Tag Archives: botanic garden

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Welcomes Three New Board Members in 2021

Three new members have joined the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Board of Directors. The Garden welcomes George Leis, Sharon Bradford, and Helene Schneider. The Board supports the Garden’s mission to conserve California native plants and habitats for the health and well-being of people and the planet.

“We are pleased to to have such highly esteemed community members join us in the commitment to preserve biodiversity,” said Dr. Steve Windhager, the Garden’s Executive Director. “Each individual moves our mission forward through unique perspectives, extensive expertise, and a dedication to our increasingly urgent conservation work.”

George Leis is the President & Chief Operating Officer for Montecito Bank & Trust, the oldest and largest locally owned community bank in the Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. George was formerly a managing director for MUFG Union Bank, N.A. He was named the national sales manager for The Private Bank after becoming regional president of Union Bank’s Central Coast region with the acquisition of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust (SBB&T) in December 2012. Previously, Leis was president and chief executive officer of Pacific Capital Bancorp (PCBC), a $7 billion in assets community bank holding company that included SBB&T. 

George Leis

After joining SBB&T in March 2006, Leis was the executive vice president for two divisions, Wealth Management and Information Technology, and was the chief information officer. He was responsible for 500 staff members and a $78 million budget. A graduate of California State University, Northridge (CSUN), he is a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. 

Leis’ community involvement is exemplified through his service to universities and charities throughout Southern California and beyond, including serving as the Board chair to both the Santa Barbara Zoo and the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, and as a Board member for Channel Islands YMCA, CSU Channel Islands Foundation, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, and more.

His successful career and passionate involvement in community-focused organizations have earned Leis several awards. A distinguished alumnus of Cal State Northridge, Leis is a prior Board member and prior committee chair for the CSUN Foundation Board of Directors. He has participated on numerous other CSUN Boards, including the College of Business and Economics advisory Board and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Ambassadors.

Sharon Bradford is passionate about her community and has had the opportunity to serve on many boards in her beloved town of Santa Barbara.

Some of these include the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, Lobero Theatre, Direct Relief International, Casa del Herrero, and The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Bradford and her brothers are the owners of San Marcos Growers; a wholesale nursery started by their family in 1980 which grows many native and drought tolerant plants appropriate to California’s mediterranean climate. 

Bradford is a graduate of UCSB with a degree in Art History, and after living in the Bay Area for thirty years, Sharon and her husband David are thrilled to be “home”.

Helene Schneider serves as the Regional Development Director for California State University, Channel Islands, expanding awareness and support of CSUCI in Santa Barbara County, and as a Regional Coordinator for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, focusing on reducing homelessness in communities throughout California and Arizona. Schneider also served for over 17 years in municipal government, as mayor, city councilmember, and housing authority commissioner for the City of Santa Barbara, California.

Schneider currently volunteers on the non-profit boards for Sister Cities International and the Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative. She earned her B.A. degree from Skidmore College and her Professional Designation in Human Resources Management from UCLA Extension.

See more about the Garden’s Board of Trustees by visiting their website at sbbg.org/about/board-of-trustees. To learn more about how to support the Garden, visit sbbg.org/get-involved.

The Garden serves the public as more than just a pretty place, but as a model of sustainability and an engine for native habitat conservation in the region. Our mission has become increasingly urgent as more native plant species face extinction, threatening the foundation of all life on the planet. Founded in 1926, the Garden is the first botanic garden focused exclusively on California native plants and currently spans 78 acres with five miles of walking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, and Nursery. The Garden welcomes the public every day from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and offers a members-only hour from 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. For more information about the Garden, please visit sbbg.org.   

Live Fuel Moisture Findings at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The Garden is tracking drier than average conditions as we enter high fire season

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department declared May 3 as the start date for the 2021 high fire season for all areas of the county. This year’s severely lower than normal rainfall has resulted in drier fuels, which means the risk of fire ignition and spread have already reached high levels. 

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has tracked local Live Fuel Moisture conditions since 2013. Live Fuel Moisture, or LFM, is the amount of water in a plant’s tissues, by weight, compared to the weight of plant tissues after they are dried. Plants have high LFM in the winter and early spring, when water is plentiful and the weather is cooler. In summer and fall, LFM drops as plants transpire water and soils dry out. The cycle repeats itself annually, with plants increasing in LFM (and decreasing in flammability) following the first fall rains.

The Garden has collaborated with the University of California Cooperative Extension since 2013 to measure LFM in vegetation at several sites, including along Painted Cave Road, at the top of Tunnel Road, and at St. Mary’s Seminary on Las Canoas Road. Our team collects from two common chaparral species: chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) and bigpod ceanothus (Ceanothus megacarpus). 

