In 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. When Madame Walska purchased the property the pool was leaking and unclean because it never had a recirculating system. Estimates to improve it were deemed too costly. Instead, Madame filled the bottom with soil and gravel to bring the water level to its current three-foot depth and had it converted to a water garden.
In many spiritual traditions around the world, the Lotus flower is a symbol of life, renewal, and transcendence. Like most culturally meaningful plants and animals, this symbolism is rooted in true elements of its biology. The lotus starts as a seed in the mud. It grows many feet before emerging into the air and blooming, revealing a delicate flower unscathed by the muddy waters from which it arose, and in which it is still rooted. The mud is said to symbolize the stuff of life, the physical world, while the flower symbolizes spiritual enlightenment. Its life cycle, growing out of muddy waters into the air, symbolizes transcendence. There is another element of the plant’s biology that is often referenced: Seeds of the Lotus have been known to lie dormant for years, sometimes hundreds, until conditions are right to grow. Such a feat gives humans hope for the promise of renewal.
Lotus Flowers (Nelumbo nucifera and Nelumbo lutea):
There are only two true species of lotuses, though there are many cultivars. The more commonly recognized Asian Lotus (N. nucifera) has pink petals, while the petals of the American Lotus (N. lutea) are yellow. Flowers open in the morning and close in the afternoon, lasting just three or four days.
Water lily (Nymphaea, Euryale, Nuphar, & Victoria):
Many people confuse lotuses and lilies. One easy way to tell the difference is to look at how the flower and leaves grow in the water. The coarse rule of thumb is this: If it is floating directly on the water, it is probably a lily. Lotus flowers and their leaves always extend up out of the water, emergent. When in doubt look to the leaves. Water lily leaves, or lily pads, grow floating directly on the water, a small v-shaped slit at one end to help water runoff. Many, though not all, species of lily also have flowers that float on the water.
The bath house was designed by Santa Barbara architect George Washington Smith in 1925, along with the pool. Its pillars were copied for the visitor center when it was created in 1993.
Notable Species: Asian lotus (Nelumbo nucifera and Nelumbo lutea), water lily (Nymphaea, Euryale, Nuphar, & Victoria), taro (Colocasia esculenta), ornamental sugar cane (Saccharum), papyrus.