Lotusland: An Oasis of Rare Plant Life

By Giving List Staff   |   November 26, 2022
Lotusland is engaged in the critical work of protecting threatened and endangered species of plants from around the world and saving them from extinction. Among those plants are cycads, some of the most threatened plants on the planet. The cycad collection at Lotusland, containing over 450 specimens, is the most important plant collection at Lotusland, and is recognized nationally and is of global importance. Beneath this important collection at Lotusland is a naturally occurring fungus called Armillaria or oak root fungus. This organism colonizes the roots and the base of a variety of trees and shrubs and eventually kills them. When the remediation efforts are complete, Lotusland Curators will be able to be secure in their work to advance scientific methods to ensure the legacy of these species.

Nestled on a 37-acre Montecito estate, Lotusland is a Botanical Garden paradise purchased in 1941 by Madame Ganna Walska, a Polish opera singer, owner of a Parisian theater, and a generous philanthropist, both internationally and locally. Ganna Walska’s dramatic vision and adoration for her garden and devotion to the land makes Lotusland a reliquary of stunning eccentricity. Her desire to obtain rare flora resulted in curating 20 gardens containing 3,400 plants and more than 35,000 specimens. By the early 1970s, Madame Ganna Walska had cultivated one of the most significant Cycad collections in the country, yet today 40% of those treasured species face extinction.  

Since opening to the public in 1993, Ganna Walska Lotusland has grown to become one of the world’s premier botanical gardens and a center for horticultural education, sustainable garden practices, and plant conservation. Our vision is to preserve and protect the spectacular property and bring the Garden to its next era.

While she passed away in 1984, it took nearly ten years for the garden’s stewards to share her accomplished legacy with the public as she intended. In 1993, the County of Santa Barbara permitted Lotusland to open to the public. 

Rebecca Anderson, Executive Director, describes Lotusland as “the most private, public garden anywhere. We are motivated and driven for the purposes of education and enjoyment, in addition to research and conservation.”

A member of the Museums for All initiative, Lotusland supports this access program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), administered by the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM). The program supports those receiving food assistance (CalFresh/SNAP) benefits by offering admission for $3 per person. Museums for All is part of Lotusland’s commitment to seek, include, and welcome all audiences.

“The driver of our strategic goals is to sustain and invest in the garden to ensure it is here for future generations,” Anderson says.

Lotusland has demonstrated painstaking maintenance to preserve the 100-year-old property while implementing sustainability practices. The Garden celebrates 30 years as a public garden by demonstrating and fostering environmental stewardship, launching new programs to promote well-being, and continuing its commitment to educate and inspire.


Ganna Walska Lotusland

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Director of Development: Patricia Sadeghian


Lotusland preserves and enhances the unique, historic estate of Madame Ganna Walska, cares for and improves its collections, and develops its conservation and horticulture programs, so they educate us, inspire us, and advance our understanding and appreciation of the importance of plants in our lives and in the life of the planet.

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Madame Ganna Walska has planted seeds of imagination, beauty, spirituality, and growth. I choose to honor my mother and father’s legacies through supporting Lotusland.
Belle Hahn
Former Trustee & Honorary Chairwoman

Help Preserve a Montecito and World Treasure

With Cycads threatened globally, Lotusland is squarely focused on renovating its renowned Cycad Garden and preserving its stunning specimens. Lotusland has had tremendous success in the management of threatened Cycad species. The Cycad Garden recently experienced an Armillaria flare-up and has begun the large undertaking of fungus eradication. This is an extensive project, requiring the removal of plants, triaging diseased specimens, excavating all host material, adding subterranean and surface drainage systems, replacing the soil, and creating new planter beds for improved environmental conditions. This project includes renovating pathways, improving accessibility, and securing plant health within the Cycad Collection for many years to come. When complete, Lotusland Curators will be able to be secure in their work to advance scientific methods to ensure the legacy of these species. The anticipated cost for the remainder of the work in this internationally significant garden is $300,000. Lotusland is at the front line of a worldwide scientific community to save these rarest of plants. 

Your support helps to advance and accelerate this critical work, and ensure Lotusland’s participation, prominence, and impact in the global conservation community.

“We are not only a historic site and a legacy garden,” Anderson says, “we are at the forefront of sustainable horticulture. This is an exciting moment where historic preservation and conservation works are paramount, and at the same time, we are innovating to use Lotusland as a center to model both horticultural and sustainability excellence.” 

Help keep this century-old Montecito jewel gleaming for many years to come. 

Board of Trustees

David M. Jones, President
Mari Mitchel, Vice President
Lesley Cunningham,
Immediate Past President
Ashley Adelson
Jeanne Anderson
Daniel Bifano
Laura M. Bridley
Merryl Brown
Ron Caird
Geoff Crane
Rachael Douglas
Connie Flowers Pearcy
Anthony Grumbine
Joseph Marek
Jeffrey Romano
Stephen P. Schaible
Mark Schmidt
Wendy Schmidt
Caroline Thompson
Rick Vitelle
Lisa Bjornson Wolf
Crystal Wyatt