As Disneyland is to kid, Lotusland is to garden-loving adults. Or, in the pandemic, anyone who just needs a getaway. These days, we’re all eager for an escape and Lotusland offers a luxurious vacation for the senses, no passport required.
California has it’s share of eccentrics, and Ganna Walska has just become one of my favorites. Born Hanna Puacz in Poland in 1887, she owned a theater in Paris for 50 years, had six husbands, and was the benefactor of Montecito’s best attraction, a 40-acre garden. It’s a complicated and wacky story, but all you need to know right now is to book a reservation (not easy to come by) and plan a trip north.
Tours cost $50, but as a docent told us, Lotusland costs so much to run that the ticket price should be $300. There are strict conditional use permit guidelines that restrict the number of annual visitors, and during Covid, visitors must take self-guided tours. Docents are on duty to offer insights, but keep their distance; we felt very safe on our visit.
With over 21 distinct garden areas, and over 450 specimens (half of all known species) Lotusland is one of the top 10 gardens in the world. The layout includes a Japanese garden, a cactus garden, a large topiary garden, a bromeliad garden and many more speciality areas, the gardeners salaries must be insane. And it’s worth every penny. While the Huntington Botanical Library and Gardens and the houses a similar variety of gardens (and are also worth a pandemic tour), the fern garden (cycads to you!) alone is reason enough to travel up the 101.
Here’s a fun timeline that tracks Walska’s life along with the history of the estate itself.
Definitely visit Lotusland’s website, which includes copious education material about growing plants, learning to cultivate insects for the garden, and composting tips as well as detailed information about what will be in bloom during your visit.
Lotusland requires advance reservations because they garden rests in a residential area – call 805.969.9990 Monday though Friday between 9:00 AM and 4:30 PM. Self-guided tours are at 9:15, 9:30 and 9:45 for morning visits and 1:15, 1:30 and 1:45 for afternoon visits. Reservation times are available Thursday through Saturday through December 23. Lotusland’s Gardens will be closed December 24 – January 15.