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Lotusland’s Memoirs of a Garden Celebrates Re-Opening of Japanese Garden

Exquisite Affair Nets $500,000

Event Co-chairs Setenay Osman, Nati Smith, and Belle Hahn (Trustee) | Credit: Gail Arnold

On July 27, Lotusland held its sumptuous and entertaining Memoirs of a Garden fundraiser, which celebrated the re-opening of the Japanese Garden following a $6 million renovation. The 500 tickets sold out two months before the event, with base tickets at $750 and sponsorships running up to $50,000. 

At this Japanese-themed event, guests were greeted mid-afternoon with a refreshing cocktail of sake, hibiscus tea, and vodka. They strolled at their leisure through the whimsical, glorious gardens with entertainment and libations along the way. 

Japanese classical dancer Nancy Hayata performed at the edge of the koi pond in the magnificently restored Japanese Garden, while in the Dracaena (Dragon Tree) Circle, the Santa Barbara Symphony String Quartet entertained. Outside the Main House, guests were bid to help themselves to a Japanese Good Fortune from hundreds of printed fortunes on display.  

In the Insectary Garden, soprano Julie Davies and mezzo-soprano Molly Clementz delighted guests with selections from Madame Butterfly. The Lemon Arbor festively sported hundreds of origami and the Topiary Garden featured members of a flute trio nestled among giant animal-like shrubs, including Bob Sedivy  playing the shakuhachi.

Guests arrived on the Grand Lawn to more libations and Robert Salazar creating life-sized origami art.  Dotting the lawn were striking bars and lounge areas, each covered by a tall cone that mimicked yukitsuri – Japanese snow suspenders — which protect trees branches from the weight of snow.

People-watching was at Santa Barbara’s finest here with guests dressed in elegant Japanese-inspired cocktail attire. Co-chair Belle Hahn even did a wardrobe change midway from a Roberto Cavalli gown to an Etro one. Several other guests, including CEO Gwen Stauffer and actors January Jones and Camilla Belle, also wore outfits from sponsor Etro.  

Ojai O’daiko gave a spellbinding taiko drumming performance before guests were summoned for a Japanese-inspired al fresco dinner, where Yukiko Matsuyama performed. 

Trustee Joseph Marek made a special plea for Lotusland’s Plant Conservation Fund to help save rare plants. Sotheby’s August Uribe auctioned off extravagant items, contributing significantly to the $500,000 that the event netted overall.

Lotusland’s conditional use permit allows only 15,000 visitors per year, which impedes its ability to generate income through admittance fees for its $3.9 million budget and makes fundraising imperative. 

Polish opera singer Madame Ganna Walska created Lotusland, which displays more than 3,000 plants from all over the world. Lotusland became a nonprofit in 1984 and opened to the public in 1993. Tours, by reservation only, are offered twice daily Wed. through Sat. from February 15 to November 15.

The next event is the Summer Twilight Tour on August 24. $95 for nonmembers. An informational meeting for the docent program is on August 26 and training will begin in September. For more info about Lotusland, go to lotusland.org.

Send invites to gail@independent.com.

Photo: Gail ArnoldGanna Walska’s niece Hania Tallmadge with CEO Gwen Stauffer
Photo: Gail ArnoldAkiko Kobori (Benko’s niece), major sponsor Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, and Hiroko Benko
Photo: Gail ArnoldSusan Cronin, Nancy Gifford, Vee Noelle, and Allison Armour
Photo: Gail ArnoldMaria and Monte Wilson
Photo: Gail ArnoldCommittee Member Stacey McMullan III, Harry McMullan III, Committee Member Marni Margerum, and Doug Margerum
Photo: Gail ArnoldNancy Hayata in the newly renovated Japanese Garden
Photo: Gail ArnoldThe Santa Barbara Symphony String Quartet in the Dracaena (Dragon Tree) Circle
Photo: Gail ArnoldBob Sedivy on the shakuhachi in the Topiary Garden
Photo: Gail ArnoldOrigami grace the Lemon Arbor.
Photo: Gail ArnoldReception on the Grand Lawn
Photo: Gail ArnoldTaiko drummers Ojai O’daiko
Photo: Gail ArnoldEvent Co-chairs Setenay Osman, Nati Smith, and Belle Hahn (Trustee)

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