Lotusland is a unique 37-acre estate and botanic garden situated in the foothills of Montecito to the east of the city of Santa Barbara. The gardens now covering the estate were created by Madame Ganna Walska, who owned the property from 1941 until her death in 1984. Before her death, Madame Walska established the nonprofit Ganna Walska Lotusland Foundation, which now preserves this unrivaled botanical treasure.
Even though Lotusland is one of the smaller botanic gardens I've been to, it's currently my favorite. Since it used to be Madame Walska's home, and is in a residential area, admission is by reservations only, as not to disturb the surrounding neighbors. Because of that, the garden is never packed and has a more intimate feel rather than touristy. When taking photos, you don't have to worry about people being in the shot.
Adding to the intimate feel is Madame Walska's unconventional garden design. She liked to incorporate elements to surprise and delight the visitor, such as paths that lead off the main path that you almost might not see if you are not looking closely. Following those paths seem to bring you into a different world. Or hedges that serve as walls until they open up into a fantastic view. Or sometimes a passage way may lead to a secluded corner - a quiet niche, I like to call them. Her garden design is conducive to exploration and it's fun to just do without a map and try to discover all it's secrets.
One of my favorite areas in Lotusland is the Garden Theater. Made of three tiers of grass and stone, it seats 100 and is decorated with statues called "Grotesques" which used to be in Madame Walska's chateau in Galluis. Several rows of hedges serve as the stage's backdrop and stage entrance, and what even looks to me like a dressing room. The stage, the whimsical expressions of the Grotesques, and the mushrooms growing naturally on the theater steps brings to mind "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Another part of the garden I like is the 25 foot working clock, which forms a small hill of flowers. Instead of numbers are signs from the zodiac. Around the clock is the topiary garden - my favorite forms being the chess pieces. One feels as if they've fallen down the rabbit hole. Or was it through the looking glass??
Aside from the amazing garden design is the variety of botanicals Lotusland has. Unforunately, I don't know much about botany to get into it, but this page on their website has a lot of good information. I'm hoping to learn more about the Lotusland collections, and take more photos of the plants next time.
Here is a slideshow of some of the latest photos. You can also go to my gallery to see more pics, or to see these in higher rez:
- Ganna Walska Lotusland Web Site
- About Madame Walska and the Creators of the Garden
- If you want to learn more about Madame Walska and the evolution of the garden, I recommend this book by Sharon Crawford