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Lotusland in Montecito has beautiful and tranquil grounds

Lotusland in Montecito has beautiful and tranquil grounds
Artist David Hochbaum's "Murmuration 2015" is on exhibit in the museum at the 37-acre Ganna Walska Lotusland. The former Montecito estate is a plant lover's wonderland. (Daniel A. Anderson)

The Funk Zone isn't the only Santa Barbara-area attraction with an odd name. Lotusland ranks right up there too. But while the Funk Zone suffers from a lack of beauty, Lotusland astounds with its good looks. In fact, Travel & Leisure magazine calls it "one of the nation's most beautiful gardens."

The 37-acre property on a quiet street in Montecito reflects the hard work and eccentricities of its founder, Polish-born opera singer Madame Ganna Walska. The socialite, who married and divorced six times, spent 43 years planning and planting her magnificent garden.

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After her death in 1984, Lotusland became a nonprofit botanical garden and opened to the public in 1993. The garden, which is divided into separate sections highlighting roses, cactus, palm trees and, of course, lotuses, requires nine full-time gardeners.

"Madame Walska said she didn't want a garden with flowers she could wear on her chest," said curator Virginia Hayes as we walked through the property's Japanese garden. Consequently, the acreage includes things such as an aloe garden, with more than 100 species, a topiary garden, butterfly garden, fern garden and more. Pools, fountains and sculptures add to the tranquillity as visitors follow winding garden paths.

Tours, which last about two hours, are held at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays through Nov. 14. Because Lotusland is in a residential neighborhood, visitors must have reservations. A two-hour tour costs $45 per person, but the best deal is to buy a family membership for $125, which allows you to visit as often as you like. Info: (805) 969-9990,

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