There was promise of rain, but instead the skies parted as we ambled down the granite path, past the 1919 Reginald Johnson villa of Lotusland. (Johnson was Architect of the main SB Post office and Bellosguardo as well.)  Surrounded by magnificent stands of "dragon trees", euphorbia, cactus, palms,
ginkgo, on and on, a tour here is a grand adventure in a peripatetic garden of Eden.  The property was founded in 1882 as the commercial nursery of Ralph Kinton Stevens. Santa Barbara's rare Mediterranean climate proved an idyllic atmosphere where rare and exotic plants flourish.  Fast forward to 1940. Madame Ganna Walska, a much admired personality and opera singer, leaves her native Europe, on the last ship out before the war, and purchases the property in 1941. Over the decades, she worked with numerous renown architects and landscape designers to evolve the property. In fact, she herself evolved from grand opera diva and socialite into a passionate visionary and creative landscape designer in her own right, leaving us with a magnificent, creative, horticulturally significant gift for all time.

August 08, 2023 by Kimberly Hayes

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