Madame Ganna Walska, a well-known Polish opera singer and socialite, purchased the Montecito, California estate in 1941 and spent the next 43 years creating Lotusland, today recognized as one of the ten best gardens in the world.
She then began what would be a gradual transformation from well-known socialite to garden designer. Most of her energy and resources were poured into creating a botanical garden of rare plants using her natural artistic talents to create a fantasy world of exquisite beauty. To accomplish this she worked with a number of landscape architects and designer including Lockwood de Forest, Jr., Ralph T. Stevens, William Paylen, Oswald Da Ros, and Charles Glass.
Madame Walska herself was a designer and loved to mass single species of plants together. She wanted the best, the biggest, and the most unusual plants available and was often willing to pay any price to get them. So determined was she to finish the work she had begun that in the 1970s she auctioned off some of her jewelry in order to finance her final creation - the cycad garden.
The spectacular collections of exotic plants on the 37-acre property are a personal expression of Walska's penchant for the dramatic, the unexpected, and the whimsical. Lotusland is home to several extraordinary plant collections and around each corner there is a surprise of unique garden design and plant species.
After her death in 1984, Lotusland became a nonprofit botanic garden and opened to the public in 1993. Our educational programs serve the Santa Barbara community and our innovative horticultural practices are shared with botanic gardens and garden-lovers around the world.