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Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 7:47 pm | Fog/Mist 58º


Lotusland Reopens with Cypress Allée

The estate's newly restored water stairs garden and cypress allée will be a new experience for most visitors.

Lotusland has opened for the season and visitors will have the chance to explore the newly restored Water Stairs Garden, open to the public for the first time.

Many visitors to Lotusland today may not be aware that there was once a cypress-lined allée with a flowing water staircase and wishing well that connected to the famed water garden and bathhouse on one end, and to the Japanese garden on the other end. Thanks to the generosity of several foundations and individuals, Lotusland recently met its long-held goal to re-create a cypress allée. For the first time since Lotusland opened to the public in 1993, water is again flowing from the charming wishing well over the water stairs, adding yet another beautiful garden to the unique collection.

During the 1920s, the Gavit family owned what is today Lotusland, and it was during this “Gavit era” that Mrs. E. Palmer Gavit, with the help of the influential Santa Barbara landscape architect Peter Riedel, designed this formal water stairs feature for the estate. The design consisted of a long brick walkway extending south from the swimming pool and culminating at an ornamental carved limestone wellhead. Extending at a right angle toward the east from the “wishing well,” a series of 14 basins created a water stairway that, when it was installed, spilled into the large pond. This pond, originally a reservoir for irrigation in the late 1800s and now the central feature of Madame Ganna Walska’s Japanese-style garden, had become a pleasure pond, complete with sailboat, for the Gavit family.

When the Ganna Walska Foundation took charge of Lotusland in 1986, only the hardscape, paths, wellhead and water stair basins remained in this area, although archival images show the cypress allée existing well into Walska’s tenure in the garden. The restoration project included refurbishing the pathways, the water stairs and the wellhead. The restoration also included replicating the original brick allée and cypress hedges.

Both the cypress-lined allée and the use of water in clever ways are elements of many well-known Italian gardens dating back to the 1500s. Several of them used water in stepwise fashion including the balustrades of flowing water at the Villa d’Este in Tivioli and the water staircase at Villa Cicogna, Mozzoni. Lotusland speculates that these formal garden spaces, with a decidedly European influence, resonated with Walska so she preserved them as she built her own gardens around them.

To celebrate the opening of Lotusland’s refurbished exhibits, the public may make tour reservations at the reduced rate of $20 through March 13. Docent-led tours of the botanical estate garden in Montecito will take place at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Advance reservations are required. To take advantage of this special reduced admission price of $20, e-mail [email protected], or call 805.969.9990. The regular cost of $10 for ages 5 through 18 remains the same. Children under 5 are always admitted free.

Click here for more information.

Jennifer Guess represents Lotusland.

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