Lotusland’s Theater Garden, constructed in 1948, serves as a reminder of Ganna’s love of theater and strong affinity for Paris. It was designed by Ralph Stevens, reminiscent of the theater garden Ganna once had in her Parisian home. The three tiers of sandstone benches have room for one hundred guests. The stage wings and dressing room are made of African Fern Pine(Afrocarpus garcilior), and the natural ‘stage lights’ are made of Variegated Japanese Sedge (Carex morrowii cv. Aureo-Variegata). Tall hedges bordering the garden were originally Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) but were converted to African boxwood (Myrsine africana) in 1988.
Madame Walska, France, and Feminism
Madame Walska first moved to France in 1914, at the age of 27. In Paris, she trained to become an opera singer while enjoying some success as a cabaret singer. When the first World War threatened Europe, Ganna stayed in the United States for four years, eventually returning to Paris again in 1920. Ganna purchased her Parisian home, the Chateau de Galluis, in 1929, which is fondly remembered with this garden. At the time of her residence at the Chateau de Galluis, Ganna was married to her fourth husband, Harold McCormick, a wealthy businessman in Chicago. During nine years of marriage, she continued to live in Paris. Such an arrangement was highly unusual for the times and was met with legal challenges. A self-proclaimed feminist, Ganna joined the National Women’s Party fight for legislation that would allow American women the right to have residence independent from their husbands, even testifying before a Congressional committee, her fame undoubtedly helping the passing of the legislation.
Breath of Heaven (Coleonema alba)
This fragrant, evergreen shrub is native to South Africa. It is enjoyed in landscaping across central and southern California, attracting bees and butterflies. It flowers in the spring and winter, fragrant blooms after which it derives its common name. If you are lucky enough to catch it flowering, lean close and see if you can smell the breath of heaven.Toggle content goes here, click edit button to change this text.
During World War II, Ganna fled for a second time to the United States, leaving behind many belongings, including these unusual stone figures. After the war, she was able to retrieve them and make them part of this Theater Garden. Called “grotesques”, they are believed to be fashioned after engravings of “Gobbi” (literal translation: “Grotesque Dwarves”) made by French artist Jacques Callot in the 1600s. Little is known of when and where these exact statues were made. Madame Ganna Walksa referred to them as “Venetian figures.” Some appear to be dwarves, some have physical deformities such as hunchbacks. All stir the imagination and give character to the Theater Garden.