staff bios

  • Dan Johnson, Curator of Native Plants, Associate Director of Horticulture

    Dan Johnson, Curator of Native Plant Collections, has been gardening for as long as he can remember. He travels throughout the West and Southwest in search of unusual and underused native plants for trial in Colorado’s rigorous climate. His forays to similar regions of the world help further broaden the pallet of plants suitable for western gardens. He has created some of Denver Botanic Gardens’ most beautiful and self-sustaining gardens. Johnson expresses his love of the Western landscape as he designs and maintains the majority of the Gardens’ extensive native and xeric gardens.

  • Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator and Director of Denver Botanic Gardens Outreach

    Panayoti Kelaidis represents the Gardens in educational, professional and promotional endeavors as an expert in horticulture, science and art. He also acts as a liaison to botanical societies, professional horticulture organizations and green industry members. Kelaidis has worked at the Gardens for 30 years in many capacities. Most recently, he was the Curator of Plant Collections, where he supervised the curatorial staff and directed inventory, maintenance, interpretation and integrity for over 15,000 kinds of living plants. His far-reaching knowledge of horticulture in the mountainous and dry climate of Colorado has aided Plant Select®, a plant introduction program where Panayoti has helped discover and name numerous plants, as well as disseminate nearly 10 million plants. He designed the plantings for the world-renowned Rock Alpine Garden and helped implement Wildflower Treasures, South African Plaza and the Romantic Gardens among many other gardens at Denver Botanic Gardens.

    Kelaidis helped plan and stage over 12 regional, national and international gardening conferences in Denver. He is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the American Rock Garden Society as well as the American Penstemon Society, and serves on many professional horticulture society boards. He is also the recipient of the Award of Excellence from National Garden Clubs and the 2000 Arthur Hoyt Scott Medal from Swarthmore College. He has delivered speeches in over 70 cities throughout the world on a wide range of horticultural topics and has published over 100 gardening works.

  • Sarada Krishnan, Director of Horticulture

    Sarada Krishnan is Director of Horticulture and Center for Global Initiatives at Denver Botanic Gardens. She is responsible for directing the design and maintenance of the horticulture displays and collections along with developing and leading global initiatives. As part of the Gardens’ global initiatives, Krishnan is involved in the development of a national botanic garden in Haiti, assisting the City of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in their city greening efforts, coffee research project in South Sudan and conservation projects in Madagascar. She owns coffee plantations in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica and is involved in research initiatives in collaboration with the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica and University of West Indies.

    She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture from India, where the focus was on tropical horticulture and a Master of Science degree in Horticulture from Colorado State University, with a research focus on the propagation of native Colorado flora specializing in plant tissue culture. Her doctoral research at University of Colorado, Boulder, was on conservation genetics of the wild coffee (Coffea spp.) in Madagascar. Working on four Malagasy Coffea spp., the research compares the genetic diversity of the existing ex situ germplasm with extant wild populations and makes recommendations for conservation management.

    Krishnan has served as a board member of the Association of Zoological Horticulture, Colorado Native Plant Society and the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed Advisory Committee. She currently serves on the City of Westminster’s Open Space Advisory Board and on the American Public Gardens Association’s Program Selection Committee. She is a faculty affiliate with Colorado State University’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and a board of director of Plant Select®, Butterfly Pavilion and the Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association.

  • Jennifer Ramp Neale, Ph.D., Director of Research and Conservation

    Jennifer Ramp Neale holds a Doctorate degree from University of Colorado where her research focused on the restoration genetics and pollination of the federally endangered sunflower (Lasthenia conjugens). She joined the Research and Conservation staff at the Gardens in January of 2007 and has been director since 2010. Neale's research at the Gardens is focused on investigating genetic questions related to Colorado’s rarest and most imperiled plants. She is collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address genetic questions in four federally listed species through the use of molecular tools. In addition, she conducts long-term demographic monitoring of several species to track population dynamics over time. As the Gardens’ Center for Plant Conservation conservation officer, Neale protects the Gardens’ imperiled species from extinction through seed collection for future restoration and reintroduction needs.

  • Nick Snakenberg, Curator of Orchids

    Nick Snakenberg is Curator of Tropical Collections, Associate Director of Horticulture and has been working at Denver Botanic Gardens since 1993 in a variety of capacities. A graduate of Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture, he currently curates the Gardens’ orchid collection and helps manage the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory and its associated tropical collections. Snakenberg has taught many horticultural classes for the Gardens and is a frequent speaker for local garden clubs and plant societies. His affiliations with professional organizations add to his expertise and include the Orchid Digest Corporation and the American Orchid Society. Snakenberg is a past president of the Denver Orchid Society and is currently an accredited judge with the Rocky Mountain Judging Center in the American Orchid Society’s orchid judging program.