Diana Lawrenson

— Writer —

Diana Lawrenson Pages to Places Blog

Welcome to my blog that takes you from pages to places. Come and discover some quirky, little-known, or loose-but-relevant links from books to places around the world. You might even like to add a book suggestion of your own to the topic.

30 November 2016 | Santa Barbara, USA


Cactus bloom, Lotusland, Santa BarbaraTwice my book group has had expatriate Americans as temporary members, each for several years. The first, after returning to the US has paid us occasional subsequent visits – timed to coincide with one of our meetings. When two of us visited these members in California, the second told us she was taking us to Lotusland in Santa Barbara. We’d never heard of it.

We arrive on a hot sunny day and walk up the entrance drive lined with agave and succulents. The climate is perfect for cacti, cycads and euphorbias growing in their designated beds, while cliveas in bloom brighten the dry, shaded areas beneath trees. But it isn’t all dry. The large pond in the Japanese Garden was originally the property’s natural catchment area for rain run-off, and Lotusland’s swimming pool has been converted into a lake for lotuses, Garden Theatre, Lotuslandwaterlilies and papyrus.

Golden Barrel cacti, LotuslandWe move on to golden barrel cacti clad in threatening spines, nestling like oversized tennis balls at the base of prickly euphorbias. Surrounding a house they’re a burglar’s nightmare. In contrast is the Theatre Garden where shrubbery forms the stage wings and the audience sits on three tiers of grass and sandstone to watch performances.

Prior to becoming Lotusland in 1941 the property had a horticultural phase and an orchard of fruit varieties remains. We gasp whenLemon Tree Walk, Lotusland we come across the lemon tree walk. In Melbourne practically every home garden has a lemon tree, but in Lotusland the branches have been trained over a long pergola and on the day we visit they’re in full fruit: yellow orbs shaded by lime green leaves beneath a sapphire sky. Magnificent.

Lotusland, described in the UK press as one of the ten best gardens in the world, was created over 40 years by Polish opera singer, Madame Ganna Walska, and her gardener. Many rare plants are among the 3000 on view in 21 specialty gardens. If it hadn’t been for a friendship through book group I’d never have known about this garden like no other.



  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner
  • All That I Am by Anna Funder
  • The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Colour Bar by Susan Williams
  1. Yes, I agree, another beautifully written post, Diana. I’m going to refer it to my sister who is an avid gardener. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Corinne. Gardeners are a very special breed – and always likeable.

  2. Another wonderful read Diana, I would love a lemon tree over a pergola, have never heard it before.
    Have a wonder Christmas 🙂

    1. Happy Christmas to you and your family, Liz. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a lemon tree over a pergola – like you, I’d love one, but there’s not nearly enough room in our garden.

  3. Another beautiful post, Diana. It is such a pleasure to read them. As my WIP has a botanist who is bringing an abandoned garden back to life I rather like the idea of having an old lemon tree walk in there somewhere! I need to do lots of research!
    I look forward to your posts
    Best, Elise

    1. So glad you like it, Elise. I’d seen lemon trees espaliered, but never before trained over a pergola – it was truly beautiful. Would love to know if you do include a lemon tree walk in your story.

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