30 May Land of imagination: Inside the virtuoso gardens of Ganna Walska Lotusland
Spilled across 37 acres purchased for $40,000 in 1941, Ganna Walska Lotusland in Montecito, CA, remains one of the most whimsical, most wildly fabulous gardens we’ve ever explored.
To the tune of: 300+ species of cacti alone, a “theatre garden” populated with antique grotesque sculptures, and a garden dedicated entirely to blue foliage. Here you will find rare cycads (obtained with the assistance of auctioned jewelry) planted on a cliff, looking glamorously nonchalant above a koi pond.
Behold the leafy legacy of Ganna Walska, a Polish-born opera singer who toured the world and married six times. If Lotusland feels expansive and ambitious but also intensely personal, it’s because Madame Walska, after repairing to the Best Coast following stints in Paris and NYC, was deeply involved in the design, care and development of her garden until the last few years of her life. Born Hanna Puacz in 1887 in Belarus, Ganna Walska died in 1984 at the age of 96 inside her Lotusland.
Sure, the phrase “aha moment” gets thrown around more than slugs in summertime. But indeed our July 2009 visit to Lotusland was pure eureka, an afternoon that would launch our own garden into an entirely new direction.
We took the trip for our first wedding anniversary (“the paper anniversary”? Ppfff! More like the plant anniversary) to see the garden’s marquee lotus flowers in bloom. Initially we balked at the price of the admission, which today costs $45 per person, but trust us, it’s worth it. Tours (which must be reserved in advance) are limited to a small handful of people, and are led by charming docents who know the last detail of the grounds, who pepper in the right amount of gossip with all the hort info. Ryan and I were riveted: this is gardening as theater. Gardening as a personal mission statement. Gardening as a never-ending love.
Madame was a maximalist.
Lotusland is out there, and we’re into it. There are 18 separate gardens on the property, ranging from Japanese to Australian to tropical to topiary, flowing together with a grace that’s disarming. When we saw how a garden could be made so obsessively, so eccentrically one’s own (and yet, so interesting to outsiders!), we got to work making our yard into what it is today.
On this sunny Flashback Friday, join us for a tour of Ganna Walska Lotusland from July 2009. Below you will find a sea of roses in spectacular bloom, two-story euphorbias, ancient gingkoes, abalone landscaping, plus two baby-faced bloggers about to have their lives rocked forever…
The Japanese Garden
The Aloe Garden
The Water Garden
Euphorbia and Cacti Collection
The Fern Garden
The Parterre and Butterfly Garden
The Cactus Garden
The Succulent Garden
The Blue Garden
The Cycad Garden
For an aerial view of the garden, check out the video below, produced by Lotusland itself: