Party On: Lotusland Throws a Japanese Garden Gala

Friends of the Montecito estate toast the reopening of one of the botanical haven’s most beautiful spaces



To celebrate the debut of its newly renovated Japanese garden, Montecito’s Ganna Walska Lotusland hosted the exquisite Memoirs of a Garden Gala on the afternoon of Saturday, July 27, which saw friends of the California estate convene for the area’s big reveal, plus an inspired dinner, lively entertainment, an auction of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and more.

Guests — many clad in colorful flowy frocks by fashion house Etro, which co-sponsored the event — included such notables as January Jones, Annabelle Fleur and Ellen von Unwerth. Upon arrival, revelers were greeted by a whimsical, arched Douglas Little installation comprising blue and white manzanita, flower and crane sculptures (inspired by Japanese porcelain) that the artist designed as an homage to the property’s namesake, the late Ganna Walska, and her love of eccentric beauty. (The Polish opera singer and socialite purchased the estate in 1941 and was the driving force behind Lotusland’s many exotic plant collections up until her death in 1984.)

With the reinvigorated Japanese garden (renovated over three years to the tune of $6.5 million) as a backdrop, event co-chairs Belle Hahn, Setenay Osman and Nati Smith, joined others on the property’s Great Lawn to enjoy origami activities, a performance by taiko drummers, themed hors d’oeuvres and an alfresco lounge serving craft cocktails.

A highlight of the transportive experience was the Japanese-inspired meal by Duo, followed by a live auction, providing ample mingling time for guests like Camilla Belle, Michelle Madsen and Evelina Pivavarav. Among the many incredible auction lots were a custom portrait session with renowned illustrator David Downton; a bespoke omakase dinner for 10 amid the Japanese garden’s blossoms; and a 333-carat moonstone necklace by lauded jeweler (and event co-sponsor) Irene Neuwirth.

As the sun began to set and the day’s merriment came to a close, guests departed with renewed admiration for not only the extraordinary botanical garden Walska created, but also her enduring legacy of conservation.


Feature image: JANUARY JONES and CAMILLA BELLE. Photo by Stefanie Keenan.


Aug. 7, 2019


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