The brave and bright colours of Mexico’s flowers embody the soul of the nation and are as highly prized today as they were in Aztec times. Many flowers are still cultivated in the ancient floating gardens of Xochimilo in Mexico City and sold in the sprawling flower markets. Mexicans and tourists alike arrive on boats to visit these unique gardens where dahlias, bougainvillea, lilies and even bonsai and cacti are growing.
Flowers in Mexico are not only admired for their beauty, many are also endowed with a deep-rooted cultural significance that dates back to pre-Hispanic times. In Aztec times, the temples would have been dripping with flowers and the priests festooned in garlands. It was not permitted to enter the presence of royalty without a floral offering, and some flowers were only allowed to be carried by those with blue blood. Still today the shamans, magic men and women of Mexico, use flowers, herbs and tree resin to heal, purify and ward off evil, with a few using them for black magic.
The most characteristic and prevalent flower of Mexican culture is the marigold. Huge piles of orange and yellow marigolds together with red cockscomb line the roads in the run up to Day of the Dead. Millions of blooms will adorn alters, cemeteries and graves, drenching the nation in their heady, sweet scent. Part of a tradition dating back to Aztec times, the bright colour and pungent aroma guides the souls of those gone before back to their loved ones who gather at the graveside to enjoy their company for one night a year.