Guest Author - Ann Carroll Burgess
Funchal, the capital of the island of Madeira, is situated some 350 miles from North Africa. Caressed by the warming Gulf Stream, the island has a well-deserved nickname as a “floating garden.” You cannot help but think of the word profusion when you see the large variety and masses of flowers. The islands when we visited in late April were filled with fuchsias, birds of paradise, poppies and orchids all in bloom. The effect of all the masses of flowers is close to overpowering so vivid is the landscape. No wonder so many poets and writers have written of the scented nights of the island.
For the gardening enthusiast, Funchal truly is a paradise with many local gardens such as the Madeira Botanical Garden, about 3km from the city centre. Within the 8 hectares are the Gardens with 3,000 plants from all over the globe and 200 from Madeira itself; the Natural History Museum is here with 15,000 specimens on display; and at the southern end of the Garden you will find the Loire Parque that is home to 300 species of exotic birds including cockatoos, parrots and lories. The Garden is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm. There is an admission fee of 4 Euros or about $6 USD.
Other green spaces include the Orchid Garden in Funchal. Located on Rua Pita da Silva 37, the garden is open from 9 am to 6 pm. Admission is 5 Euros or about $8 USD.
To gain a perspective on the full scope of Madeira’s botanical life a visit to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden is a must. Covering almost 70,000 square meters it is filled with plants from Madeira and all over the globe mixed with numerous works of art from local artisans.
The slopes of Eden would be a good title for the Palheiro Gardens, considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens on the island of Madeira. The Count Carvalhal built a hunting lodge here in 1801 with an entrance way of over 200 plane trees. The estate was purchased by the Blandy family in 1885 and was responsible for creating more gardens. Visitors can divide their time between the Main Garden, the Sunken Garden, the Riberiodo Inferno, a Rose Garden and a Tea House area filled with Brazilian araucarias and New Zealand metrosideros. The gardens are open daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm, except December 25 and January 1. The admission fee is 10.50 Euros or about $13 USD.
It is not a garden, but it should not be missed. That is Cape Girao at Camara de Lobos. This is a 580 meter tall promontory, the highest in Europe. The views are spectacular from this vantage point. In 2012, a skywalk was built with a steel frame and a glass floor that gives you the feeling of being suspended in mid-air above the ocean. And, the area surrounding the viewpoint is also flower-filled.