The Dunlap Cactus Collection at Lotusland

 Merritt Sigsbee Dunlap began collecting cactus in 1929 after a road trip to Coachella when he was student at UCLA. One can only speculate how long it must have taken to get from Westwood to Palm Springs in the 1920s, and what prompted him to make this journey  was not mentioned in any of the sources I found. The internet was not particularly fertile when it came to Mr Dunlap, but I eventually was able to stitch together some background thanks to the LA Times and Pacific Horticulture. Dunlap met Madame Ganna Walska in 1941 when he was stationed in Santa Barbara as an army engineer. They were both collectors and I would suppose paths of collectors crossed back in the 40's much like they do today.  He served in WW2, lived in Glendale post war with a career in municipal engineering  and at some point in the 70's moved himself and his cactus collection to the avocado belt town of Fallbrook in North San Diego County. In the 1960's he expressed his intent to  bequeath his collection to Lotusland. The Wiki entry on Fallbrook lists notable residents and although Duke Snider, Jason Mraz and Howard Keel are on the list, Mr Dunlap is not.
This 2005 column in Pacific Horticulture is the most detailed I found concerning the cactus garden and the background of how it came to be.

  I was the lone human in this garden on an overcast Friday morning, and I took many photos and though not perfect the light was significantly better than I had experienced on any of my other visits to Lotusland. The collection primarily exists of columnar catcus and feels quite enveloping as you stroll along the winding paths.

 Bench at the entry ...don't lean back to far!





 The stonework in this section of the garden is really well done. It certainly evokes a desert atmosphere and the shapes and placement enhance the experience.





 One of the rock work features is a central raised terrace that affords a 360 degree view of the garden below. Here the steps ascend.


And the view from the top of the steps.






 Elsewhere in the garden a few were blooming.





Hechtia lantana..pretty damn cool.


 Labels were rare in this part of the garden, but the enjoyment was unaffected.

















 Lotusland was under mandatory evacuation at least 4 times that I know of during the destructive Thomas fire , and the mudslides that resulted from the burning of vegetation that holds the hillsides in place. Thankfully it was spared from both of these horrific events. Many were not so lucky.

Comments

  1. Oh Kathy, your photos are wonderful! They have a magically immersive quality to them, from the sharpness, or the lighting, or the composition, or just the overall talent of the photographer. Thanks for sharing them.

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    1. Thank you so much Alison, that is such a nice compliment, and I'm glad you got enjoyment out of them. I certainly enjoyed taking them.

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  2. Both times I've been to Lotusland this area was in the baking hot sun. The heat feels appropriate but doesn't make one want to linger too long to inspect. Your photos are scrumptious!

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    1. Me too Loree, even though I make it a point never to go to Socal later than the end of April. I was thrilled with the cloud cover, and took way more photos in the cactus garden than on any of my previous visits.

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  3. I REALLY need to make another trip to Lotusland - soon! Great photos, as always. I'm glad your trip was timed between rainstorms.

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    1. I sure lucked out in the weather dept Kris. There was rain on and off my whole road trip but it always seemed to come either overnight or after I was back to my hotel for the day. Every plant everywhere I went was rain-clean and happy.

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    2. Mr. Dunlap was the father of my schoolmate Joe Dunlap - born 1947, and adopted by him and Dorothy Dunlap (who was my piano teacher in Glendale)...they had a hillside home, and "Sigs" was always tending to his cacti there. Joe died in his early 20's, I'd guess - possibly a suicide.

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  4. "Lone human" -- what a treat! And the photographic results are spectacular. Nice to know a little more on Dunlap, thanks. I was just talking to a resident of Fallbrook and mentioned the avocados, received a funny look back, and then was informed there's no more avocados -- not enough water. Marty's brother in the '80s grew avocados in Fallbrook, but I guess times have changed...

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    1. I don't expect I will ever experience being pretty much by myself at Lotusland again, so I am reflecting on it as much as possible. It was kind of magic-y.
      So interestingly when I was trying to find info on Dunlaps garden in Fallbrook I went to the citys' website. They have an Avocado Festival coming up in April and the marketing info includes a flyover of the av groves.There also seems to be some political issues (aren't there always ?)with water in the region. And science weighs in too, the water is salty (Colorado River water) and that has an adverse effect. That salty C. River water was an issue when I lived in San Diego 30 years ago.

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  5. Oh my. This is so far from what I could ever dream of creating or even witnessing in my neck of the woods. Perhaps somewhere under glass! Whoever knew cactuses could be arranged so artfully.

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    1. The designer of this garden surely had vision Jessica, and the climate in southern California is spot-on for something like this with its' average rainfall of 10 or 12 inches a year and very low humidity.

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  6. What a spectacular collection and a special treat to be the lone human to enjoy it in favorable weather and light conditions!

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    1. How I loved my lone human stroll through this garden.It was a gift !

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  7. Too many humans, not enough plants. But in the case of this Lotusland visit, the right proportion.

    Well composed photos. The light perhaps a bit too soft, but better than harsh hot summer light with too many shadows.

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    1. It seems like we never have the 'perfect' light do we ? It started raining as I was heading to the parking lot to leave. And definitely better than afternoon sun !

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