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Located in California, Lotusland is a luscious realm of natural wonders with 37 acres of botanicals and exotic flora, all left behind by a famed socialite and opera singer. With a wealth of wondrous vegetation set on the grounds of stunning property, it's little surprise the attraction is becoming one of Santa Barbara's favorites amongst gardening fanatics, lovers of fine verdant, and enthusiasts of the great outdoors.

At around 100 miles from Disneyland, Lotusland is a great excuse for visitors in the area to stop off and spend a couple of hours viewing and learning about the sublime beauty of Mother Nature's creations - spectacular ones that take the form of magnificent foliage, some scarce and unseen anywhere else in the country.

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The History Of Lotusland

Situated on the former estate of socialite and opera singer Madame Ganna Walska, Lotusland boasts a myriad of beautiful sights to adore. From exotic plants and a butterfly garden to a cactus garden, a topiary, and many more lovely features, this lush spot in the foothills of Montecito is a worthwhile dot on the map for those who love nature. But how did they come to be?

The gardens were originally created by famous Polish opera singer and socialite Madame Ganna Walska, a prominent figure who owned the property for over four decades from 1941 until her death in 1984. Walska was a known eccentric character who lived in Paris and New York before moving to settle down in California.

After getting married many a time, she purchased the Santa Barbara estate with her sixth husband, first naming it 'Tibetland' to serve as a retreat for Tibetan monks at the time. However, they later divorced, after which she rebranded the estate and its gardens 'Lotusland' - a name inspired by the Indian lotus, which is a visually stunning aquatic species that grew in one of her numerous ponds.

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Taking on the advice of well-known landscape architects, including Lockwood de Forest, Charles Glass, William Paylen, and Ralph T Stevens, she procured magnificent premises full of flourishing flora, and although the two professionals drove much of the garden's designs, she remained a major influence throughout her amassed time spent caring for them - a grand total of 43 years dedicated to what was evidently her pride and joy, as seen in awe of her collection of gorgeous gardens and flamboyant flora.

Thankfully, Madame Walska established a non-profit organization before her passing - the Ganna Walska Lotusland Foundation - whose teams now preserve the estate, her array of vegetation and gardens, and her legacy, all for today's plant fans and future budding generations of nature lovers to enjoy.

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Discover Exotic Botanicals And Horticulture At Lotusland

Madame Ganna Walska had a penchant for the dramatic and fantastic, devoting more than half a lifetime to designing unusual gardens chock full of exotic foliage; home to a number of incredible collections of species, including rarer variants like cycads, cacti, euphorbias, and palms, the premises are truly a treat for the eyes and a testament not solely to her hard work, but moreover, her passion for plants. Guests can also gaze upon plenty of other sightly additions, such as lotuses, bromeliads, aloes, water lilies, and ferns, among many more fascinating and beautiful species.

Lotusland's wealth of themed gardens is also a particular delight for visitors and inspires photo ops at every turn, with the likes of a theater garden, a blue garden, a topiary garden, and a breathtaking Japanese garden on the list of must-sees. A variety of other signature features of the property to look out for during a tour is the classic horticultural clock, the Neptune fountain, hedged allées, and picturesque parterres. Of course, the final cherry on top of this ethereal realm that showcases what Mother Nature and Madame Walska got up to for over forty years is the Garden Shop, which completes the tour of Lotusland as beautifully as its grounds.

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Tour Lotusland

Guests of Lotusland can spend two hours exploring what is perhaps the most private, public garden on the planet - and definitely one of the most interesting, not to mention otherworldly. All across the estate and its divine gardens, visitors can soak up the magical scenes of a huge diversity of flora from all around the world, including several exclusive few that cannot be found elsewhere in the United States.

Naturally, due to the popularity of the public garden, its setting in a private residential neighborhood, and its limited volume of annual visits permitted, guests are asked to reserve their tour slot in advance - at least three to four weeks beforehand. Normally, tickets are released online two months at a time, allowing interested parties plenty of opportunities to bag their spot.

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Ticket holders will get to enjoy the gardens on foot, led by a knowledgeable guide to enrich their exploration of the classy estate. Plus, groups are kept small at no more than ten people at a time, granting a more intimate experience with fewer crowds while touring over 20 miniature gardens - each being unique in nature with individual design and themes.

To add, self-guided tours are also available, enhanced by interpretive signage and QR codes peppered across the premises, the latter of which visitors can use to bring up details about the property's history and horticultural information on their smart devices.

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How Much Are Lotusland Tickets?

  • Adult tickets are priced at $50
  • Children's admission for those aged three to 17 costs $25
  • Kids under two years old can enter free of charge
  • Note that pets are not granted entry - only guide dogs are permitted.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Lotusland

There exists no wrong time to visit Lotusland; given its diverse flora, there's always something in bloom - so 'everyday' is the perfect time to tour the attraction. Although the property is open and ideal to visit year-round, its namesake Lotuses are usually out in bloom in July and August.

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What To Know Before Visiting Lotusland

Before attending Lotusland, there are a few important guidelines and general tips to be aware of, the main ones being as follows:

  • Lotusland's visitor entrance doesn't actually have a designated street address. As such, avoid using GPS or satellite navigation to find it; otherwise, guests will arrive at the wrong gate. The tour reservation information offers directions to the precise location - use those instead.
  • Reservation staff may be able to accommodate non-English speaking visitors - just ask in well advance about the availability of tour guides.
  • Picnics are prohibited
  • Food is not sold at Lotusland, but drinking fountains are dotted about the grounds, and water is available in the Garden Shop.
  • Wheelchair users and those with walkers can be accommodated on a slightly modified tour of the premises. As such, guests with wheelchairs or walkers are kindly asked to inform a Lotusland visitor services staff member upon booking a tour.
  • Photography and videography for personal use are encouraged throughout the grounds; however, tripods are not permitted on guided tours.

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In short, nature-buffs, photography fans, budding botanists, and seasoned gardeners will relish a visit to Lotusland and its verdant grounds brimming with exotic species from all corners of the earth. Even if one has never picked up a shovel before, the extraordinary manor and its lawns of lushness are a pot of beauty and fascination to behold.

As an awe-inspiring place to discover the science and allure of plants along with the intriguing history of the elegant estate - as well as the illustrious life and story of its mother, Madame Walska - Lotusland is one speck on the Californian map that's worth every second spent by those lucky enough to experience it all in person.