Lotusland 2023 Annual Meeting Introduces New Officers, Highlights Healing Power of Gardens & Plants

By Giving List Staff   |   March 30, 2023
Daniel Bifano, Executive Director Rebecca Anderson, Nora McNeely Hurley

The executive staff and board of trustees of Ganna Walska Lotusland held their annual meeting last week for Garden members and key stakeholders. The event provided attendees with an overview of the Garden’s past, present and future and served as the official beginning of term service of four new trustees and a new slate of board officers. The afternoon’s keynote from guest speaker John La Puma, MD, FACP, focused on the healing power of gardens and plants and emphasized the physical and mental health benefits of time spent in nature.

Before the event began, recognitions were given to two trustees completing their terms of service: Mimi Michaelis and Dorothy Gardner, as well as the immediate past president, Lesley Cunningham, who will continue service on the board. Board officers announced for 2023 include President David Jones, Vice President Mari Mitchel, Treasurer Stephen Schaible, and Secretary Crystal Wyatt. Jones then remarked briefly on the newest officers to join.

“I am delighted to welcome this distinguished group of individuals and look forward to serving with them in the coming years,” said Jones. We have diligently worked to ensure we have a board that reflects a wide diversity of expertise that will guide Lotusland into its next decade of service and a renewed period of growth.” New trustees include philanthropist and investor, Wendy Schmidt, hobby gardener and longtime Lotusland member/volunteer, Jeanne Anderson, former energy trader and retired finance professional, Mark Schmidt, and travel and philanthropy professional, Ashley Adelson. New and current trustees, along with Lotusland’s dedicated staff, look to emphasize biodiversity, sustainability, and wellness into their programming heading into 2023 which helped in selecting their keynote address.

“It is a great honor to welcome our newest trustees to the board as well as introduce you all to Dr. La Puma,” said Rebecca Anderson, Executive Director of Lotusland. “John connected his medical career with food and gardens to focus on good health, but most importantly, he encourages everyone to spend time in nature and enjoy the benefits of being in gardens.”

Dr. John La Puma addressing the crowd in attendance.

La Puma is a board-certified internist, a professionally trained chef, and a New York Times best-selling author of seven books. He co-founded the popular brand ChefMD® and is considered the founder of culinary medicine, now taught in 70% of U.S. medical schools and worldwide.

“I will give you the punchline ahead of time. Gardens heal in at least three ways. Medically, psychologically, and planetarily,” La Puma said to the audience. “Gardens, whether you’re in one or attending one, help the health of the planet. And by having a garden or visiting one, you are also improving that health,” he said. La Puma went on to explain how plants have been used for centuries to heal the body across the world, often times intentionally involving all five senses.

La Puma currently stewards a regenerative certified organic farm in Santa Barbara. He helps visitors connect with gardens, nature, and good food as a way to treat and prevent medical problems as well as create more joy in their lives.

“Human wellbeing depends on the wellbeing of the earth, including its living and nonliving systems, which is a really different idea than we have had about the earth and our relationship to it,” said La Puma. “Our health depends on how healthy nature is around us.” Various natural health related programming is being added to Lotusland’s offerings for members and visitors to the Garden. Some of that programming, specifically the Junior Botanist program, has been shaped using La Puma’s guidance.

For more information on becoming a volunteer or member of Lotusland, future member-related events, or for general visitation information, visit www.lotusland.org or call 805-969-9990. You can also follow Lotusland on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

The mission of Ganna Walska Lotusland is to preserve and enhance the unique, historic estate of Madame Ganna Walska, care for and improve its collection, and develop its conservation and horticulture programs so they can educate us, inspire us, and advance our understanding and appreciation of the important of plants in our lives and in the life of the planet.


Ganna Walska Lotusland

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Director of Development: Patricia Sadeghian


Lotusland preserves and enhances the unique, historic estate of Madame Ganna Walska, cares for and improves its collections, and develops its conservation and horticulture programs, so they educate us, inspire us, and advance our understanding and appreciation of the importance of plants in our lives and in the life of the planet.

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We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.

Madame Ganna Walska has planted seeds of imagination, beauty, spirituality, and growth. I choose to honor my mother and father’s legacies through supporting Lotusland.
Belle Hahn
Former Trustee & Honorary Chairwoman

Help Preserve a Montecito and World Treasure

With Cycads threatened globally, Lotusland is squarely focused on renovating its renowned Cycad Garden and preserving its stunning specimens. Lotusland has had tremendous success in the management of threatened Cycad species. The Cycad Garden recently experienced an Armillaria flare-up and has begun the large undertaking of fungus eradication. This is an extensive project, requiring the removal of plants, triaging diseased specimens, excavating all host material, adding subterranean and surface drainage systems, replacing the soil, and creating new planter beds for improved environmental conditions. This project includes renovating pathways, improving accessibility, and securing plant health within the Cycad Collection for many years to come. When complete, Lotusland Curators will be able to be secure in their work to advance scientific methods to ensure the legacy of these species. The anticipated cost for the remainder of the work in this internationally significant garden is $300,000. Lotusland is at the front line of a worldwide scientific community to save these rarest of plants. 

Your support helps to advance and accelerate this critical work, and ensure Lotusland’s participation, prominence, and impact in the global conservation community.

“We are not only a historic site and a legacy garden,” Anderson says, “we are at the forefront of sustainable horticulture. This is an exciting moment where historic preservation and conservation works are paramount, and at the same time, we are innovating to use Lotusland as a center to model both horticultural and sustainability excellence.” 

Help keep this century-old Montecito jewel gleaming for many years to come. 

Board of Trustees

David M. Jones, President
Mari Mitchel, Vice President
Lesley Cunningham,
Immediate Past President
Ashley Adelson
Jeanne Anderson
Daniel Bifano
Laura M. Bridley
Merryl Brown
Ron Caird
Geoff Crane
Rachael Douglas
Connie Flowers Pearcy
Anthony Grumbine
Joseph Marek
Jeffrey Romano
Stephen P. Schaible
Mark Schmidt
Wendy Schmidt
Caroline Thompson
Rick Vitelle
Lisa Bjornson Wolf
Crystal Wyatt