Santa Barbara, California
October 2010

Lotusland is a 37-acre garden which opened to the public in 1993. A former private residence, located in a residential neighborhood, the garden is open only by reservation.

Although I’ve been involved with public gardens for nearly 30 years, this was my first visit to Lotusland. The idea of visiting never held much appeal for me. My perception of Lotusland was of a garden similar to my grandmother’s house. A place full of over-the-top objects hiding the truly beautiful and functional elements. While that is not a misperception — there are plenty of over-the-top features, like this path lined with semi-precious stones,

Lotusland Pathway

or these seashells surrounding a pool,

Shells by Pool

or the statuary everywhere — but the garden is so much more than that. In fact, it is one of the most interesting and beautiful gardens I’ve visited.

The first area we visited was the Japanese Garden. Of course here the statuary works nicely, contributing to the Japanese feel of the garden.

Japanese Garden View

The Japanese Garden surrounds a lovely woodland pond.

Japanese Garden Pond

The Aloe Garden features an amazing kidney-shaped pool surrounded by Aloes of every growth type, from ground covers to trees.

Aloe Garden

Adjacent to the Aloe Garden is the Water Garden. Fruits and leaves of lotus plants were visible in the pool. They must make a great show when they are in bloom.

Water Garden

Dracaena Circle is one of my favorite areas of Lotusland. Plants of
Dracaena draco are packed into the area, creating a forest that Dr. Seuss might have dreamed of.

Dracaena Circle

And because one Dr. Seuss forest isn’t enough, there is also a
Beaucarnea recurvata forest.

Beaucarnea Forest

The Fern Garden features several species of tree fern and numerous other ferns. The highlight for me though was the begonia collection scattered under the tree ferns. I’ve never been a big fan of begonias. Wax begonias as bedding plants and angel-wing begonias as pot plants always left me cold. But here, grown to large sizes in a landscape setting, the plants really come into their own. I saw dozens of plants that were show-stoppers. I’ll never look at begonias in the same way again.

Fern Garden

There are two bromeliad gardens, both featuring a dizzying array of plants. This vining/climbing
Neoreglia has a growth habit I’ve never seen in a bromeliad before.


One of the newest gardens is the Cactus Garden. It features a tremendous variety of cacti. The collection is especially strong in upright, columnar species. The variety of colors, textures and shapes is quite something to see. For aesthetic appeal, this cactus garden rivals the Huntington, which is high praise.

Cactus Garden

Another major collection is the Cycad Garden. I was amazed to see the variety of colors, textures and leaf forms displayed in this plant group. And I’m always astounded when I see the bizarre cones on a cycad.

Cycad Garden Cycad Cone

There are other gardens to see here as well. The Succulent Garden, Australian Garden, Tropical Garden and Palm Garden are all showplaces. And there are other interesting features everywhere you go, including Water Stairs, Topiary, Statues and Fountains.

Water Stairs Fountain

I really loved this garden. Not only is it aesthetically interesting, it also has great plant collections, good plant labeling and is very well-maintained. I can’t wait to go back and see the Lotus in bloom.

To see more photos of Lotusland, click
here to visit the Lotusland website.