Lotusland – Santa Barbara, California - Atlas Obscura


Acres of natural wonders left behind by a socialite-turned-gardener. 


Lotusland, a 37-acre botanic garden located about 100 miles outside of Disneyland, is just as worthwhile an adventure. Situated on the former estate of socialite and opera singer Madame Ganna Walska, Lotusland includes a butterfly garden, exotic plants, a cactus garden, a topiary, and much more.

Visitors are required to make reservations in advance so that they can experience the gardens on foot with a trained tour guide. Parties are small - no more than ten guests at a time - allowing for plenty of intimacy. Guides lead guests through the more than 20 miniature gardens, each with its own theme and unique vision. Throughout the property, one will find several varieties of plants that are absent from rest of the United States.

As the tour progresses, guides will present facts about Madame Walska, who purchased the property in 1941 and owned it until her death 43 years later. Walska established the nonprofit Ganna Walska Lotusland Foundation, a nonprofit which still oversees the maintenance of the property.

An eccentric, Walska lived in Paris and New York before settling down in California. After purchasing the property with her sixth husband, she named it “Tibetland,” intending to use it as a retreat for Tibetan monks. After she divorced, Walska changed the name to Lotusland after the Indian lotus that grew in one of the ponds on the site. Working with several famous architects and designers, including William Paylen, Charles Glass, and Lockwood de Forest, Walska transformed herself from opera superstar into gardener and spent the final years of her life working on the land.

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July 23, 2010

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