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Friday Slide Show: Lotusland Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

23 May 2014

The world is full of stories and Lotusland in Santa Barbara is, itself, a world of stories. We visited in 2007 with a Nikon D200 and an 18-200mm lens fitted with a circular polarizer. We thought today would be a good day to revisit those images, all JPEGs, using Lightroom 5.4 to send a little breeze of fresh air through them.

Lotusland. Seven years ago.

This is just a small selection of the 92 images we took as we toured the estate. But they show off the extraordinary variety of rare plants growing in what isn't so much a garden as a series of outdoor rooms.

Born in 1887 in Brest-Litovsk, Poland, Hanna Puacz changed her name to Madam Ganna Walska for the stage. She sang in New York and Paris, touring America and Europe and wrote an autobiography she titled Always Room at the Top.

Her sixth (and last) husband, Theos Bernard, encouraged her to buy the 37-acre Cuesta Linda estate in Santa Barbara in 1941. Naming it Tibetland, she planned to turn it into a retreat for Tibetan monks.

But after divorcing her husband, she renamed it Lotusland for the sacred Indian lotus growing in a pond on the property. And taking that as her cue, she started to design the gardens. It became the work of her lifetime. She passed away in 1984, leaving the estate to the Ganna Walska Lotusland Foundation.

To see the place, you make a reservation for a guided tour. You can't wander around unescorted. But photography is encouraged. Docent-led tours prohibit tripods to avoid tour delays but members can use them on self-guided tours.

We're no docent, so we've omitted captions on this slide show. Our apologies.

But we do remember our docent, a native of Santa Barbara (whose parents were from Santa Barbara, too). With her water bottle handy, she guided us through the series of gardens with entrances and exits like rooms. Madame Walska lived into her 90s spending time outdoors in them, she said, sitting at one or another bench.

It was a two-hour walk, with lots of information. Our docent was particularly aware of the photographers in the group, holding the crowd back for us to get clear shots. She knew all the angles.

It was a special day when we took the tour, exactly seven years ago today.

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