“There always has been something about Ganna Walska which has interested people: something which has held their attention; aroused their curiosity; something which makes them prick up their ears when her name is mentioned, or read the item when her name is printed.” — CHARLES WAGNER, NEW YORK IMPRESARIO, 1928
Ganna Walska and Lotusland:
The names Ganna Walska and Lotusland are synonymous with the beautiful estate garden you are about to enter created by a woman who led an extraordinary and exciting life. Driven from the fashionable social scene of Paris by the gathering storm clouds of World War II, the flamboyant ex-opera diva came to Santa Barbara in search of repose and calm. Isolated within her Montecito estate, she devoted herself to the creation of a botanical showplace of great ingenuity amid a reflective atmosphere.
Ganna Walska the Gardener:
Ganna Walska had no education in plant life, but she learned as she worked, her sensitivities attuned to the needs of the unusual specimens she acquired. She discovered, for instance, that California’s occasionally heavy rains could uproot a newly planted cactus garden already struggling to adjust to an alien environment. Adversity only made her more determined to succeed.
A Legacy of Unmatched Beauty:
Over a period of 40 years she created a dozen separate gardens. Each has its own design, sometimes controversial yet always in keeping with her reputation for the unusual and unique, even the bizarre. When Madame Walska died in 1984, she left a legacy of beauty unmatched anywhere in the world.
There are many unique qualities to the gardens at Lotusland that make it quite unlike other gardens of its size or history. No present-day visitor to Lotusland can leave without being seduced by the exuberance of the mass plantings of dramatic plants, the juxtaposition of the ordinary with the exotic, the unexpected contrasts when walking from one garden to the next and the use of form and color of plants instead of showy floral displays. The gardens are peppered with colorful, often rare minerals and whimsical statuary and may even be bordered by jewel-like chunks of slag glass.
The Eras of Lotusland:
There were three main eras in the ownership of the property that is now Lotusland. In the 1880s it was known as Tanglewood, a commercial nursery operated by Kinton Stevens. In the 1920s, it was Cuesta Linda, owned by the Gavit family who added more buildings and formal gardens; Lotusland was purchased in 1941 by Madame Ganna Walska who employed many towards the creation of the gardens you will see today. As you journey around the gardens, you will learn about the garden and its creators.