Thursday, April 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Lotusland – the gardens that outlasted her lovers

By
From page D4 | January 27, 2013 | Leave Comment

Late last spring, my husband and I toured a botanical garden located east of Santa Barbara in the Montecito foothills. Since this 37-acre estate is unlike any other botanical landscape, we often found ourselves lagging behind the docent-led tour in an attempt to absorb the setting’s serenity and the scale of the behemoth trees from blue atlas cedars (Cedrus atlantica) to 100-year-old Chilean wine palms (Jubaea chilensis).

This private estate of Madame Ganna Walska was gifted to a nonprofit foundation upon her death in 1985, opening to the public in 1993. Intrigued, I wanted to know more about this property tucked away in an exclusive residential neighborhood – and about the woman whose marriages to wealthy men allowed her to indulge her whimsical passion for exotic plants, many of which are now extinct in their native habitat. Here’s a snippet of what I discovered about these captivating grounds worthy of a visit.

Who was Madame Ganna Walska?

Polish-born Hanna Puacz was only 9 when her mother died and an adolescent when sent by her father to St. Petersburg, Russia, to live with an aunt and uncle, a renown painter educated in Paris and Warsaw. In 1907, the teenager eloped with a Russian count, the first of six husbands who included a New York psychiatrist, an International Harvester Company heir and a yoga guru. By 1918, Hanna rejected her strict Catholic upbringing for singing lessons, changed her name to Madame Ganna Walska (Walska, because she loved the waltz), made her concert debut alongside tenor Enrico Caruso, and launched her opera career with ballerina Anna Pavlova. Upon her 1928 arrival in America for her third concert tour, she also made headlines when U.S. Customs valued her traveling wardrobe and jewelry at $2.5 million.

In 1940, Walska met Theos Bernard, a lecturer at a yoga demonstration in New York. He convinced her not only to purchase property in California for a retreat center that they named Tibetland but also to marry him. Upon the dissolution of this sixth and final marriage,  Walska, a student of Eastern religions, renamed her property Lotusland for the sacred Indian flowers (Papilionaceae) blooming in her pond.

Walska was a paradoxical figure, suffering from paralyzing stage fright in the early years of her singing career, yet escaping France in 1940 aboard the last passenger ship before German occupation and holding benefit tours on the estate grounds from 1943 through 1967. She dabbled in mysticism, yet disliked machinery, all the while devoting 43 of her 97 years to collecting rare, exotic plants and even auctioned off her remaining jewels to finance the transformation of an abandoned grain field into a Cycad Garden that opened to the public in 1979. By combining her penchant for plants with the wealth accumulated through multiple marriages, Walska’s landscaped legacy is a plant lover’s dream.

Overview of the grounds

Today, Lotusland’s 37 acres operate as a public garden. Fountains and statuary adorn the grounds; an array of mature cactus (Cactaceae) compliment the 1920 Mediterranean style architecture of the main house. The Wall Street Journal stated that Walska’s idea of “mass plantings” is “now de rigeur for every landscape designer.”

Certainly, the more than 18 theme-based settings Walska designed with her unlimited resources are unrivaled. Lotusland is home to more than 3,000 different plants, including 208 different plant families and 3,286 distinct taxa, including 12 families of ferns (Phylum Pteridophyta) and 22 families of succulents other than aloe (Asphodelacae) and euphorbias (Euphorbiaceae). In 1993, her Cycad (Cycas) collection ranked second in the world with more than 200 species.

Topiary animals from Los Angeles’ Osaki Plant Zoo are planted around a horticultural clock designed by head gardener/landscape architect Ralph Stevens that features custom clock works. The newest addition of more than 500 cacti planted from seed in the 1920s by Merritt Dunlap was relocated from Fallbrook in 2001 and is grouped by country of origin along with 300 tons of basalt columns and boulders.

On Walska’s staff was Frank Fuijii, skilled in Japanese gardening, whose father helped design the Japanese Garden in Golden Gate Park in 1904. Today Lotusland’s horticultural philosophy encourages the attraction of beneficial insects and use of nontoxic pest management techniques.

Two-hour docent-guided tours are available mid-February to mid-November. Booking your reservations in advance is suggested. Further information is available at www.lotusland.org or by calling 800-969-9990 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Launa Herrmann is a Master Gardener with the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Fairfield. If you have gardening questions, call the Master Gardener’s office at 784-1322.

Launa Herrmann

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Supervisor candidates square off at forum

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 7 Comments | Gallery

 
Carli takes oath, now Vacaville’s 14th police chief

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Huge jump in Solano median home price

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A1, 5 Comments | Gallery

Donate a car, help build a house

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Solano DA hosts workshop to fight human trafficking

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Fairfield town hall on crime delayed

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 5 Comments

Railway museum offers wine-tasting rides

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
 
Drugs topic of cardiac class

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Weather for April 17, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

 
Fairfield police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun Police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Armed robber was never told to report to prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Body of California man who jumped into river found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Lost sea lion in California found mile from water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Seabird from Atlantic spotted on Alcatraz

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Ex-Bell city leader gets 12 years in prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
California delays decision on protecting gray wolf

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Court rules for environmentalists in water fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Governor calls special session on rainy day fund

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Denver police eye 911 response time after killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Man charged with marathon hoax is held on bail

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Geneva talks on Ukraine face steep hurdles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Pro-Russian insurgents seize armored vehicles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Ferry sinks off South Korea; 6 dead, 290 missing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
NATO ups military presence amid Russian threat

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

.

Opinion

In support of Pam Bertani

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 7 Comments

 
Parenting demands responsibility

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

 
Let’s stop Fairfield’s future thugs

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 8 Comments

Obamacare news you probably missed

By Martin Schram | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoons for April 17, 2014

By Kim Durbin | From Page: A11

.

Living

A lesson in household budgeting

By Chris Erskine | From Page: A2

 
Today in History for April 17, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Community Calendar: April 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Horoscopes for April 17, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Daniel Radcliffe on why New York audiences rock

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Alicia Silverstone out with book ‘Kind Mama’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Jenny McCarthy announces engagement on ‘The View’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Ailing Malcolm Young taking break from AC/DC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Disney Channel’s ‘Jessie’ breaks romantic ground

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Vacaville’s Peralta to wrestle at San Francisco State

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Angels beat A’s 5-4 on Iannetta’s HR in 12th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

MEL, SCAC tangle in hoops all-star games

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

 
Sharks take goalie questions into rematch vs Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Crawford’s 41 points leads Warriors over Nuggets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

IndyCar driver Saavedra fined $10K

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sandoval’s single lifts Giants past Dodgers, 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Officer: Sharper’s DNA found on 1 Arizona victim

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jets sign former Titans RB Chris Johnson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Spieth ready for more after Masters success

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Backup QB Matt Flynn returns to Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Atlanta lands MLS expansion team for 2017

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bucks owner Herb Kohl reaches deal to sell team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sidney Rice agrees to terms with Seahawks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Goodwin helps Suns to 104-99 win over Kings in finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Yellen: Fed stimulus still needed for job market

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Some exempted from minimum wage, increased or not

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Fed survey: Growth picks up across most of US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Bank of America posts loss, hurt by legal charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Google’s 1Q earnings disappoint as ad prices slip

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9