The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 5: Gardens in Asia, America, Africa, Australia

Floating gardens of Mexico

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905. The floating gardens of Mexico have long been celebrated in history. According to the Abbe Clavigero, in his History of Mexico, when the Mexicans were brought into subjection to the Calhuan and Tepanecan nations, and confined to the miserable little islands on the lake, they ceased for some years to cultivate the land, because they had none, until necessity and industry together taught them to form moveable fields and gardens which floated on the waters of the lake. The mode of forming these of wicker-work, water-plants, and mud, may be easily conceived. The boat or basis is commonly eight perches long by three broad. They first cultivated the maize and useful plants only ; but afterwards 'there were among them gardens of flowers and odoriferous plants, which were employed in the worship of the gods, and served for the recreation of the nobles.' At present they cultivate flowers, and every sort of garden-herbs, upon them, all of which thrive surprisingly. In the largest gardens there is commonly a little tree, and even a little hut to shelter the cultivator, and defend him from rain or the sun. When the owner of a garden wishes to change his situation, to remove from a disagreeable neighbour, or come nearer to his own family, he gets into his little vessel, and by his own strength alone if the garden is small, or with aid if it be large, he tows it after him, and conducts it where he pleases with the little tree and hut on it. That part of the lake where the gardens are, is a place of infinite recreation, where the senses receive the highest possible gratification.