The original house was not blue; we know this from childhood photos taken by her photographer father. Painting the house blue was done later, when she and Diego lived there. Today it still features that color known as “azul anil,” believed to prevent evil from entering. Since then even more colors have been added giving the space a more festive overall appeal.
CANARY YELLOW FURNITURE
Today the courtyard is used for visitors after they’ve toured the house. The traditional painted Mexican furniture is bright canary yellow, a color that is complementary to the blue so it really pops. Imagine your own garage sale finds painted like this against a blue background.
Few flowers bloom at Casa Azul due to the tall tree canopy that shades the garden. The space was sun-filled in Frida’s early days, when vintage photos show white hairy “old man” cactus and other sun lovers thriving there. The current gardeners have preserved the madonna lilies that grow all over Coyoacan like weeds. They also exploit impatiens, our shade garden annuals that grow large and lacy in that mild winter climate. Other plants common there are grown in pots along the many low seatwalls. Spider plants and sansevieria, both frost-tender, are common here, as well as a series of leatherleaf bergenia in terra cotta pots.
Both Diego and Frida were avid collectors of pre-Columbian statuary and architectural pieces yielded from the early excavations of Aztec ruins. Much of her chunky jewelry came from actual finds in the diggings. The reverence for the history of Mexico prior to Cortez demonstrates the strong nationalistic fever of the day that drove so many of Rivera’s mural subjects.
It takes a lot of guts to paint anything azul anil because it’s such a super potent color, but once it’s there as a background, the entire space changes. It did so in that old colonial with the modern expansion, and then with color and artifact and stone, the garden evolved from a creative woman’s oasis that now can be felt by everyone willing to visit the “place of the coyotes” to experience firsthand the place she called home.
Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.MoPlants.com