The botanical garden at the National Palace in Mexico City is unexpected. Most people go to the Palace (Palacio Nacional) to see Diego Rivera’s murals about the history of Mexico and perhaps the temporary exhibit on the Maya, which certainly deserves a permanent home.
It’s when you leave the Palace, assuming you’ve seen everything worthwhile, that you come upon this exquisite garden and can’t quite believe it.
There is very little information available about the garden, at least on-line and in English. The plants are not marked but I did read that it is planted with a range of cactuses and specimens mostly from the southeast of Mexico. The garden itself is not new but has been restored several times. During one refurbishment it was given the name “Empress Garden” because of its proximity to a chapel that a former Empress by the name of Charlotte frequented.
The latest renovation was carried out in 2000 and was designed to represent Mexico’s desert and tropical regions. Much of Mexico is covered by arid or semi-arid vegetation such as cactus and other succulents. Succulents are sometimes called “fat plants” because they store water. They come in many shapes and sizes from small and round to tall and slim.
The National Palace garden was named a botanical garden in honour of Mexican botanists. Botanic gardens, especially those with plants of medicinal value, have existed in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times and were probably among the first botanic gardens of the Western Hemisphere.
The collection here is planted for aesthetic effect.
There’s lots of atmosphere, brought about not only by arrangements of contrasting plants and also because the pink and white backdrop is so dramatic.
Some plots are complementary and soothing.
And there are low-growing drifts. Volcanic rock is a common feature.
Some plants need no accompaniment.
Others reach for the sky.
This doesn’t seem like a botanical garden, more like a work of art, and it was a pleasure to come upon.
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses 2014