Lotusland: LotusFest’s Return Launches 30th Anniversary Lotusland Forever Campaign

By Steven Libowitz   |   September 12, 2023
Wander and play along the gardens while enjoying an afternoon of drink and food at LotusFest, Saturday, Sept. 16

Cue the fanfare! LotusFest is coming back to Lotusland, the spectacular public gardens nestled in the Cold Spring neighborhood of Montecito.

The Saturday, September 16, afternoon affair represents the post-pandemic return of the event, which provides an opportunity to enjoy a treasured wine-and-beer affair ensconced in the lush green lawns surrounded by a wonderland of more than 35 acres boasting 20 distinct and uniquely beautiful, interconnected garden spaces, each exhibiting a spellbinding variety of exotic plants that are as historic as they are stunning to view. The festival’s return is part of Lotusland’s 30th anniversary celebration, marking the three-decade milestone since the former estate of Polish opera singer and socialite Madame Ganna Walska was first allowed to open to the public. 

It’s a rare chance for visitors to sip and savor some of the best wine, beer, and food the Central Coast has to offer, with participation of 30 different providers including such unusual or boutique wine purveyors as Kimsey Vineyard, Casa Dumetz Wines, Dusty Nabor Wines, Donnachadh Vineyard, and Drink Ysidro, plus food offerings from Tamar, Loquita, Finch & Fork restaurant, and others. Visitors can mingle with friends and enjoy appropriately organic live music from The Kicks Reggae band on the Great Lawn and/or stroll through the grounds and take a last weekend of summer gander at the cacti, dracena, orchids, shade palms, succulents, and other gardens. 

Do make sure to head to the nearby water garden, as the flowers that lent their name to Lotusland’s title will be sticking around for the celebration. It’s almost as if the plants themselves altered their usual timing to coincide with Lotusfest, which used to be held earlier in the summer. 

“The flowers will be blooming,” said Lotusland Executive Director Rebecca Anderson. “They started later this year, because we renovated the water garden this past winter. So, they are at their peak right now.” 

LotusFest guests will receive a commemorative tasting glass to take home, and proceeds from tickets that range from $100 to $300 benefit the Garden’s essential education and conservation programs, as well as its rare and exotic plants that make Lotusland a botanical nirvana like no other. 

But even more importantly, this year’s LotusFest also marks the official kickoff of the nonprofit garden’s Lotusland Forever campaign, a multi-year fundraising effort to upgrade its facilities, restore its historic buildings, establish new state-of-the-art, earth-friendly systems and sustainable practices, increase its capacity for horticultural education and plant conservation, plus indefinitely secure Lotusland’s future. 

The “30 for 30” campaign aims to raise $30 million in total, with half of the funds earmarked to capital improvements for restoration, preservation, upgrades to infrastructure, and innovative initiatives. 

For its 30th anniversary, Lotusland is launching its “30 for 30” campaign that aims to raise $30 million in total

“It’s our first plan since 2003, guiding all of the garden’s needs for the next decade and beyond, and there are some truly innovative projects in the works,” says Anderson, adding that the plan includes a new nursery and multi-use education building, solar energy systems, a water security program with both storage and capturing of stormwater runoff, and restrooms located in the gardens. “The impact extends far beyond our walls, as Lotusland is also serving as a model for other similar gardens across the country and around the world, as well as a resource and an example for private homeowners.” 

A big focus is also restoring the buildings and structures designed by famed architect George Washington Smith including the perimeter wall, pavilion, main house, and several other buildings, timeless works of art in and of themselves, which have been in dire need of upkeep and renovation having taken a backseat to the care and restoration of the gardens. 

“The focus for the past 30 years has been on the garden and the plant collections, as we’ve been restoring and maintaining them in good working order,” Anderson explained. “We haven’t had the luxury of looking at the buildings and more. But now that the garden is thriving, it’s time.” 

The other $15 million in the Lotusland Forever fundraising effort focuses on the second word in the campaign’s title. The issue is that income from admission is severely limited by the 15,000-per-year cap on the total number of visitors allowed through the conditional use permit. The nonprofit has had to dig into its current endowment just to make ends meet. 

“We’ve been in a situation for every one of our 30 years where there’s a structural deficit in our budget,” Anderson explained. We have to disproportionately draw on the endowment to sustain operations, which really isn’t financially feasible in the long run. Growing our endowment will end that structural deficit for the foreseeable future.” 

See the campaign’s website at www.lotusland.org/forever for more details on the specifics of what the Lotusland Forever fundraiser will accomplish, as well as information about naming rights for many of the structures and assets that will also be available for the first time. 

In the meantime, mark your calendars for LotusFest and the remaining events on the glorious garden’s calendar before Lotusland closes to nonmembers for the winter months, including a Thursday, Sept. 21, Lessons from Lotusland Zoom lecture on Victoria Water Lilies featuring Assistant Curator Anna Bower, the much-anticipated Exceptional Plants Auction & Sale in October, and the Nov. 17-18 Community Access Days with half-price admission to the garden includes 90-minute guided tours.  

Ganna Walska Lotusland 
Rebecca Anderson, executive director
Patricia Sadeghian, director of development 
(805) 969-3767, ext. 104


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