Its name is as evocative as the place itself: Lotusland, the eccentric botanical garden in Santa Barbara, California, designed and developed by Ganna Walska, a glamorous, Polish-born opera singer, celebrity, and socialite. Walska, who acquired the 37-acre estate as a private retreat in 1941, was ahead of her time in her use of mass plantings. The result: hundreds of weeping euphorbias and golden barrel cacti that leave an impression of untamed primordial beauty. In the 1970’s, she auctioned off her million-dollar jewelry collection to finance the cycad garden, consisting of unusual cone-bearing plants. Lotusland is full of novelties: otherworldly cacti, whimsical topiary, and brightly flowering aloes and other succulents, not to mention a fern garden, a theater garden, a Japanese garden, and an all-silver-and-blue-gray garden. Per her wishes, Walska’s extravagant creation was opened to the public only after her death—and remains a California legend.
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