Lotusland: the perfect place to bask in Santa Barbara’s botanical beauty
Everyone knows about Santa Barbara’s beautiful beaches, impressive architecture, and perfect Mediterranean weather, but do you know about Montecito’s Lotusland? Since 1993, locals and visitors alike have marveled at this magical 37-acre estate once owned by the late opera singer and socialite, Madame Ganna Walska. Featuring 25 distinct gardens filled with classic favorites and exotic plant collections in an idyllic setting, Lotusland is filled with surprises. Visitors marvel at the unexpected around every corner — from the unique garden designs to the unusual plant species. In fact, Lotusland is considered one of the 10 Best Gardens in the World by UK’s Telegraph.
Lotusland became a non-profit botanic garden open to the public after Madame Walska’s death. But even today, the larger-than-life former owner’s special touch, green thumb, and personal expression can be felt throughout. Her penchant for the whimsical and the dramatic live on in Lotusland. That’s not surprising since she spent 43 years of her life transforming the property into a “unique horticultural nirvana.”
Although Madame Walska did not have any formal training in creating a garden or decorating, each garden in Lotusland seems to seamlessly evolve into the next. Some of my favorites include;
- The Blue Garden, located in the center of Lotusland, is the place where Madame Waska used plants with silvery or blue-grey foliage complemented by blue/green glass slag lines and pathways. You’ll see blue atlas cedar, towering Chilean wine palms, blue fescue, succulent chalk sticks, Mexican blue palm, Queensland kauri, and more. Two Chilean camphor trees native to China and Japan offer shade.
- The Theatre Garden includes seating for 100 people on benches made of sandstone. In this garden, you’ll see Madame’s World War II collection of “grotesques”: antique stone figures from Galluis, France. The figures are surrounded by African boxwood, fern pine and other beautiful plants.
- The Water Stairs and Cypress Allee features a series of fourteen basins that create a magical water stairway. The water feeds into a larger pond, surrounded by stately Cypress. Listen to the water flow as you relax in the shade of one of these magnificent trees.
I also love the Japanese Garden, but that’s closed for renovations until the fall of 2019. Throughout the property, you’ll find a huge array of plants — from ferns, aloes, lotuses and water lilies, to rare cycads, cacti, palms, and more.
Tours and Admission
Because Lotusland is located in a residential neighborhood (near several of Montecito’s classic estates), advance reservations are required. Docent-guided tours last two hours and take place Wednesday – Saturday, Feb. 16 – Nov. 15 at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Admission is $48 for adults and $24 for kids (age 3 – 17), free for children under two years old. No pets are allowed, except for guide and assistance dogs. Call 805-969-9990 to book your reservation. Use the directions included in your reservation because the entrance to Lotusland has no street address and GPS takes visitors to the wrong gate.
Gardens of Paradise
Lotusland is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with several rare tour events titled Gardens in Paradise. There’s still time to join in the celebration, but only two events are left: one on October 20, the other on November 15. These special tour events are hallmarked by a partnership with The Garden Conservancy combined with the generosity of underwriters host/owners.
Lotusland is just one of the many amazing things we who live in Santa Barbara can enjoy anytime. And there’s always something blooming in Lotusland. If you’re looking to move in Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities, give me a call at +1-805.886.9378 or email me at Cristal@montecito-estate.com. I’ll happily add your listing to my portfolio of fine homes in the area and find your new dream home on the American Rivera. If you want to live near Lotusland, that’s not a problem! In fact, my listing, Palmyra: A Grand Montecito Estate, is just up the road from Lotusland!