Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Traveling Plants: Lotusland, Santa Barbara

Right outside of Santa Barbara in Montecito sits a botanical treasure trove of whimsical delights and perpetual eye candy called Ganna Walska Lotusland. Now before you pack your bags, let it be known you must make reservations prior to showing up and you can only explore the grounds with your tour guide which lasts an approximate 2 hours (unless you are a member and attend other events at the private venue). Be ready to be saturated with information and sights as you wander through all 26 incredibly varying and different gardens.The land was purchased by famous Polish opera singer in 1941 and was a life's work for the next 43 years. The 37 acre botanical Disneyland contains subtropical and tropical plants from around the world including rare cycads, cacti, palms and euphorbia. Described as a delightful labyrinth of landscape adventures- from both a plant nerd standpoint and an artist / designer's standpoint it is a truly wonderful experience.

One of the best lessons and inspiration I took from this visit is the impact of being bold. Of mass plantings, restraint and patterns. It brought me back to importance of design basics and letting the bold simplicity sing. Much like a recipe that calls for only a few ingredients- just the right combination of a few spices prepared in the right way can be an amazing experience- so can be said with plants and design.

The Japanese Garden. Niwake pruning taken to the highest art form.

Water Lily Pond in bloom.

Dramatic (drought tolerant) entrance

Meyer Lemon Pergola... LOVE!

Neptune fountain with mermen (not mermaids, mind you).

Traditional parterre. Another impressive feat of this garden is its mission to be organic. This is great to see more traditional gardens going this route- looking at soil health, the right plant in the right place, compost teas, attracting beneficials and being okay with a little insect damage here or there.

The Dunlap Cactus Garden. 300 species of cacti, 40% started from seed. Merrit Dunlap longtime friend of Walska, donated garden (a collection he started in 1929) in 1999. The garden opened in 2004 on his birthday and died shortly thereafter.

Working succulent clock with zodiac "numbers". Whimsical topiaries in the background.

Topiary Garden

The Amphitheater Garden. Grotesque stone figurines from 1600s France and a fully functioning stage with podocarpus wings.

The Bromeliad Garden.

The Blue Garden.

Mass plantings of blue fescue and senecio create a carpet in the Blue Garden. Recycled stag glass from the old water delivery factory line the path and blue atlas cedars and palm punctuate the landscape.

Pan in the succulent garden.

Cycad Garden. Some lineage can be traced back 300 MILLION years. Living fossils- many which have to be hand pollinated since the insects that originally pollinated them are extinct! Though may look palm-like they are more like a conifer than a palm.

The Epiphyte Garden

Agaves aloes and succulents frame this dramatic side entrance.

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