Ganna Walska's Lotusland.
Santa Barbara, California


It's quite convenient and puts you well in the mood if you stop in Montecito and enjoy a light refreshment before your appointment to visit Lotusland, a remarkable garden administered by the Ganna Walska Foundation and maintained by donations and volunteers.


You can visit the garden by appointment only and only by docent led tours. Once you've done it you can understand why they want to keep control of the crowds, and also they've got land use issues regarding traffic, noise etc. with the hoity-toity neighborhood.

The place is 37 fully planted acres and every foot in all 37 acres is both majestic and tender.

This is the welcome center and surprise, they've got a Gift Shop...


The lovely arbor ...


Looking to the other end of the arbor.


Amazingly we got the same guide for our return trip. What a charmer. We loved her. She spoke in a strong Eastern European accented English using quite precise and hilariously colloquial expressions.

She kept us on the move 'chop chop let's go, we won't make the two hours if we don't get on the stick' and was as entertaining and informed as you could hope for in a docent tour.


A map from the Lotusland website showing the names of the different areas.

I don't even have shots of all of them although we did go through the whole property. The guide told us that one of her previous guests used a pedometer and had announced that the tour was a two mile walk. So it's long, but not That long.

It wasn't easy though to listen to the talk, compose a shot and keep up all at the same time, which happens in tours and I accept this without complaint. Except now. I'm kind'a complaining.


Heading out in the clouds and mist.


The Japanese garden.

The technical details of each space is available in good detail on the website.

We should have an introduction to Madame Ganna Walska now because this entire extravaganza is all about her. Her oversized life, her passion, her vision, and the money she got from her six ex-husbands.


More.


That's right, six ex-husbands and each one more wealthy than the one who came before. She wrote her memoirs in a volume entitled Always Room at the Top. The title is enough to get the idea.


What was once a swimming pool Ganna Walska turned into a water garden.


More.


A rare type of what? water lily? lotus? Madame Ganna Walska's taste required that whatever it was it had to be the biggest or the smallest or the oldest or the most and always always it had to be rare.

She bought this property during her marriage to her sixth husband intending it to be a retreat for Tibetan monks but it seems she got so caught up in creating the gardens she rather lost interest in the monks.


Another feature.


More from the lakes.


There is quite a bit of discussion during the tour about old-world new-world plantings and that much of what is here is from very ancient stock.

A problem. Our tour started at 1:30 so we were out there in the worst light of the day for photos. And still it was grand so you can see how fabulous it must have been, to forgive the bad light.


(keep them both?)


Note the mass plantings of each type of cactus. Ganna's stated motto was 'Always Forward'. We think it should be 'More Is Better'.

This is the main house. Ganna wouldn't live there for fear of earthquakes so she lived in the guest house next door.


We spent a lot of time all a-gawk over this area around the house.


Wow.


More is better.


It's Alive!


The lemon tree arbor had us in a frenzy of desire. Oh yes, I Want a lemon tree arbor. The smell alone was enough to send you into raptures.


Different angle, different day, same smell. That's interesting. It's full of fragrance and fruit in April and in October.


The Foundation added this area in 2003 from a donation of 500 cacti representing 300 different species. The grounds are all covered in black slate chips giving a stunning effect as you come upon the scene. It's Impressive, it's Big and Exotic and Over the Top. Madame Ganna Walska would be proud!


Wow, the light just changes everything. Here we are at the same place without the blasting overhead sun.


More.


From the website:

"On the south side of the fruit orchard is a triple row of olive trees dating from the 1880's when Kinton Stevens imported the trees from Spain and Italy for his nursery. The rows of olives form a wide allee ending at a wall fountain with a figure of a hippocampus, a mythological horse/sea monster."


The water feature at the end of the above.


The guide said they had 15 full time gardeners and we just couldn't believe it. Nancy says Michael Jackson has 100 gardners just to tend his place up here. But then the guide allowed as they had 250 volunteers, so that helps.

The next few pictures are from around the more formal gardens of the lawn area.

I want a lemon tree arbor but I Need a Moorish bubble fountain.


Look what you can stumble across.


A view from the grand lawn looking to the back of the cactus garden. From the too-bright day.


Looking back into the lawn. From the soft-light day.


Our group. The two couples were, amazingly, all from one of Nancy's old neighborhoods so they immediately knew about each other's character. They were perfect tour companions, inquisitive, soft spoken and courteous. We are sitting on the grass steps that look down upon a fabulous stage where they occasionally hold performances.


The return group including Nancy, Nancy, Sharon, Sandy and the two docents-in-training.


More from The Theater.


Topiary! Cool!! There's actually a whole swell topiary garden this being a slice of it.

Notice all the other animals besides the main figure. There were several made up of different plants to create distinguishable features like the mane for the lion and wings for birds.


The farewell path leading back to the cars. We didn't go to the cars of course because I'm with Nancy and there are shopping opportunities(!) which we followed with a late lunch-early dinner on Santa Claus Lane and we're home by 7:30. A two hour tour and I'll no doubt spend six hours on this story! Fun all over again!!


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