San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Mexico is full of out-of-the-way visual gems like this one in the State of San Luis Potosi. Located just outside of Xilitla in a a place called Las Pozas (the pools), Edward James Garden is a surreal delight.
On our first visit here we were escorted through the park by a guide whose father had worked for Edward James. He regaled us with stories of his childhood spent playing in the garden and the eccentricities of ‘the old man’ his father worked for.
But let me digress. Who was Edward James anyway? He was born in England in 1907 to very wealthy parents. He was a poet and loved the surrealistic arts. He became good friends with Salvador Dali and sponsored him during the time he painted his most celebrated works. Edward eventually amassed a huge collection of surrealist paintings that he eventually sold to finance the creation of his ‘garden of Eden’ at Las Pozas.
Edward traveled to Mexico in the 1940’s and with his friend, Plutarco Gastelum, discovered this beautiful area of cloudforest located 610m above sea level. He was enchanted with the peace and beauty of the place. He envisioned creating a garden full of exotic orchids and surreal architecture and sculptures- a haven for native plants, birds, and other creatures. But even the best plans can go awry. After planting more than 29,000 orchids in the garden, a freak, killing frost took out most of them in the 1960’s. According to our guide, Edward was devastated by the loss. He decided that because the climate was unpredictable, he would not replant but would have sculptures of flowers placed throughout the garden instead. It took more than 30 years to build all the structures at Las Pozas. The work continued until Edward’s death in 1984.
The Gastelum family inherited the property and according to the information plaque at the entrance, the Xilitla fund was formed by a number of stakeholders including state government, the Pedro and Elena Hernandez A.C. Foundation and other corporations and private citizens to maintain the gardens and structures.
Wandering the many paths through the garden will lead to startling discoveries, such as stairs to nowhere, arches and gates at odd angles, tall pedestals and stylized cement flowers. The cement basin in the middle of a waterfall was Edward James favourite place to spend a hot summer’s day according to our guide. Naked, he would float there for hours – a bizarre sight for a young boy!
Give yourself at least an afternoon to experience Edward James Garden and bring a bathingsuit. There are natural pools open to the public to cool off in after exploring the garden. For more information or hours of operation, visit the official website: http://www.xilitla.org/