06 Apr 2016 16603
Virgílio Silva
#nature

Gardens and Flowers of Madeira

Madeira is frequently called "the floating garden”. With good reason. Because here the colours and scents of flowers can be enjoyed throughout the year, even when much of Europe is covered with snow and the low temperatures that inhibit flowering.

Thus, the Flower Festival, which brings even more flowers to the streets of Funchal for a week on Spring, actually here is celebrated all year-round.

On any given day, in any season, in gardens (public or private), small yards, the sides of the streets and roads, the lush nature, you can delight your eyes with the colours of flowering plants, from the four corners of the planet.

So we chose 15 gardens and 15 flowers for this small sample of the botanical wealth  that can be found here in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Santa Catarina Park – Erythrina speciosa

In the city center this is probably the most visited garden. It is a large green space that boasts excellent views over the harbour and the eastern part of Funchal. It is a pleasurable place for a break for those who like to walk between the tourist area and the center of Funchal.

Several species of coral trees scatter a fire like glow all over the city. In this park you can admire a few of them, like this Erythrina speciosa from Brazil.

Garden of the Princess Dona Maria Amélia Nursing Home – Dombeya wallichii

Just across the street one can find another beautiful space that almost goes unnoticed. The Princess Dona Maria Amélia nursing home has a garden that although smaller, has a botanical collection which is just as varied and well worth a visit.

Coming from East Africa and Madagascar, the Pink-Ball Tree and its outstanding hanging flowers put on an extraordinary display at the beginning of the year.

Municipal Garden of Funchal – Cassia ferruginea

Right in the heart of the city, this garden is a privileged place to meet a few more plants that are uncommon in other gardens of the island.

Such as this Golden Shower tree from Brazil, which when in bloom has a remarkable ornamental effect.

Quinta das Cruzes – Ochna serrulata

This is a small and beautiful garden that sometimes goes unnoticed by those who visit the museum at its manor house. A beautiful view to the city center, just below, can be enjoyed from here.

The Mickey Mouse Plant (from South Africa) usually attracts the attention of children, because after it looses its yellow petals, fruits become visible and when ripe are black, looking like the ears of the famous mouse.

Santa Luzia Garden – Holmskioldia tettensis

At the beginning of the ascent to Monte, the garden of Santa Luzia occupies the space left by the old Torreão sugar mill, of which remain the large main chimney and some of its machinery.

It is essentially a leisure garden but here one can also find some beautiful flowers on shrubs and trees, like this Chinese Hat plant (or Mandarin’s Hat), which owes its name to the shape of its flowers, although it comes from tropical Africa.

Quinta Palmeira — Jacaranda mimosifolia

Going up towards Monte, at about 200 meters high, we find this traditional Madeiran Quinta, which has one of the finest botanical collections of Funchal.

After going through a period of some neglect, it is under recovery by its owners and features plenty of reasons to give a happy day to any lover of flowers.

Although one can find a good number of rare plants, I chose the more common Jacaranda (from Argentina and Bolivia) as it is an icon tree of this city, filling its main streets with the strong shades of lilac at this time of year. With the yellow of the Pride of Bolivia trees, it shares the colours that decorate the flag of the municipality.

Monte’s Municipal Park - Magnolia x soulangeana

Now at over 500 meters above sea level, influenced by a more humid and not so hot climate, Monte has among other features of interest its Municipal Park, which takes advantage of the natural slope to create an extremely pleasant space to enjoy the flowers that bloom here throughout the year.

Which begins with the blooming show of a few species of Magnolia trees, such as this hybrid Saucer Magnolia created for gardens from two species from China, announcing the early arrival of Spring.

Monte Palace Tropical Garden - Leucospermum cordifolium

Also in Monte, this garden is considered one of the floral highlights of Funchal. Like its neighbouring municipal park, it takes advantage of the land’s natural slope to achieve excellent ornamental performance.

In addition to a vast collection of plants from different parts of the globe, it has an area dedicated to the native flora of Madeira.

From South Africa, origin of many of the garden’s inhabitants, I chose this striking Pincushion Protea.

Madeira Botanical Garden – Musschia aurea

Currently the island’s most visited garden with entrance fees, it is well known for the beds of flowers arranged in geometric patterns.

But this garden has many more interesting features, scattered around the themed plots where its wealth of plants is displayed, including the endemic species which the garden preserves in its seed bank.

The Madeira giant bell-flower is one such species, and its golden blooms can still be found on dry slopes near the seaside in the bay of Funchal.

Palheiro Gardens – Sparrmannia africana

If you visit the island with just enough time to visit one garden, this is the one you should not miss. It is located in the highest part of the city’s east side, near the golf course.

At any time of year you can find here many species in full bloom. Such as the striking flowers of this African Hemp.

Santo da Serra Park– Aesculus x carnea

Outside Funchal, in addition to the very nature always present around the island, there are a few places worth visiting.

In the east, the Santo da Serra Park has a collection of monumental trees that invite you to a nice walk.

In the park’s central area, a group of Red Horse-chestnuts (native to southeastern Europe) stands out in the alleys bordered by camellias and rhododendrons.

Parque do Ribeiro Frio - Isoplexis sceptrum

For many visitors Ribeiro Frio means the beginning of great levada walks. Or the tanks of farmed trout further up the road that attract the curiosity of those passing by.

But in the upper side of the park there is a small forest area which in a short and pleasant walk allows flora lovers direct contact with some of the native plants of the island’s unique Laurisilva forest.

The Giant Madeira Foxglove growing across the road draw the attention to this space and welcome the most curious. Further up, you might notice the stepped cascade that brings cold water to the trout tanks.

You will be rewarded with some more paths of rare beauty if you dare to explore a little more.

Reid’s Palace – Strongylodon macrobotrys

Back in the city, in the tourist area to the west, several hotels also have remarkable gardens.

Reid’s Palace, a symbol of the tourist tradition of the island, with over a century of history, has a garden where you can find some examples of rare plants on the island.

For its unique colour and striking beauty, I picked the Jade Vine, from the Philippines.

Vila Porto Mare – Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon'

In the Lido area, PortoBay’s Vila Porto Mare resort features a garden of extraordinary botanic wealth, displaying over 500 unique species of plants.

At one of its most discreet corners one can find this shrub, a gorgeous grevillea with blooms of lavish colours, a relative of the larger trees that at this time fill some city streets with golden shades (Grevillea robusta).

The Cliff Bay - Delonix regia

The Cliff Bay is another of the hotels of Funchal that features a garden of great beauty, taking advantage of the direct views from the cliff to the sea and the city.

In this garden I chose the Flamboyant (or Royal Poinciana), one of my favourite trees, from Madagascar. A feast for the eyes of those who take breakfast right in front of it or watch the sea sitting under the shade of the delicate texture of its leaves, especially when in midsummer it gets covered with the extraordinary red of its flowers.
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