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The pond in the Japanese Garden at Lotusland. The private estate turned world-class gardens is one of Santa Barbara's hidden gems. (Photo Traffic411)

The pond in the Japanese Garden at Lotusland. The private estate turned world-class gardens is one of Santa Barbara’s hidden gems. (Photo Traffic411)

Earlier this year I moved to Santa Barbara, CA, to host the morning show on the new Santa Barbara radio station, 88.7 FM KCRW.  It is gorgeous here along the ‘South Coast,’ and there are many hidden treasures, which I will be blogging about in the coming weeks and months.

Lotusland is one of Santa Barbara’s finest “Hidden Gems.” The former home of the free spirited opera star and socialite Madame Ganna Walksa, this 37 acre gated estate in Montecito is a plant lover’s paradise.

Visitors can stroll through several distinct gardens, including the Blue Garden, Tropical Garden, Japanese Garden, Cactus Garden, and Succulent Garden. There’s even a Cycad Garden, filled with ancient plants.  Statues and other unique decorations adorn the gardens, all collected thorough Madame Waska’s connections and world travels.

Remarkably, the world class gardens at Lotusland are fully self-sustainable.  No pesticides have been used for 20 years. It cost of maintaining the gardens is $3 million dollars a year, which makes the $45 admission price for a docent-led tour understandable.

Shell pool at Lotusland (Photo: Traffic411)

Shell pool at Lotusland (Photo: Traffic411)

Because of its location in one of the area’s fanciest neighborhoods, the garden is not open year-round, and the number of visitors is limited.  But, by planning ahead and being flexible, it should be easy to book a reservation.

Through May 23, 2015, Lotusland is featuring a special exhibit “Flock: Birds on the Brink.” This unique exhibition features all kinds of birds in artwork.  From the rock ‘n roll themed “Flutter and Strum,” featuring small birds in a big cage, perched on an amped up electric guitar, to the campy “Put it on my Bill” diorama featuring ducks in a speakeasy bar. There’s even a chair with feather wings, which flap in sync with the breath of the person who is sitting in it.

"Murder of Crows" is one of the outdoor art exhibits (part of "Flock: Birds on the Brink") at Lotusland.  (Photo Traffic411)

“Murder of Crows” is one of the outdoor art exhibits (part of “Flock: Birds on the Brink”) at Lotusland. (Photo Traffic411)

Through a generous grant program, hundreds of Santa Barbara-area fourth graders get to visit Lotusland each year. Currently, children come from as far away as Santa Maria to be treated to this one-of-a-kind garden. Lotusland truly is a Santa Barbara treasure.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: If you plan to visit more than once, consider purchasing an annual pass. It’s $75 to visit as much as you want, and allows you to purchase additional guest passes at a substantial (40%) discount.

Distance from LAX: 95 miles

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