Life in Lotusland: California gardens

Credit: Carolyn Jones

Lotus: (in Greek mythology) a legendary plant whose fruit induces a dreamy forgetfulness and an unwillingness to depart.

Such feelings will indeed come over you when you visit one of California’s most famous gardens, appropriately called Lotusland.

This 37-acre Santa Barbara garden was created by the larger-than-life Madame Ganna Walska, a Polish-born, self-invented beauty who charmed her way through many marriages, collecting substantial financial resources as she went. An “enemy of the ordinary,” she developed her estate as a series of fantastic themed gardens between 1941 and her death in 1984.

These include a forest of dragon trees (Dracaena draco), avenues of dramatic succulents, an outdoor theatre with bizarre sculptures of gnomes, a bedding-plant-decorated floral clock, and – yes – a lotus pool.

While this sounds over the top, it’s in exquisite taste and beautifully maintained. The two-hour tours are by appointment only – visit Lotusland’s website for details or call 1-805-969-9990. Admission for adults is $35.

If you would prefer to tour the garden at your own pace, you might find it worthwhile to take out a $75 membership, which includes two admission passes and the opportunity for self-guided tours. Then you can slip into a dreamlike state and indulge your certain unwillingness to depart.