Lotusland’s abalone shell pond

More from my Lotusland visit this past June. In my guided tour group was a friendly couple with a serious selfie habit, expressed at every turn in a path, at every new feature. We ended up exploring the garden at the same pace, always at the back of the pack due to our respective documentation proclivities.

In the aloe garden can be found possibly one of Lotusland’s most theatrical features, the abalone shell-rimmed pool. Never mind taking a selfie, all I could think about was her, the woman who dreamed this up. The woman who had as many spouses as Henry VIII, at a time when a single divorce would have marked her as a notorious woman And then after the husbands, after the opera career, she settles in to make a garden like no one had ever seen before, selling her jewelry to buy cycads. I find it reassuring to know that Lotusland still outweirds us all. You just can’t top it.
It is Madame Walska’s enduring “selfie” writ large. Be brave, be fearless, is the caption. And if you are a woman in 1941 with outsized dreams, it doesn’t hurt to be very, very rich.

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14 Responses to Lotusland’s abalone shell pond

  1. Rebecca says:

    Wow, what a strange sight! But it’s so stunning.. definitely nothing else like it. Funny to see those Aloe trees-I forget they do that… “Why is there an aloe growing on the end of that trunk-oh, right, Aloe trees.”. Hah!

  2. Emily says:

    Have you seen Monty Don’s commentary about Lotusland? He visited the garden during the NorthAmerican portion of his “Around the World in 80 Gardens” tour. I was keenly interested to see what he had to say about it…and I think I agree with him.

  3. Denise says:

    @Rebecca, yes, those shaggy aloe trees! Quite different from the more familiar ground-hugging rosettes. I’m curious to find out fast my little tree aloes grow.
    @Emily, now I’m curious to find out what Monty Don thought of Lotusland. I’ve searched around for that video, which seems to be episode 36, or garden 36, and can’t find it available. In fact, I haven’t seen that series at all! Here’s the wiki on the list of episodes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Around_the_World_in_80_Gardens

  4. antho says:

    amazing shell garden!
    Aloe are fantastics

  5. I don’t like the abalone shell pond per se but I love everything it stands for. I’m endlessly fascinated by Mme Walska and the choices she made. In my gardening universe, there’s nobody more intriguing.

    It’s likely our older daughter will go to college in Santa Barbara starting fall of 2016 so hopefully I’ll have more opportunities to explore the area–and go back to Lotusland.

  6. Emily says:

    The entire playlist is here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7UgX1UWvaxddtsXgFVbJbEuS2H-aTzFP Episode 5, I think. Each episode contains a series of gardens chosen to illustrate a theme of the region.

  7. Kris P says:

    It’s clearly been too long since I visited Lotusland. Perhaps this abalone shell pond was closed off for some reason when I was there – it’s inconceivable that I would have forgotten it.

  8. Denise says:

    @Antho, I have one clam shell on a pedestal as my homage to Lotusland — not the same effect tho!
    @Gerhard, with this pond she kind of anticipates the “under-the-sea” themed succulent plantings that are the rage now. I hope your daughter chooses SB!
    @Emily, thank you! Can’t wait to plow through these. Perfect August pastime.
    @Kris, becoming a member isn’t that much more than a tour ticket, and it allows you to wander at will. I’ll probably do that next year.

  9. ks says:

    I can envision the back of the pack lingering-that’s exactly what I did on my 1st visit. It was a challenge to get decent photos when trying to keep up with the tour-mom. You did well ! That’s precisely why I purchased a membership for visit two-allowing us to wander at our own pace. I wouldn’t hesitate to do that again, I just chalked it up to a vacation expense.Plus I got to share the extra pass with a friend !

  10. hoov says:

    Mme Walska was, as the hippies would say, a trip.

  11. Denise says:

    @Kathy, that visit with you spoiled me! The tour experience is quite different…
    @Hoov, I think they took lessons from her! It’s a rare thing to find someone so original.

  12. The shell fountain was not operating when we were there, nice to see water flowing in your photos. “Be brave, be fearless and it doesn’t hurt to be very, very rich”… true words those.

  13. Pam/Digging says:

    I agree, Denise. It’s hard to think of anything other than the woman behind this garden when visiting it. A cult of personality expressed in plants and design. I had a very rushed visit a couple of years ago. One day I need to return for a leisurely exploration.

  14. Anna K says:

    Smart woman to will it all to her foundation. Hopefully this means it will still be there for me to see one day. Can’t wait…

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