the Landscape Architectural Technology program at NAIT (Edmonton)
2006 Became a Master Composter/Recycler with the City of Edmonton (volunteer program)
2002 Completed the Prairie Horticulture Certificate program through Assiniboine College (Manitoba)


Jennifer Burns-Robinson studied Landscape Architectural Technology and taught in the same program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton for two years after graduation. She worked at Stantec Edmonton for 3 years as an LAT before taking some time to start a family. Prior to that, she had her own residential landscape design business for two years and worked in retail garden centres for a total of 7 years. That experience was invaluable to becoming an instructor in the Stony Plain Organic Master Gardener program in 2014, and then becoming the administrator in 2016. Now retired from the administrative position, she has plans to write a book and is working on developing her 3.5 acres in Alberta into a productive sustainable food paradise.

Jennifer is also the Lead Instructor at Gaia College. In this role she provide faculty support, maintains school policies and facilitates student communication issues should they arise. As well, Jennifer is currently reviewing and updating the Gaia College library of resources, and revising curriculum as necessary. 

Laurie Smith

Courses Taught

Laurie Smith business photoBusiness Skills for Land Care Professionals
Ecological Plant Knowledge 1 - Natives


Organic Land Care Diploma – Gaia College
Basic Botany – Oregon State University
BSc, BA, MA – University of Toronto

Active Memberships

North American Native Plant Society (NANPS)
West Vancouver Garden Club


Laurie Smith completed Gaia College's Diploma in Organic Land Care in 2021. Prior to embarking on her journey of learning about and embracing the practices of organic land care, she worked in the field of kinesiology and injury rehabilitation where she ran her own business for sixteen years. She currently works in management at a health club and after hours tends to local gardens, gently pointing out the benefits of organic and sustainable practises to homeowners.

Her parents grew their own fruits and vegetables, composted, and instilled in her a deep appreciation of Nature and creatures of all sizes. She remembers being given a detention in Grade 1 for slapping a classmate who wilfully killed a large earthworm in the schoolyard! 

In her years of running a business, Laurie has experienced the joys and tribulations of bookkeeping, account management, spreadsheets, planning, marketing and customer relations. She enjoys assisting fellow entrepreveurs in navigating the intricacies of understanding, researching and ultimately, operating a business. 

Annette Vierling

Landscape Designer, Horticulturist, Permaculturist, Educator

annette 3 crop 4 5x7Courses

Ecological Landscape Design
Ecological Plant Knowledge - Ornamentals
Organic Master Gardener

Active Memberships

Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD)
Alberta Association of Landscape Architects (AALA) and Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA)
Botanical Society of America 
American Society of Plant Taxonomists 
North American Native Plant Society 
Alberta Invasive Species Council 
Canadian Association for Rainwater Management 
Society for Organic Urban Land Care 


Diploma in Organic Land Care, Gaia College
Associate Member of the Alberta Association of Landscape Architects
Fellow and Certified Member, Association of Professional Landscape Designers
Diploma in CAD, Alberta School of Drafting
Diploma in Horticulture, Landscape Design Major, Olds College


Although Annette has been practicing landscape design and horticulture professionally since 1989 when she first founded Specialty Gardens, she had always known what her career path would be. There was a hunger to learn more about the science of plants, and at seventeen, she began her Diploma of Horticulture with a major in Landscape Design at Olds College. 

From there, her interests in design and drawing led her to complete a Diploma in AutoCAD Drafting, and she honed this craft while contracting for PCL and the Alberta School of Drafting. Afterward she pursued the L.A.R.E. at UBC while under apprenticeship training with Landscape Architects in the Lower Mainland. 

Family brought Annette back to Alberta where she became a Certified Member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers in 2003 and was awarded a Fellow Membership in 2016.  In 2005, Annette began working at the Medicine Hat College as an Educational Assistant for the Horticultural Technician Program in the Science Department. She prepared, offered, and tutored eighteen courses for this program.

In 2008, Annette became a part time Faculty Instructor in the Environmental Reclamation Technician and University Transfer Programs at the Medicine Hat College. Classes included Plant Taxonomy, Introduction to Botany, Plant Physiology, Weeds and Weed Control, Integrated Vegetation Management, Introduction to CAD and Surveying, and the Pesticide Applicator Tutorial. Annette was nominated for the ‘Instructor of the Year’ award at the Medicine Hat College 2011, 2013 and 2015. 

Annette completed the Diploma in Organic Land Care from Gaia College in 2020. This gave Specialty Gardens more tools and knowledge to use when designing and added another layer of expertise to the team portfolio. She is excited to be teaching at Gaia College beginning in the Spring of 2022 and is looking forward to another chapter of educating while continuing to design, consult and grow.


Alberto Suarez Esteban

Courses TaughtAlbertoSuarezEsteban

Growing Food


Ph.D in Biology (Plant Ecology and Conservation)
M.Sc. in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
B.Sc. in Biology


I grew up in northern Spain hiking, birdwatching and helping my grandparents with their gardens and animals. My deep fascination and appreciation for Nature, and my obsession with leaving the world better than I found it, led me to a career in Biology. Along this journey, conserving biodiversity for future generations became my life's mission. While doing my PhD, I became aware of the huge impact that industrial agriculture has on biodiversity and on our climate, and I started looking for solutions.

Knowing that a 9 to 5 academic job would not bring me the fulfillment I was after, I founded Nature's Apprentice Farm as my way to learn from Nature, contribute to the development and mainstream adoption of regenerative agriculture, and feed my community. I am always amazed by Nature's abundance when you integrate practices such as no-till, dense and diverse plantings, agroforestry, cover cropping and the use of compost with the local ecosystem.

Learning is my favourite thing in life, and sharing the little I know is second. I have had the privilege to interact with many wonderful students at different institutions, and I am excited to join the Gaia College family. When I am not working, I love whitewater canoeing, cross-country skiing, playing basketball and pickleball, and spending time with friends.