MONTECITO, Calif. (AP) — The botanical gardens at Lotusland, near Santa Barbara, California, offer a meditative retreat outdoors during the coronavirus outbreak.

Consider the Japanese Garden, which opened in June 2019 after a $6 million, 11-year renovation under the stewardship of former Lotusland CEO, Gwen Stauffer. Footpaths are lined with Japanese-style vintage lanterns, and plants such as azaleas, bamboo, camellias and star magnolias. Trees include cherry blossoms and gingko; an antique Buddha statue along one path serenely holds a floral offering beneath a Japanese maple.

A viewing deck and footbridge cross a koi pond with lotuses. The open-air pavilion, built next to a waterfall, offers a peaceful space for contemplation with a view of the dry garden's raked sand, rocks and boulders, with a reflective pond and wide expanse of garden beyond.

Lotusland's gardens were created on a 37-acre estate about 100 miles north of Los Angeles by Ganna Walska, an eccentric Polish opera singer and spiritual seeker. They opened to the public in 1993.

For the 1.5-acre Japanese garden, she worked with Lotusland gardener Frank Fujii beginning in the late 1960s. They and stone mason Oswald Da Ros selected stones, lanterns and plants. Fujii continued the work after Walska’s passing in 1984 until his retirement in 2007. Also on the project was Koichi Kawana, a lecturer at UCLA who specialized in Japanese garden design. His contributions included a Shinto-style shrine added to the garden in a new grove of conifers.

Changes in the recent renovation included a new pond, a viewing deck for a closer experience of the koi and lotuses, and handicapped-accessible footpaths and bridges. Some plants and trees were added, and others replaced.

For visitors, advance reservations are required.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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