Biodiversity & Artistry
Preserving rare and endangered plants in a unbelievable setting
As pleasing as the aesthetic and censorial qualities are, Lotusland is also an important center for scientific research and conservation. A leader in the field of sustainable practices, it is a pioneering botanic garden that promotes and teaches organic gardening methods and the benefits of environmental stewardship.
Lotusland is home to more than 160 species of Aloe. This very diverse group of plants whose native range stretches from South Africa and Madagascar to the Arabian Peninsula, and range in size from the diminutive Aloe descoingsii from Madagascar, with its tiny, two-inch rosettes, to the massive tree-like Aloe barberae from southern Africa.
In 1993, landscape architect Sydney Baumgartner designed the Australian garden, which incorporates grouping large masses of unusual plants to pay homage to Madame Walska’s distinctive landscaping style.
Originally established in 1948 as the Silver Garden, but with the planting of blue Atlas cedars by Madame Walska, it evolved into the Blue Garden. At the time, color-themed gardens were considered quite chic, and at its prime in the mid-1950s, Lotusland’s Blue Garden was celebrated as one of the most fascinating gardens in California.
Bromeliads are ornamental, both for their unique foliage and flowers, with innumerable hybrids and cultivars. This diverse plant group contains over 3,000 species and can be found growing from sea level to over 14,000 feet altitude in the Andes and from the wet tropics to deserts.
Throughout Lotusland, insectary areas are established to increase the quantity and diversity of beneficial insects that promote a balanced insect ecology.
This sweeping collection of cactus was donated to Lotusland by a longtime friend of Madame Ganna Walska, Merritt Dunlap. Beginning his collection in 1929, Dunlap grew approximately 40 percent of the plants from seed. The move from Dunlap’s home in San Diego to Lotusland was a sight to behold: Stake-sided trucks with hundreds of towering cacti rolling down the highway, the largest with wooden boxes constructed around their excavated roots and wooden crates to hold their branches together.
Lotusland’s collection of Cycads is thought to be one of the most complete in any American public garden, with over 450 specimens.
This group of unusual cone-bearing plants was common during the time of the dinosaurs that many refer to the Jurassic Period as the “Age of Cycads.” Today they are the most threatened plant group on the planet.
Blood-red sap, often called ‘dragon’s blood’ oozes from the tree when the bark is cut or bruised. This unusual plant in the asparagus family (Asparagaceae) has a distinctive growth pattern: Dragon Trees typically grow for ten to fifteen years before flowering and then develop two or more branches where flowering has occurred.
First created between 1968 and 1972 and designed by horticulturist Bill Paylen, an addition east of the swimming pool was added in 1987. The pool includes a sandy “beach” sporting giant clamshells, the same as the shells that make the fountains of the aloe garden.
Leave a legacy through a planned or outright gift to Lotusland through charitable estate and gift planning.
Lotusland is the first botanical garden in the U.S. to become fully organic. The Insectary Garden is a key ingredient of this success. We garden with the philosophy that healthy, living soil is the foundation for healthy plants, and predator species are the foundation for a balanced food chain.
During the late 1960s, the Japanese Garden was the most significant and time-consuming accomplishment at Lotusland. Long before the idea was conceived, Ganna had a skilled Japanese gardener on her staff-Frank Fuji. Having previously worked with his father, Kintsuchi Fujii, who helped create the Japanese Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Frank took on the project and continued to maintain and enhance the garden until retirement in 2007.
The E.P. Gavit family of Albany NY, purchased the Tanglewood property in 1915 and commissioned Pasadena architect Reginald Johnson to design a Mediterranean mansion for the estate they renamed Cuesta Linda.
The Lotusland fruit orchards contain hundreds of trees divided between deciduous and citrus trees. The orchard is home to peaches, plums, apples, pears, persimmons, and figs. Orange, lemon, lime, kumquat, grapefruit, and guava trees.
Membership support is vitally important to preserve and enhance this unique horticultural treasure for all to enjoy.
Different varieties of olive trees were planted by Kinton Stevens to use as rootstock. Used by Gavits as an extension of Parterre axis and now leads to the Cactus Garden.
Lotusland has about 170 species of palms in our collection, including over 375 mature palms scattered around the property. Our Palmetum has over 60 different varieties of palms, many of which are not found elsewhere on the property.
A “parterre” is a formal ornamental flower garden whose beds and paths are designed to form a pattern. The Gavit family commissioned this parterre in the late 1920s, creating traditional planting beds and brick walkways, changing levels, and two central water features. Madame Walska later added her touch, including whimsical pebble mosaics.
Madame Ganna Walska
Spent 43 years of her life creating Lotusland.
By the 1970s, Lotusland was attracting the attention of serious succulent enthusiasts, including Charles Glass, editor for the Cactus and Succulent Journal. Glass and his colleague Robert Foster saw Lotusland as important for current and future students of botany.
Constructed in 1948, Theatre Garden serves as a reminder of Ganna’s love of theatre and strong affinity for Paris. It was designed by Ralph Stevens, reminiscent of the theatre garden Ganna once had in her Parisian home.
Madame Walska referred to the topiaries surrounding the clock as her horticultural zoo. Currently, there are twenty-six topiary figures including a camel, gorilla, giraffe, seal, and chess pieces.
The Tropical Garden began with Madame Walska’s collection of orchid cacti (Epiphyllum), which were moved to this location in the late 1970s. A surprising number of tropical plants thrive in the mild climate of Santa Barbara due to our high number of frost-free days.
June through September, Lotusland’s Water Garden is home to a magnificent display of its namesake flower. When it was built in the 1920s, the pond was originally a swimming pool for the previous owners, the Gavit family.