Society Matters | Lotusland Celebrates at Birdsong Event

Avian-Themed Event Raises $500,000+

Board President Lesley Cunningham, Executive Director Rebecca Anderson, and Cyndee Howard | Credit: Gail Arnold

On July 23, Lotusland held its annual swanky bash, this time with an avian-themed Birdsong, which drew 475 guests. With tickets starting at $1,000 each and generous sponsors and auction bidders, the event netted more than $500,000 for the nonprofit idyllic garden. In addition to raising funds for Lotusland, the event sought to raise awareness for bird conservation, with a theme inspired by Randall Poster’s For the Birds: The Birdsong Project.

Guests in stylish garden-party attire arrived mid-afternoon and were given a map of the garden, “Birdoculars” donated by Warby Parker, and libations. They strolled through the garden, enjoying this magical place that provides sanctuary to nearly 100 species of birds and on this special day contained some avian-themed surprises.

Adjacent to the Japanese Garden, which features crane statues, was an art installation by Chris Doyle featuring digital cranes. On the reflecting pond’s shore in the Aloe Garden were a caged modern dancer and an adjacent modern drummer. In the Water Garden were faux flamingos and blooming lotuses.

The Palmetum featured 10 striking birdhouses built for the event by architectural firms for display and for auction. Further on, guests got to interact with Athena the barn owl and Max the great horned owl, both perched on the arms of volunteers from the S.B. Audubon Society. 

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On the Great Lawn, where colorful paper birds hovered overhead, guests were offered more libations and comfy lounge furniture in which to relax. Emcee Geoff Green welcomed guests and introduced a brief but fantastic performance by indie folk artists Devendra Banhart and Gregory Rogove. Honorary Co-Chair Belle Hahn read a note from Poster, who expressed regret at not being able to attend as planned. He explained how the Birdsong Project celebrates the joy and beauty in birdsong and seeks to make people aware of threats to bird life. For the project, he invited artists, actors, poets, friends, and others to collaborate and a couple hundred of them agreed, producing a 20-LP box set benefiting the National Audubon Society.

Event Co-Chair Joseph Marek related how in his lifetime, North America has lost three billion birds. Lotusland is a 100 percent organic garden with compost that feeds plants and plants that feed birds. He urged guests who take out lawns to choose native plants, which will bring back native bird populations and make our habitats healthier in general. After an auction and paddle raise led by Green, guests were seated for dinner.

Lotusland is a 37-acre botanical garden home to more than 3,200 plant species and 25 individual, extraordinary gardens. An annual budget of $4.5 million and a staff of 45 (full- and part-time) and 180 volunteers keep it and its programs running. For more info or to make a reservation for a docent-led or self-guided tour, go to

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Honorary Co-Chair and major sponsor Belle Hahn and Thomasine Richards | Credit: Gail Arnold
Lisa Thai and Major Sponsor Minotti LA President Mary Ta | Credit: Gail Arnold
Event Co-Chairs and Trustees David Jones and Joseph Marek | Credit: Gail Arnold
Major sponsors Michael Macelhenny and Carole Macelhenny with landscape designer of Lotusland’s Dunlap Collection Eric Nagelmann | Credit: Gail Arnold
Trustee Ron Caird, Trustee Mimi Michaelis, Trustee Dan Bifano, and Pat Caird | Credit: Gail Arnold


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