When I attended USCB in the early 80s, I remember being fascinated by a piece of property in Montecito. It had a seemingly endless pink wall and these weird exotic plants peeking over the top. It looked abandoned and scary and so, of course, I couldn’t stop wondering about it. Years later when I become involved in landscape design, I was thrilled to find out that this odd, magical garden was known as Lotusland.
Madame Ganna Walska began her garden in 1941 and continued working on it until 1984 when she died in her 90s (just goes to show you…gardening can prolong your life). Apparently she was still alive when I was in college trying to climb over the fence and from what I’ve learned about her eccentricity, I’m glad I never got caught.
Madame Walska was a pioneer in mass plantings. She valued plants for their structural aesthetic as can be seen with these giant spiraling Euphorbias that surrounded her front door.
Here are more examples of her mass plantings and eye for architectural botany…
A forest of Ponytail Palms.
Another forest of Dragon Trees in sizes I’ve never seen before.
The cactus garden that was actually donated by a fellow eccentric collector and delivered and installed plant by plant after Madame’s death. But Madame wasn’t only interested in succulents and cactus.
Here is an amazing example of a lemon arbor from a pre-existing section of the garden.
And here she’s filled in the original swimming pool and created a lotus pond.
But don’t worry, she did build another swimming pool (two actually) and made sure to outfit them in her own special style.
No where you go is there anything ordinary in this garden.
Here is the original front driveway showing a mass planting of agaves. The 37-acre property is split into approximately 18 different gardens with one of the jewels being her cycad garden. Ganna was a pioneer in realizing the beauty of these prehistoric plants and now has some of the few remaining specimens in the entire world.
These three beauties are known as The Bachelors as there are no surviving females of their species and once they die, that’s it.
To say this garden is worth visiting would be a gross understatement. I’ve left out so much in this posting that you just must go and see for yourself. The garden is in a residential neighborhood so reservations are required and a docent lead tour is highly recommended so you can get some more insight into the very interesting life of Madame Walska and how her garden came to be.
Lotusland. Santa Barbara, California. Reservations: (805)969-9990
Tags: cactus, lotusland, madame ganna walska, monticeto, santa barbara, Succulents