Lotusland is a peaceful treasure, an estate in Montecito with 25 acres of winding paths where you can walk amongst dramatic gardens. Ganna Walska, a Polish opera singer, bought the estate in the 1940s and planned the gardens herself, using money from six marriages to wealthy men! There are some really magical spots amongst the gardens, which you see from a two-hour tour with a docent.
I was delighted and surprised by the reflection pool, a pale shallow pool that Madame Ganna wanted to look like a pearly bowl she owned. Around the pool are an abundance of glossy abalone shells. Cascading into the pool are two fountains made of three huge shells stacked atop one another. Wow! Nearby is the aloe garden, with a wealth of pretty aloe plants. Madame Ganna liked mass plantings and she was right! It creates a truly dramatic effect to have large groups of similar plants all planted in one spot.
There is a large green lawn and a nearby topiary garden for formal garden lovers. I loved the tropical area with its rainforest feel and tall eucalyptus. There are these amazing Shaving Brush Palms there! You must see them! The Chilean Wine Palms are gorgeous too, and rare. Rarest of all are the Cycads, which are now extinct throughout the world. They require a male and female plant to multiply but only male plants are left. Because they are so precious, Madame Ganna created a serene pond with koi and water lilies below them.
The blue garden is pretty, with its plants of silvery hue. I could imagine fairies flitting from tree to tree. And the pool with massive pacific island clam shells strewn about is another place full of imagination and happiness. Madame Ganna didn't like plants to have labels next to them (though they do have these at Lotusland now) and I can imagine why- you get the feel, as you explore the gardens, that she was a creative person who would rather spread delight than mundane scientific names.
The famous lotus flowers are in bloom at Lotusland during the hottest months of the year, from late June on, and are an unforgettable treat to see. I saw them in August, and it was lovely how their huge petals were catching the light. The buds that have not yet bloomed look oddly like they are from outer space!
One of the most amazing areas is the cactus garden. Every bizarre and wonderful cactus you could imagine is there, in all shapes and sizes. August, when the cacti are blooming with delicate flowers, is the best time to see them! A Japanese garden offers serenity by a pond with trees galore covering the slopes around it.
Overall, the gardens are more green than flowery and they are unique because of the grand effect of the mass plantings. Sometimes, as you walk along, tall ancient trees towering above you, you get the feel that you are in Jurassic Park.
Children will enjoy Lotusland too. My son said, "Mom, I always think that I won't like something and then I love it!" Kids over 10 years old can join the regular tours. For younger kids, there are family tours that last 1 1/2 hours.
You must have a reservation to visit Lotusland and the cost is $35 for adults, $10 for children 5 and over. See info below.
If you're hungry, head over to Downtown Montecito for a gelato at Scoops, or drinks and appetizers at the local hangout, Peabody's. Or try a sandwich at Pierre Lafond bakery in Upper Montecito Village.
Also in Montecito is Butterfly Beach with its gorgeous red cliffs and frequent visits by dolphins. It's romantic to walk there at night along Channel Drive.
Another Montecito beach is Miramar Beach, a wonderful place to swim and sunbathe. A trail near the entrance to Miramar Beach leads past tropical plants and flowers to Hammonds Beach, a pretty spot.
If you head from Lotusland back toward the freeway but continue straight on Cabrillo Blvd, you will come to the Andree Clark Bird Refuge where you can walk around a gorgeous lagoon all the way to East Beach.
Lotusland is located in the suburb of Montecito, at 695 Ashley Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93108.
Lotusland is closed in winter and opens around mid-February.
You must have a reservation to come to Lotusland. Call (805) 969-9990 from 9-5 during the week to make a reservation. Cost is $50 per person for a two hour docent-led tour. Kids under 18 are $25. Kids 2 and under are free. The tour is the only way to see the garden. Call a few days ahead, longer ahead for a weekend tour. Tours are available 10am-1:30pm Wed-Sat from Feb 15-Nov 15.
Free tours are available to Santa Barbara County residents certain days of the year, and Santa Barbara school children with a special passport book that is distributed. Call for the schedule.
Last Updated: Tue, 20 Feb 2024 17:29:00 GMT