“Thankfully, chamise is pretty tough and though it has been drier than usual, there has been new growth on our local plants,” said Dr. Josie Lesage, the Garden’s Applied Ecologist. “However, the lack of rain this year means we should be extra careful about fire ignition as the LFM continues to drop this season”

The Garden’s weather station shows that we have received between 45-50 percent of the normal precipitation in 2021. The Garden’s next LFM data will be published online by May 10, and may show the first noticeable drop for this season. 

With the threat of hotter, drier conditions that prime vegetation to burn, we all must be extra careful about potential fire-causing activities to avoid a devastating wildfire season, as human activities are a common ignition source. Carefully dispose of smoking materials, camp responsibly and never leave a campfire unattended, and incorporate fire-resistant plants into your landscape like California-fuchsia. Read through the Garden’s water wise plant guide to learn more about water wise landscaping.

Founded in 1926, the garden is the first botanic garden focused exclusively on California native plants and currently spans 78 acres with five miles of walking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, and nursery. The Garden is open to the public daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and offers a members-only hour from 9-10 a.m.

For more information about the garden, visit sbbg.org.

Sanctuary | Lotusland Online Art Sale & Gallery Exhibition

Online Art Sale & Gallery Exhibition launches on Earth Day April 22 through May 3, 2021.

Launching April 22, visit the online show or in person at GraySpace in the Funk Zone GraySpace Gallery, 219 Gray Ave., Santa Barbara, California.

Please visit: www.Lotusland.org/sanctuary/ for more information.

The invitation was sent to 36 local artists to participate. Artists were asked to create new work inspired by Lotusland. Artists were given 3 days to visit the Garden and only 8 weeks to create, capture and complete their muse at Lotusland. Whether it be a specific garden, found materials, or to create in the Garden their piece of work for the show. It was a creative concept and challenge that the artists were craving, especially this year.

Funds raised support sustainable Lotusland’s sustainability programs which promote and teach individuals, groups, gardeners, and institutions about the best methods and practices in horticulture, environmental responsibility, and stewardship.

Lotusland Executive Director, Rebecca Anderson says, “In response to the pandemic, and the shortfalls we experienced as a result, we needed to rethink fundraisers. With a desire to connect the community to our mission, we dreamed up this concept for a new benefit event with participating artists from our region. We view this online sale and show as a way to foster connection with Lotusland’s supporters, engage and encourage local artists, and sustain the Garden’s important sustainability programs.”

The artists and show are curated by volunteers Ashley Woods Hollister and Casey Turpin, and the Gallery space is sponsored by Ruth Ellen Hoag and GraySpace Gallery. “We knew this could be a special way for people to bring a piece of the Lotusland sanctuary to their own home,” explain Ashley and Casey, co-curators of the exhibition.

Participating artists include:

Paulo Lima,

R. Nelson Parrish Michael Adcock Taiana Giefer

Skip Smith Meredith Brooks Abbott

Phoebe Brunner Robert Abbott Rick Garcia Baret Boisson

Leslie Lewis Sigler Ruth Ellen Hoag

Joan Rosenberg-Dent

Kerrie Smith Michael Haber Lindsey Ross Manjari Sharma Jessica June Avrutin Bobbi Bennett Connie Connally Inga Guzyte

Maria Rendon Cara Bonewitz Lynda Weinman Blakeney Sanford Erika Carter

Cathy Moholm Luis Alberto Velazquez

Sophie Gibbings George Leo Sanders Ro Snell

Olivia Joffrey Lily Hahn Whitney Hansen

Whitney Brooks Abbott Ryan Shand

“The garden is magic, and it has touched my work in a way that will give me endless ideas and new directions for much more time to come!” – Lynda Weinman, Former Lotusland Trustee, and participating artist

“Walking alone through Lotusland on those quiet Monday mornings felt like falling down the rabbit hole into a secret world. It was truly sensory overload at every turn – layers upon layers of colors and textures and smells.” – Jessica June Avrutin, participating artist

Ashley Woods Hollister has long supported local artists through her work with Art from Scrap and as the former director of the Morris Squire Foundation. Casey Turpin is an avid volunteer in the Insectary Garden at Lotusland, and both are passionate about showcasing Lotusland’s beauty and science through the eyes of a local artist community.

Lotusland is a precious outdoor space for the Santa Barbara community. Proceeds from this event keep the Garden growing, and remains a source of beauty and respite for visitors.

