Santa Barbara Part Deux: My Visit to Lotusland

February 4, 2009 Gardens & Outdoor Living
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My business trip to Santa Barbara last week took me to a magical place called Lotusland which is the most beautiful botanical garden I’ve ever seen. Lotusland is a 37-acre estate and botanic garden in Montecito just east of Santa Barbara. I spent the day supervising a camera crew that was covering behind-the-scenes of a television commercial that was being taped on the property. Talk about a great day at the office! The sun was shining all day and during my moments of downtime I wandered around the gardens testing out my new camera and taking in all the beauty.

Map

Photo via lotusland.org.

Lotusland has quite an interesting history. It was once the private estate of a Polish opera singer named Madame Ganna Walska–a lively character who toured the world singing opera, amassed a huge fortune and had six husbands over the course of her life. She purchased the property in 1941 and spent much of her time renovating and landscaping the grounds. Later in her life she established the Ganna Walska Lotusland Foundation to ensure that the beautiful gardens she created would be forever preserved. When she died in 1984 she left the estate and her entire fortune to the Foundation. Lotusland is now a public garden available for private or group tours by reservation only. Above is a map of the gardens so you can get a sense of the layout. It is truly an amazing, fairy-tale like place. If you’re ever in the area it’s definitely a must visit destination. For more information, visit Lotusland’s website. And for your viewing pleasure, here are some of the photos from my visit. Enjoy!
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Here is one of Lotusland’s many orange trees in the orchards which is planted with numerous fruit trees including peaches, plums, apples, figs, oranges, lemons, limes, kumquats and more.

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Here an arbor covered with growing vines of lemons surrounds a picturesque walkway.

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A fountain at the end of The Orchards portraying a mythological sea monster.

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Looking away from the fountain you can see rows of beautiful olive trees, also part of the orchards.

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There were so many pretty brick walkways like this one leading to and from each of the gardens.

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Here you can see some of the perfectly manicured boxwoods on the property.

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This is the topiary garden which was one of the highlights for me. The main feature is the giant working clock that you see in the foreground which is planted with succulents and embellished with copper zodiac signs.

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The topiary garden contains collection of extraordinary topiaries shaped like various animals like the bear and duck you see here.

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The topiary “zoo” also includes this meticulously shaped dinosaur…

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And this cute giraffe!

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I was intrigued by this tangled mess of cacti growing against one of the properties main buildings.

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These giant silvery-blue palm plants were incredible.

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Here is a plaque honoring all of the donors that supported the planting of Lotusland’s cactus gardens.

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Here are some of the beautiful cacti on the grounds.

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The collection of cacti was truly impressive.

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The property features two swimming pools and next to one is this sandy “beach” filled with giant clam shells.

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This is the butterfly garden which includes many varieties of flowering plants that attract butterflies and other beneficial insects which feed on the plants then move to other areas of the garden to prey on common garden insect pests. This natural method of pest control reduces the need for harsh chemical pesticides.

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Here’s a view from the butterfly garden looking out into the orchards.

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Here’s a beautiful red bloom from one of Lotusland’s many flowering aloe plants.

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I spotted this colorful patch of round cacti while walking down one of the property’s many pathways.

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This giant tree was so eye-catching…it had hundreds of branches and the beautiful sun rays beaming across its trunk only added to its beauty.

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The Japanese garden one of my favorite sites at Lotusland. There were many concrete lanterns such as this one scattered about.

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The Japanese garden includes many beautiful trees and plants including Japanese maples and Japanese cypress trees as well as azaleas. In the background you can see many of these trees and plants surrounding a small Shinto shrine.

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Here is a serene Buddha statue sitting among flowering blooms.

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And here’s a closeup of some of the colorful flowers.

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Near the Japanese garden is a water lily pond filled with koi fish which you can see here just under the surface of the water. I was told that the lily pads are plentiful in the spring but there were none visible during my visit.

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The parterre includes two beautiful water fountains one of which is seen here. The fountains are surrounded by hedges, shrubs and rose bushes. I loved all of the mosaic tiles that line the inside of this fountain and I was also intrigued by all of the interesting stone statues.

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Here’s a closeup of one of the statues.

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The end.

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