Ganna Walska Lotusland

Ganna Walska Lotusland in Santa Barbara is a magnificent landscaped garden estate named after well-known Polish opera singer and socialite, Madame Ganna Walska. The property was purchased by Walska in 1941, who then spent the next 43 years creating Lotusland, which now features one of the most spectacular collections of exotic plants in the world.

»Gardens

Gardens

Located in Montecito in California, the globally renowned 37-acre property reflects Walska’s personal penchant for the dramatic and the whimsical with unique garden designs, several extraordinary plant collections and surprises around every corner. After Ganna Walska’s death in 1984, the estate became a nonprofit botanical garden and was opened for the public to enjoy in 1993.

Named after the myriad lotus flowers that bloom prolifically here in the summer, Lotusland is home to more than 3,000 plants from all over the world, represented in a variety of unique gardens. Varieties range from lush bromeliad and fern gardens, aloe gardens, and striking cactus and succulent gardens to a serene Japanese Garden, and a stunning ‘blue’ garden. Other features of the whimsical botanical garden include a 25-foot round horticultural clock with the signs of the zodiac, a Theatre Garden, and fanciful topiary animals dotted around the terrain.

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More Things to See

The Australian Garden was designed by landscape architect Sydney Baumgartner in 1993 and features large masses of unusual plants, all native to Australia, that pay homage to Madame Walska’s distinctive landscaping style. Characteristic species include spear lilies, dramatic bottle trees, and grass trees, as well as acacias, myrtles, and grevillea.

The Aloe Garden features over 140 kinds of aloes, succulent plants native to Africa and Madagascar, including Aloe barberae, A. ramosissima, and A. dichotoma, including unusual species such as a ponytail palm (Beaucarnea stricta) and the grugru palm (Acrocomia aculeate). The Garden also has a white-bottomed ‘abalone shell pond’ with two cascading fountains made from giant clam shells.

The Japanese Garden features azaleas, camellias, Japanese maples (Acer palmatum), and several species of pine, all of which are pruned in the traditional niwaki style. The garden is also home to several bronze statues of cranes, ducks, egrets, and kingfishers, and a collection of stone lanterns, while huge koi swim in the shallow waters of a tranquil pond. A small Shinto shrine and a wisteria arbor surrounded by Japanese and coast redwood add an extra Oriental touch.

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»More Gardens

More Gardens

The iconic Blue Garden features plants with silvery to blue-gray foliage such as the blue atlas cedar, towering Chilean wine palms, Mexican blue palm, and ground cover planting of blue fescue, among others. Highlights of the garden include two camphor trees native to China and Japan, bunya-bunya, Queensland kauri, and hoop pine, while blue-green glass slag lines the pathways that wind through the garden.

The whimsical Theatre Garden was constructed in 1948 and features seating for more than 100 visitors on sandstone benches. The Garden is filled with Walska’s collection of ancient stone figures, called “grotesques,” which she collected and retrieved from Gallus, France after World War II. The garden is surrounded by African boxwood trees and fern pines.

The Tropical garden began with a collection of orchid cacti and developed into a beautiful sanctuary with a rock-lined streambed, masses of gingers, ornamental and edible bananas, and hanging baskets.

Other features of the Gardens are the newly restored water stairs and cypress allée. Beginning at the swimming pool and culminating at an ornamental carved limestone wellhead, the cypress-lined brick walkway (or allée) offers a lovely amble next to a series of 14 water basins that flow into a large pleasure pond, complete with a sailboat and an island.

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»Visitor Information

Visitor Information

Ganna Walska Lotusland is located at 695 Ashley Road in Santa Barbara and due to being a public garden in a residential neighborhood, bookings need to be made to visit. Tours are offered Wednesday through Saturday between February 15 and November 15 at 10:00 am and 1:30 pm.

Modeled after the historic bath house next to the water garden, a Spanish-style Visitor’s Center features a pretty arbor with covered with Australian tea trees, a lotus motif tile fountain, and tile benches. The Center is the starting place for tours and is home to restrooms and a Garden Shop.

Ganna Walska Lotusland offers an environmental outreach program for 4th graders that focuses on basic botanical concepts and provide hands-on learning opportunities in the field. The Open Pathways program offers customized tours and programs for citizens who are unable to visit Lotusland due to economic, physical, or social disabilities.

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695 Ashley Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93108, website, Phone: 805-969-3767

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Ganna Walska Lotusland in Santa Barbara