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33 Years After Her Death, Eccentric Opera Singer’s Garden Still Grows

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July 5, 2017 3:46 p.m.

Like many, Madame Ganna Walska came to California in search of spiritual enlightenment.

Related Story: 33 Years After Her Death, Eccentric Opera Singer’s Garden Still Grows

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Now we head up the caliphate coast to Montecito where there's an away sis you won't find on many tourist maps. It's called Lotus land a collection of beautifully landscaped gardens just south of Santa Barbara. To reflect the eccentric musical spirit of the Polish opera diva who created them. Diane Bock has a story.
In 1941 Madame Ganna Walska came to California in search of spiritual enlightenment. [ Music ] she was a Polish opera diva and toward Europe and the United States collecting numerous husbands along the way. Encouraged by her final spouse was also her yoga instructor she buys 37 acre estate Montecito but a few years later the marriage falls apart. She claims this day and calls it Lotusland.
It is impossible to separate the creation from the creator. This is a very personal garden. It is all Madame Ganna Walska. She was a collector by heart so she collected all things.
Hats and gowns and glittering gemstones to the backseat to exotic flora. She had incredible knack for showcasing her passion. She would instruct her gardeners to group hundreds of some the same plans together.
She was trying to get a hold of one of the gardeners and she would almost sing out their name. She would be singing.
Mike Furner has worked there for 38 years. He tends to the garden also known as air plants there tucked into a chanted force just beyond the secluded garden where she sometimes performed.
To me it's pretty magical walking through here. You come out of a succulent garden, and Pam, all of a sudden, you are in this tropical area, as if you were walking through the forest in Costa Rica.
A big part of the charm is a contrast between the classic elements like the impressive rose garden and the unique plant specimens that she sought out. Her final configuration is the site had garden. They look like palm trees. In 1977 she auctioned off her jewels to create this collection.
She lived here and she put a lot of her collections.
She died in 1984 and she was 96. The garden open to the public for tour's.
She was extraordinary. She did not think like anybody else but think goodness because who else would of come up with these incredible crazy, beautiful, designs and these gardens. Normal people don't do that. This is fun.
Like the lady herself her legacy is over-the-top and unforgettable.