One of the most iconic public gardens in the world, Ganna Walska Lotusland is a 37-acre wonderland of more than 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. Some 3,500 different species of plants, and 10 times as many specimens, including one of the most significant cycad collections in the country are all cared for, protected and enhanced through sustainable horticultural practices that the Garden has been pioneering for nearly 3 decades.
Lotusland is marking its milestone anniversary of 30 years as a public garden with both a celebration and a new multifaceted fundraising campaign. The Lotusland Forever project aims to raise $30 million with half of the funds earmarked to add to its endowment to balance the budget, with the other $15 million needed for capital improvements for restoration, preservation, upgrades to infrastructure, and innovative initiatives.
Located in the middle of a highly prized residential area of Montecito, it took nearly a decade after Madame Walska’s 1984 death to secure the county permits to allow Lotusland’s stewards to share her legacy with the community and visitors from all over the world. However, the garden’s Conditional Use Permit limits Lotusland’s visitor capacity as well as type and quantity of events each year which puts a strain on its financial stability.
“Admissions only cover 13 percent of our expenses,” reports Rebecca Anderson, Lotusland’s executive director. “We have had a structural deficit in our budget every year since we opened and have to draw down disproportionately on our endowment annually just to operate.”
This is the Garden’s first Master Plan since 2003 and includes all of the garden’s improvements for the next generation. The long-range vision incorporates an updated nursery with a plant propagation laboratory and climate-controlled rooms for seed storage, new education spaces and structures for enhanced visitor accessibility, solar energy systems, and a comprehensive water security program with both storage and capturing of stormwater runoff that is expected to reduce water usage by 40%.
The historic buildings on its grounds are also in need of infrastructural work and preservation. The first of which, a pavilion designed by George Washington Smith is currently under renovation and slated to reopen this year. A Mediterranean-style mansion designed by Reginald Johnson is also slated for conservation as funds are received.
“We’ve been focusing on restoring and maintaining the garden and the collections for 30 years, and we haven’t had the luxury of tending to the buildings and beyond. It’s time”, says Rebecca Anderson.
All the work will incorporate sustainable methods and materials aimed at reducing the Garden’s carbon footprint. Lotusland aims to serve as a model and resource for other gardens elsewhere, not only for its sustainable horticulture practices, but also for its sustainability strategies.
For more information, please visit our campaign website: https://www.lotusland.org/forever/