The artists’ contributions advance Lotusland’s mission to inspire and inform the public about protecting, conserving, and renewing nature and its precious resources.

“Through the Sanctuary Art Sale and Exhibition, our goal is to contribute to the success of Lotusland’s horticultural care, as well as providing education to others about best practices and philosophies to support sustainability. We feel very lucky and excited to be a part of this wonderfully creative process.” – Ashley Woods Hollister & Casey Turpin, Art Curators for Sanctuary

For more information, please Contact: Kerstin Olson Horneman, Event Manager, Ganna Walska Lotusland

khorneman@lotusland.org 805.969.3767 (130)

Save the Planet With Native Plants

How you can protect and restore mother earth all year round

Over 50 years ago, an oil rig experienced a pressure blowout in the Santa Barbara Channel resulting in up to 3 million gallons of crude oil ripping through the ocean floor — the worst oil spill in the nation’s history up to that point. It took years for Santa Barbara’s ecosystem to recover, but the Earth Day movement took root. Despite our collective efforts that were started on that first Earth Day, globally we are still in the throes of the sixth major mass extinction in planetary history and the first time this has been caused by humans. Today, our global biodiversity is collapsing, resulting in an accelerated rate of species extinction. 

Earth Day, a time to demonstrate support for environmental protection, is an opportunity to bring awareness to the healing power of native plants. The mission of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is to conserve and protect native plants and habitats for the health and well being of people and the planet. That mission has become increasingly urgent as more native plant species face extinction, threatening the foundation of all life on the planet.

Saving plants means saving the planet. 

In honor of Earth Day, the Garden invites the community to restore the earth by  celebrating these critical native plants.

1) Spending time in nature is something we can all do to reconnect with mother earth, and it doesn’t go without healing benefits. Nature can help reduce anxiety, promote creativity and contribute to heart health. Research shows rewards begin accruing with as little as 2 hours a week.

“The Garden provides the community with respite filled with redwood trees, wildflower meadows, and Channel Island views,” said Dr. Steve Windhager, Executive Director of the Garden. “It’s a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the connection between our own health and the health of the planet.”

2) The Garden welcomes the community to take a stroll through our native plant displays on Earth Day to observe the unique beauty of California flora and learn more about what simple seeds of change you can implement that make a huge impact on our environment. Discover our chalkboard signs along the trails with tips on what you can do to protect biodiversity or join our Instagram livestream from 11am – 12:30pm for a Garden stroll with our Director of Education and Engagement.

3) Participate in Earth Day virtually by registering to join in Chumash Earth Day on April 20 at 1pm, hosted by the Santa Ynez Chumash Environmental Office. Windhager will be giving a presentation on how you can heal the earth starting in your own home and neighborhood by planting native plants.

4) Learn more about where climate leaders are stepping up to do the critical work needed to combat the climate crisis by joining in the Community Environmental Council’s 3-Day Virtual Earth Day Festival. The Garden’s Director of Education and Engagement, Scot Pipkin, will be a co-emcee on April 24 from 12pm – 3pm and will share how native plants can be used to lean into climate action at this urgent moment.

5) At the Garden, be sure to visit our nursery, which offers the widest selection of native plants on the central coast. Staffed with knowledgeable and experienced gardeners, there’s no better place to learn more about native plants, find the right selection for your garden, create wildlife habitat, or purchase a plant for a friend.

Protect and restore the earth this year through native plants. Native plants enhance the environment instead of threatening it, provide habitat for wildlife, and are a source of nectar for pollinators. Earth Day began in our own backyard, and can continue to grow there as well. 

 About the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The Garden serves the public as more than just a pretty place, but as a model for sustainability. Founded in 1926, the Garden is the first botanic garden focused exclusively on California native plants and currently spans 78 acres with five miles of walking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, and Nursery. The Garden welcomes the public every day from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and offers a members-only hour from 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. For more information about the Garden, please visit sbbg.org.   

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Celebrates 95 Years

Santa Barbara’s historical gem invites you to celebrate its 95th birthday

On March 16, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden invites the community to help them celebrate 95 years of history. Pop-up exhibits will share stories, photos, local history, and milestones of the Garden over the decades. Visitors can discover the oldest plants in the Garden, some as old as the Garden itself, as well as other surprises along the way. Birthday twins of the Garden born on March 16th will be welcomed into the Garden free of admission with a valid ID. 

