Opera diva Ganna Walska acquired the 37-acre Lotusland property in 1941. Originally owned by British horticulturist Ralph Kinton Stevens, and named Tanglewood, it was planted with many unusual specimens. Subsequent landowners Mr. and Mrs. E. Palmer Gavit renamed the estate Cuesta Linda and commissioned Reginald Johnson to design the Spanish-Colonial Revival residence in 1919. Santa Barbara architect George Washington Smith remodeled the house and built the swimming pool and pink perimeter wall. Horticulturalist Peter Riedel designed the gardens.
Walska’s primary landscape architect, Lockwood de Forest, Jr., initially designed the garden renovations. Santa Barbara Superintendent of Parks, Ralph T. Stevens was hired as horticulturist in response to Walska’s desire for a more complex plant palette.
The grounds evolved to include a Grotto, the Theatre, and a variety of themed gardens: Blue, Topiary, Japanese, Butterfly, and Australian. Different gardens were devoted to a various genera including cacti and euphorbias, bromeliads, cycads and ferns. A new swimming pool was constructed and the original converted to a water garden. Other consultants, plantsmen, and landscape designers (such as William Paylen, Oswald da Ros, and Charles Glass) contributed to the expansion of the garden and horticultural collections, always directed closely by Madame Walska herself. Since her death in 1984, Lotusland has been open to the public as a botanical garden of rare plants.