What types of gardens are you drawn to? The gardens that resonate most with me are those that are (or were) deeply personal for their owners. An exhilarating example here in Southern California is Ganna Walska Lotusland, a 37-acre nonprofit botanical garden located in Montecito, near Santa Barbara. The unique and exquisite plants of Lotusland exude the passions and determination of the individual who planted them — Madame Ganna Walska.

Blossoming Lotuses

Following World War II, Madame Walska, a Polish opera singer and socialite, bought the property and curated an exotic selection of tropical and sub-tropical plants. Within Lotusland’s 19 distinct gardens are aquatic plants, cactus, aloes, euphorbias, and many other succulents, plus ferns, begonias, palms, and cycads. There is an outdoor theatre, a Japanese style garden, orchards, and other formally landscaped gardens — each its own theatrical event.

Lily pads in a pond

Madame Walska maintained the role of “head gardener,” daily tended the garden until the last few years of her life, always wearing her medals—an Order of Merit from Poland, and two Medals of Honor from France. The garden and estate now live on in her memory for others to continue to visit and appreciate the beauty she created. It is an absolute must-see for all garden lovers.

For further reading on artistic gardens that reflect the passions of their owners, see:

Derek Jarman’s Garden on Prospect Cottage, the late director’s garden in Dungeness, Kent, England
Jacques Majorelle’s garden in Marrakech, Morocco
Claude Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, France
The Bloomsbury Group’s Charleston Garden, East Sussex, England
Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul, Mexico City, Mexico

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