Virginia Hayes weekly column in the Santa Barbara Independent.
Virginia Hayes 1950-2018
Virginia Hayes, Lotusland’s recently retired Curator of the Living Collection had a remarkable career in the garden that spanned 25 years. She played a major role in developing the plant records, library cataloguing, photographic archives, and Ganna Walska’s history and personal archives. Madame’s unique personality and remarkable life story were things Virginia absorbed, studied and perhaps even embodied to a degree, by living in a small house in Madame’s treasured garden for more than two decades. Steve Timbrook, Lotusland Director Emeritus, originally hired Virginia and describes her as “bringing to the position a wide knowledge of the plant groups most important to Lotusland. It took very little time for me to realize what a great addition she was to Lotusland’s horticultural staff.” One of her most far-reaching accomplishments has been preparing docents to lead tours. Virginia helped develop curriculum, planned the courses and trained every docent from 1992 until her retirement. Her encyclopedic knowledge was daunting, and many new docents wondered how could they ever do justice to the garden the way Virginia did. In her always calm, reassuring way, she would simply advise, “Let the garden speak for itself.” Chief Executive Officer Gwen Stauffer described Virginia’s contributions this way: “She applied her incredible knowledge of plants to build these outstanding collections, and her passion for sharing her knowledge with others helped make Lotusland an important resource both locally and internationally.” Teacher, mentor, author, plant-geek, photographer, environmentalist, mother, scientist, web-master and friend. Virginia’s wonderful spirit and dedication to the garden have created a lasting legacy and we are forever grateful for all she has done for Lotusland.