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PRECIOUS PLACES: Singing the praises of Lotusland, California

Ideal anytime, the botanical gardens at Lotusland, near Santa Barbara, California – the unique legacy of an eccentric Polish opera singer and spiritual seeker – offer a meditative retreat outdoors perfect for troubled times.

Located on a 15-hectare estate about 160 km north of Los Angeles, the gardens – also called Ganna Walska Lotusland after its founder – opened to the public in 1993, but recently completed an 11-year, US$6-million renovation.

Consider the Japanese Garden: Footpaths are lined with Japanese-style vintage lanterns, and plants such as azaleas, bamboo, camellias, and star magnolias. Trees include cherry blossoms and gingko; an antique Buddha statue along one path serenely holds a floral offering beneath a Japanese maple.

A viewing deck and footbridge cross a koi pond with lotuses. The open-air pavilion, built next to a waterfall, offers a peaceful space for contemplation with a view of the dry garden’s raked sand, rocks, and boulders, with a reflective pond and wide expanse of garden beyond.

For the .6-hectare Japanese garden, Walska worked with Lotusland gardener Frank Fujii beginning in the late 1960s. They and stone mason Oswald Da Ros selected stones, lanterns and plants. Fujii continued the work after Walska’s passing in 1984 until his retirement in 2007. Also on the project was Koichi Kawana, a lecturer at UCLA who specialized in Japanese garden design. His contributions included a Shinto-style shrine added to the garden in a new grove of conifers.

Changes in the recent renovation included a new pond, a viewing deck for a closer experience of the koi and lotuses, and handicapped-accessible footpaths and bridges. Some plants and trees were added, and others replaced.

For visitors, advance reservations are required.



First published at Travel Industry Today

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