Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
When cacti and succulent fans are visiting California, they should also
plan a visit to Lotusland. One of the best known gardens in the area, nothing matches Lotusland for exuberance and originality. Located in Montecito, California, this unique creation covers nearly 40 acres. Its creator was a Polish-born opera singer, Madame Ganna Walska.
Originally, she purchased the estate in 1941 with the idea of turning it into a sanctuary and center for Tibetan mysticism for she was highly involved in mysticism. Although the center never happened, the garden has become one of the most popular gardens around despite the fact that they never publicize the site.
During Walska’s lifetime, the garden remained private although she did use it for her elaborate parties. She died in 1984, and left the garden in the care of the Lotusland Foundation, which pretty much maintains it according to her original vision. The foundation opened the garden to the general public in 1993. However, one must make a reservation, and the typical wait for an opening is several months. The number of visitors is limited to a hundred per day. Parking is also limited as well.
Walska purchased the property from a former nurseryman. Over four decades or so she transformed the site into what it is today. Along with architectural cacti and succulents, this also features other species, such as palms, cycads, and topiaries. Experts say the creator’s design style started out as Spanish and Italianate. However, this evolved over time as Walska worked with a number of landscape architects and designers. Each separate garden within the site is unique, and was designed to make a visual statement much like a stage setting in a theatrical production. Walska said, “my garden is out of this world.”
Most people who visit remain fans of Lotusland, and consider it to be among the most beautiful gardens in the world. Others describe it as somewhat outlandish or eclectic. With over 2500 kinds of plants, the garden features include a famous Moorish fountain, and an amazing 25 foot horticultural clock that was originally designed by Ralph Stevens, who was son of Kinston Stevens, the nurseryman who originally owned the property. Succulents make up the zodiac signs of the clock.