The Garden’s history has deep roots. Founded in 1926, the Garden was the first botanic garden in the United States to focus exclusively on native plants. In 1925, the Carnegie Institution suggested a cooperative effort with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to create a botanical garden. The plan became a reality when local philanthropist Anna Dorinda Blaksley Bliss purchased 13 acres in Mission Canyon for the museum, with views spanning from the mountains and the ocean. In 1939, the Botanic Garden separated from the Natural History Museum and was named the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. 

The garden was laid out in various plant communities, such as chaparral, desert, and prairie, with an emphasis on plants from the Pacific slope of North America. Experimental groupings of significant genera such as Ceanothus and Eriogonum (buckwheat) were displayed for horticultural research and to educate the public. By 1936, this emphasis had narrowed to plants native to the state of California, and now includes northwestern Baja California and southwestern Oregon, which are part of the California Floristic Province.

“Gardening with native plants is becoming more popular due to the desire to have an eco-friendly and low-maintenance garden,” said Dr. Steve Windhager, Executive Director. “Our founders were ahead of their time and recognized the important role that a garden dedicated to native plants could have in supporting an awareness and conservation of native habitat.” 

In honor of both the Garden’s birthday and Women’s History Month, Dr. Steve Windhager will share stories of the Garden’s “Founding Mothers” in collaboration with Casa Dorinda on March 16 at 2:00 p.m. Join in by visiting our “At Home” portal to be inspired by stories of Santa Barbara’s influential female leaders who have grown the Garden to what it is today. 

Those who aren’t able to join in the Garden’s socially-distant birthday celebration on March 16 can still enjoy pop-up exhibits throughout the week, and of course increasingly beautiful wildflowers throughout the Spring season. 

The Garden’s mission is to conserve California native plants and habitats for the health and well-being of people and the planet. The aim of the founders was to create a garden that would “…unite the aesthetic, educational and scientific.” The Garden currently spans 78 acres with five miles of hiking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, and native plant Nursery. For more information about the Garden, please visit sbbg.org.     

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Just like nearly every place in town, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden closed for two months during the first phase of the stay-at-home orders designed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. But then the county decided that the Garden was an essential service. 

Which, to anyone who has ever visited the 78-acre site that blends cultivated displays with stands of natural woodlands, was sort of a case of stating the obvious. Visiting SBBG is like taking a trip to a lush haven within the already inviting space that Santa Barbara and environs occupy between the ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. So welcoming people back to the Garden – as Joni Mitchell once sang – was a happy moment for SBBG Executive Director Steve Windhager.

“When I go for walks in the garden, it’s great to see people down in the woods, just recharging,” he said. “I can’t describe it any other way but that it’s almost like they’re plugging into something and getting renewed and refreshed. To me, that’s what the garden is all about and why it is so important that we’re available during this difficult time for everybody.”

It also helps that, as Windhager said, it’s a “super safe place to go,” because social distancing is pretty easy in such an expansive space and the staff are committed to enforcing the requirement that visitors wear masks at all times, a restriction that hasn’t stopped the Garden from having its biggest year yet in terms of visitors in 2020, pro-rating the numbers from the months it was open. It also doesn’t hurt that the Garden is easily accessible from anywhere in the area, just a short drive up Mission Canyon – “Literally four miles from the ocean, seven minutes from town, maybe a few more if you get stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle,” he said. 

But what’s becoming readily apparent over recent years is just how important SBBG is beyond serving as a recreational space for locals looking for time in nearby nature during lockdown. That value is right in the Garden’s mission: “To conserve California native plants and habitats for the health and well-being of people and the planet.” 

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is an ideal place to visit to unplug and recharge

“We’ve been around for 95 years and everyone knows that we’re a garden, but what they don’t understand is that really we’re a conservation organization that happens to have a garden,” Windhager explained, noting that SBBG contains more than 1,000 species of plants native to California. “The reason we’re all about those plants is because not only are they incredibly beautiful, they support the biodiversity that supports all of our lives. They support pollination services, support our crops, restoration and, well basically, life on the planet.” 

Correctly understanding what’s out there and making sure those plants continue to live for the coming generations is “the untold story about the Botanic Garden,” Windhager said. “We do want people to come visit us and be impressed by California’s flora, to come see the wildflowers instead of having to drive up to Figueroa Mountain – and they’re going to be gorgeous this year. But I think species research and preservation is the bigger story.” 

That goal is why SBBG has ramped up its Conservation & Research program, staffed largely by an ever-increasing team of PhD botanists and researchers, to study and understand biodiversity, protect rare plants, restore habitats, and engage in seed banking – the latter a 20-year-old program that got another jolt in 2016 when the Garden opened its new Conservation Center, an 11,500-square foot space that also has some public exhibits.

