I’d first heard of Lotusland in 1997 while still a student at UC Santa Barbara. A friend had recently come back from touring Lotusland for a photography class. She raved about the succulents, the cactus, the shell encrusted pools, the endless themed gardens…she ended by saying, “You have to go.” I’m ashamed to admit, it took 16 years to follow through with her advice. My goodness, am I glad I finally did. It was everything she’d said and more. In that 16 years, I’ve transitioned from a career in marketing and trend analysis to one in horticulture and landscape design. My interests have morphed and horticultural horizons expanded. A giant shift, but a shift that has allowed me to fully appreciate a place like Lotusland… at least more than I think my college age self would. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be a landscape architect / designer or even fancy yourself a gardener to enjoy Lotusland. The moment you walk inside the gates of Lotusland you’re instantly engulfed by not only the color, shapes and forms of the garden but Madame Ganna Walska’s astute artistic talents and penchant for whimsy.
Madame Ganna Walska was born 1887 in Brest-Litovsk, Poland as Hanna Puacz. It wasn’t until she began her musical studies and career as an opera singer that she changed her name to Ganna, Russian for Hanna, and Walska, an homage to her favorite music, the waltz. Over the course of her life she lived in Paris and New York and toured the world singing opera. She attracted numerous admirers which resulted in six marriages. She eventually settled in the California central coast enclave of Santa Barbara where she purchased a 37 acre estate in 1941. It was over the next four decades of her life that she devoted her passion and boundless energy towards transforming Lotusland into a fantastical botanical garden of rare plants and artistic beauty.
I had the opportunity to take a self-lead tour of the gardens, a truly magical experience. I meandered through the gardens, embraced the silence, followed every tiny side path and yes, was the very last person to leave the garden.
Following are just a few of the many photos I took during my time there.
Lotusland is a glorious example of what gardening can be – no rules, no restraints, just pure joy of expression through plants. I’ll say what my friend said to me so many years ago… you must go.
To make a tour reservation please visit lotusland.orgGoogle+