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The New Cactus Garden at Lotusland

Articles: The New Cactus Garden at Lotusland

View towards the surrounding woodland. Photographs by Steven Timbrook

The completion of the Cactus Garden at Lotusland in spring, 2003, was the realization of a project that actually had its beginning in 1929, when Merritt “Sigs” Dunlap bought his first potted cactus plant. Three passions—Sigs’s for cacti, Eric Nagelman’s for striking design, and Lotusland’s for sustainable horticulture and environmental awareness—have come together in this new garden with spectacular results.

The Cactus Garden occupies nearly three-quarters of an acre in a previously unlandscaped area at the eastern edge of the Lotusland property. Its core plantings come from Sigs’s cactus collection, which he amassed over his lifetime and which numbered over 1,000 plants at its peak in the 1960s. Sigs and Madame Walska met in 1941, when he served as an officer stationed in Santa Barbara. They maintained their friendship over the years; Sigs and his wife Dorothy visited Lotusland and Madame Walska several times. Sigs offered to leave his collection to Lotusland in 1966, at the suggestion of Charles Glass, a well-known cactus and succulen...

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