LOTUSLAND

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

Madame Ganna Walska (1887-1984) was the type of Southern Californian eccentric over whom  people from back East love to roll their eyes, muttering “land of the fruits and the nuts.”

Born Hanna Puacz in Brest-Litovsk, Poland, she was an opera singer who was married six times. She resided in New York and Paris, toured Europe and America, and eventually became attracted to California.

She eloped as a teenager with her first husband, a Russian count. Her fourth, known at the time as “the richest bachelor in the world, proposed the day they met. Madame became interested in séances, Ouija boards, spiritualism. Her sixth husband, twenty years her junior, was a yoga guru.

Done with disastrous unions, she purchased a 37-acre Montecito property in 1941 and spent the next 43 years creating the garden—routinely named one of the top ten in the world—now known as Lotusland.

And the creative energy poured into this wondrous space establishes her as an artist and a human being of the highest order.

Reserve in advance and be prepared to cough up fifty bucks. The day I visited, the wrought iron gates of the estate swung open, I checked in at the pale pink welcome kiosk, and the magic began.

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