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. With carefully chosen plantings, the insectary encourages predator insects that can eat pests and attracts a healthy array of pollinators with a year-round display of flowers and fragrances. All of our soils are highly-enriched with compost tea produced in-house from plant clippings that nourish our soil. Elsewhere in our gardens, we encourage birds of prey and other larger animals that help perform pest control, naturally. Our organic program ensures a safe and non-toxic environment for staff and visitors and protects our community’s potable water supply and oceans.
The Garden as Ecosystem: If you have ever seen plants growing in sidewalk cracks, or had a colony of ants declare your kitchen their territory, then you know that even in the simplified environments humans have created, life is incredibly persistent. It only makes sense that in a garden, pioneer plant species would find home in the soil the gardener has left open, and hungry insects would thrive on the stable supply of plants the gardener has curated. The gardener has different desires from these plants and insects, yet has a choice: to work against nature, or with nature. Working against nature the gardener may spray pesticides to kill bacteria, insects, or weeds. It is nearly impossible to target a single species, and so these actions will necessarily travel up the food chain affecting other plants and animals, our soil and our water. Luckily, this is not the only option. The gardener may work with nature, understanding problems with pests are problems with the ecosystem that the gardener has created. Each one of us has the ability to become more attuned to the ecosystems we create in our gardens and to work with nature.
Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides): The Dawn Redwood is the only remaining species in the ancient genus Metasequoia. Unlike most redwoods, the Dawn Redwood is deciduous, meaning it loses its leaves in the winter. Look below the tree and you may find evidence of fallen leaves and surprisingly small cones, holding even smaller seeds that give rise to these ancient giants. It is likely that Lotusland’s Dawn Redwood was an early introduction, with just twenty seeds the newly discovered species were distributed to the University of California system around 1948.
Dove and Finch Aviary: This aviary is in honor of Madame Ganna Walska’s beloved avian companion, “Happy.” Ganna was frequently seen with Happy on her shoulder, and even had an entire room set aside for her beloved cockatiel. Enjoy a rest on the nearby benches as the soft coos of doves fill the garden.
Red Velvet Sage (Salvia confertiflora): As you walk through the insectary, breathe deep and you may catch the smell of many sages, mints, and lavenders, all members of the mint family (Lamiaceae). These fragrant plants have short nectar-producing flowers. This feature makes them more accessible to pollinators with short mouthparts, such as many species of flies, while also attracting native bees.
Notable plant groups: Apocynaceae– Milkweed – A. curassavica and A. fascicularis Asteraceae – Coreopsis – C. verticillata Boraginaceae – Echium – Pride of Madeira –Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia), Puya berteroniana