Lotusland, Santa Barbara, CA

Gardening with a passion from the early 40s to the 1980’s Madam Ganna Walska found something she liked, a shrub, a tree, a type of glass and then she used alot of it.  When you have 37 acres to garden this style works.  So an agave can be 500 agaves massed along the entrance to the garden.  A ponytail palm can become a stand of trees, green glass slag from an old bottle plant can line the garden beds.  This garden was built with passion, money and serendipity as Madam discovered more about plants and pretty things.

Many gardeners find it difficult to stop planting, rearranging and acquiring more for their plot of ground.  Madam continued until she had to sell her jewelry to buy the cycad collection for her garden.  When you love something so much it was perhaps an easy decision.


Today this private estate is open only with reservations for a docent guided tour (without a guide you might get lost).  It is a garden of aloes, bromeliads, cactus and other succulents, including a vast collection of euphorbia, cycads and palms, all artistically arranged among numerous specialty gardens.

Gardens are a creation of the gardener and touring Lotusland gives you an insight into this dramatic personality of another era.  A series of wealthy husbands provided her an opening into worldly adventures and opened many doors to fascinating people.  She entertained  in her gardens at Lotusland, while she slept not in the great house but the guest house.

She made friends with other gardeners most notably Merritt Sigsbee Dunlap.  Dunlap loved cactus and his interest in growing them began in 1929.  He grew 40 percent of his collection from seeds and lived to age 97 so he saw the seeds grow into mature plants.  He wanted to protect his collection when he was no longer able to care for it.  Madam also wanted to protect her beautiful garden and established a foundation to care for Lotusland.

So the Dunlap collection of 530 plants was moved in 2003 to Lotusland as was planned by  Madam & Dunlap years before her death.  This cactus collection is the most beautiful I have ever seen.  Artfully arranged mature plants are thriving in a garden space designed by Eric Nagelmann, a garden designer well known in California.

Every garden is a creation and Lotusland is a spectacular garden.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *