Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lotusland Is A Fantasyland For Gardeners


               Lotusland in Santa Barbara, California, is like Disneyland for gardeners.

And I don't mean because the prickly pear looks like the famous mouse ears.  It's because I felt like a kid in never, neverland when I was there for the first time on Wednesday, September 4.  

Golden barrel cactus

There are no less than 16 gardens on 37 acres at this Santa Barbara, California property that was purchased in 1941 by a Polish opera singer who eventually devoted herself to this garden. 

 Space, the money and the help to maintain every kind of dream garden. And then spend many a happy hour tending it, playing in it and enjoying the beauty of it. That sounds like fantasyland to me.

And it looks like one too. The cactus garden is like nothing I have ever seen before. When I asked the docent what her favorite garden was and she said the cactus, we hadn't see that yet but still, I was a little surprised.  I never anticipated that a cactus garden would outdo say, a Japanese or a rose garden.  But then we walked into it and my jaw dropped. Wonder. Amazement.

My favorite, at least for the moment, is the bromeliad garden, which is probably the most colorful of all the gardens. And a lot shadier than the full-sun cactus garden on a hot September day in SoCal.

 Lotusland is sensory overload, overwhelming and crazy beautiful.

Madame Ganna Walska (1887-1984), I think it is safe to say, was eccentric and had a flair for drama--which is reflected in her garden and in her personal life. She was married six times; once after knowing the gentleman only 10 days.

 "I'm an enemy of average," the Madame has been quoted.
Indeed, her garden is not average. It features plantings en masse and numerous rare or endangered plants, 

especially among the cycads

and palms.

Jubaea chilensis, Chilean Wine Palm
 She married wealthy men.  But apparently Madame sold significant jewels from her collection in order to finance her cycad collection.

Really? I thought diamonds are a girl's best friend. But I guess rare cycads might be a gardener's best friend.

These aren't the rocks she sold

but she used this broken blue glass to border some of the beds--garden bling, if you will.

She created a blue succulent garden, 

a Japanese garden

a rose parterre,


and even a zodiac planted with succulents.

Chusquea coronalis, Mexican climbing bamboo
 It is part botanical garden and part formal estate garden.

The lotus plant (above), the namesake of the garden, already bloomed before I visited 

and only the pods remain on the plant. But I am just as happy to see the pod, 
which reminds one of a shower head.

Lotusland is a two-hour walk on a reserved tour for $35. You will be amazed. You will be entertained. You will be amused. And, by the end of the tour, I was obsessed with Lotusland. 

What a ride.

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