“An ecologist once said the first rule of intelligent tinkering is saving all the pieces,” Windhager said. “The truth is we still know so little about our planet that we don’t understand which species may form the critical link, which ones might provide the next cure for cancer, and which ones, if we lose them, will cause what’s called a trophic cascade, where all of a sudden, a third of the planet’s diversity disappears.” 

All of this is nothing new, by the way, Windhager said, noting that the Garden was founded back in 1926 out of concern for species cataloging amid the rapid development of Southern California. But that function somehow seems to fade in the wake of the Garden’s beauty, which is why the ED said SBBG is investing time and energy in getting the word out. 

“We’re like the Noah’s Ark for California’s rarest plants, going back to doing some of the first early explorations out on the Channel Islands, an incredible place to explore because they really are California’s Galapagos. Or rather, in many ways, they make Galapagos look really kind of chintzy, at least in terms of plant diversity,” he said.

While the Conservation Center remains closed during the pandemic protocols, the rest of the Garden is open and available. Late winter/early spring is a perfect time for visiting, Windhager said. “Just as a spring is a time of renewal, we’re going to see all these plants springing up.” With all of the recent rain, the manzanita – the Garden boasts a big section dedicated to the ground cover shrub – are beginning to bloom, boasting delicate bell-shaped flowers. “They’re just going to town and several others are about one or two weeks away from really starting to take off.”

He also stressed that the nursery is open, and right now is a perfect time to take home a beautiful California native species to plant in a home landscape. “It’s the absolute best time of the year to get plants in the ground,” Windhager said. “Most people think about spring as the planting season, but that’s completely wrong in Southern California. Right now is the most pleasant and easiest time of the year for a plant to get established, put those roots down before it has to go through a long protracted drought here in California.” 

Purchasing a plant to take home is one of the things people who might not have the means to make major donations can do to help with the Garden’s mission, too, since government funding for the Garden is on a contract basis, Windhager said. “Visiting, becoming a member, and taking home plants is what helps us continue to be a resource for Santa Barbara. Without the generosity of our community, we couldn’t exist.”

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
(805) 682-4726
1212 Mission Canyon Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

A Garden of Delights

Bounded by the Pacific to the west and the Sierra Nevada to the east, California is home to over 6,500 native plants, many of which only exist here, that serve as the backbone to our state’s diverse and increasingly fragile ecosystems.

“If those species are lost in California, they are lost to the planet,” says Steve Windhager, the executive director of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. 

For Windhager, the 78-acre Garden, with its over 1,000 species of native plants heralding from southern Oregon all the way to the tip of Baja including the southern-most redwood grove, is much “more than a pretty place.” It is the home base for a three-pronged conservation effort to “understand, protect, and restore” California’s rich flora. 

To do this, the Garden’s growing team of researchers, conservationists, and PhD-level botanists work throughout the state to actively document the diversity of plants across the California Floristic Province. To date, their scientific repository contains over 190,000 preserved plant and lichen collections dating as far back as 1860.

They are also protecting the future through widespread seed banking. “It’s an insurance policy for native plants,” Windhager says. “We put the seeds into suspended animation, to be defrosted for research or in a time of catastrophe.” 

And all the while, the Garden is working with large landholders, think the Department of Defense and the United States Forest Service, to better manage their lands, restore native species, and bring overall health to California’s rich but increasingly fragile ecosystems. 

Then, of course there is the Garden, a beautiful and beloved community asset set in Santa Barbara’s Mission Canyon, with sweeping views to both the Santa Ynez Mountains and out to the Channel Islands. Nearly 80,000 people visit each year to take in the seasonal splendor of quintessentially Californian nature scenes; a meadow lush with wildflowers in the Spring, a rushing stream and its riparian ecosystem springing to life with winter rains. The Garden is home to a rich tradition of public education, hosting numerous classes and lectures for adults each year, as well as one of the longest lasting school visiting programs, started in the 1950s, where Windhager says, youth “experience the importance of native plants as the cornerstone of all life on our planet.”

And the Garden is also the seat of serious scholarship. In 2019, its staff and affiliated researchers published a book, nine peer-reviewed articles, and six technical reports all while DNA coding plants, lichens, arthropods, mosses, and fungi growing on the Channel Islands. 

“The Garden itself is the gateway for most people,” Windhager says. “For some, visiting Mission Canyon and walking through the redwoods is enough. But others, they get hooked and they want to go deeper and learn more. These are our future conservationists.”

And with the near endless diversity of California’s flora, there is always more to learn and discover.