Photo Journal: A Walk Through Madame Ganna Walska’s Lotusland
The beautifully bizarre Lotusland was founded and created by the eccentric and visionary Madame Ganna Walska. Known for her extravagant wealth and love for art in all of its forms, Madame Ganna Walska adopted her stage name—meaning Graceful Waltz in Polish—in the early stages of her opera career. Later in life, Ganna Walska’s focus on singing dwindled as she began indulging in some of her many other passions. She practiced meditation, numerology, astrology, and gardening, started a fragrance business, and wrote a memoir, all before dedicating the rest of her life to what is now known as Lotusland.
Throughout the years she and a team of contractors delved into her passion for gardening by creating 18 designated areas of living art. Featuring fantastical gardens of many themes and varieties, Lotusland’s design was ahead of its time in more ways than one. Walk with us through one of our favorite gardens as we show off the magic of Madame Ganna Walska’s Lotusland!
Madame Ganna Walska was known to love her favorite things en masse, her gardens being no exception. Lotusland welcomes its visitors with mass-planted Aloe and Agave lining the driveway of the main entrance, which was a new style of planting not seen before the creation of Lotusland. Madame Ganna Walska spent much of her time driving around in search of the perfect specimens, offering up expensive jewelry and large sums of money in exchange for the mature Aloe trees pictured behind the fountain. She chose to paint the pool white as a reflection of the moon, and used real clam shells for both the fountain and the lining of the pool.
Bromeliads were favorites of Madame Ganna Walska due to their bright and sensational colors. This garden features a variety of both terrestrial and epiphytic Bromeliads, as well as suspended clumps of air plants that hang alongside Spanish moss in the trees.
Lotusland’s cactus garden was donated entirely by Merritt Dunlap, a close friend of Ganna Walska. Each one of his 530 cacti specimens were meticulously documented based on their positioning in the sun for replanting. Now, the garden features over 300 species of cacti from around the world, alongside a beautiful stone staircase that leads to a viewpoint of the area.
This non-traditional Japanese garden features a variety of elegant structures, a shallow pond lined with blooming lotus flowers, weeping willow trees, Farfugium japonica, and maidenhair ferns.
Dividing the insectary garden and orchards is a stunning trellis with lemon trees that have been trained to climb and grow along the structure. The orchards feature a colorful collection of apricot, cherry, lemon and plum trees, all grown organically.
This enchanting lotus garden was made from a 1920’s swimming pool that originally came with the property, along with the bath house pictured behind it. The pool features blooming lotus flowers, lily pads, and papyrus, among many other beautiful specimens.
As you may recognize from our shop, a magnificent staghorn fern (Platycerium) towers above the fern garden, growing out of a palm tree stump. This area also features an impressive variety of our favorite ferns, such as blue star, maidenhair, and Australian tree ferns.
Potentially some of the rarest specimens in Lotusland, the Cycad garden features almost half of all described Cycad species, some dating back to prehistoric times. This was one of the most, if not the most, expensive garden in Lotusland. It was also the last garden Madame Ganna Walska created before her passing.
Lined along the side of Madame Ganne Walska’s home is an array of Euphorbia and cactus specimens that she planted almost immediately after moving into her new house. Among the most interesting is a Weeping Euphorbia ingens that drapes over the branch of a tree. This particular Euphorbia is pictured alongside Madame Ganna Walska in photos from the 1940’s.
This incredible archway is actually made up of large Dracaena trees! These magnificent specimens were hand-picked and purchased by Ganna Walska. After years of growth, this remarkable structure formed over the pathway you see pictured.
By Hannah Elders
We're so inspired seeing the vision of Lotusland in person. The unique mass-plantings and rare collections of overlooked plants have us excited to take Madame Walska's ideas and apply them in our own garden creations.
Do you have an idea for a garden we should feature next? There are so many inspiring botanical institutions to explore. Leave us a comment with your wishlist travel destination!