Halfway between the tropics and the old continent, Madeira Island is home to some of the most beautiful gardens in Portugal. Private and public gardens, historic gardens and contemporary parks, Madeira Island offers a profusion of experiences for amazing garden tours in Portugal. Among the landscape jewels of Madeira Island, the Palheiro gardens are certainly an obligatory stop.
Palheiro Gardens: amazing botanic on Madeira Island
Set on the hills to the east of Funchal, the capital of Madeira Island, the Palheiro Gardens are located at about 500 meters above sea level.
The property was bought in 1801 by the Count of Carvalhal, one of the wealthiest landowners of Madeira (it is said that he owned one third of the island). He built a hunting lodge with a generous carriage entrance of 200 plane trees and handed the garden design to a French landscape gardener who opened the way to one of the most flamboyant gardens in Madeira Island. About 10.000 camellia trees were planted, and these are among the various centennial trees that can still be seen around the Count’s house (it has been renovated in 1997 and is now a superb hotel, a member of the Relais & Chateaux).
The rebirth of Palheiro: Madeira Island’s garden of Eden
After the Count’s death, in 1885 the huge estate was in evident decay, as it had been practically abandoned by the Count’s heirs. Palheiro was then bought by John Blandy, an Englishman who had settled in Madeira Island. With the Blandy family, the Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro (named after a blacksmith’s hut) experienced a marvelous rebirth. The park was embellished with more trees, exotic plants, including proteas from South Africa and many other unique botanical species. In 1889, a new house was built, on a higher ground, to fully enjoy the stunning views over Funchal. This typically Arts & Crafts style cottage is another symbol of the English influence of Palheiro, a fabulous garden where broad avenues and intersecting walks, typical of geometric design, harmonize with more intimate areas (such as the lovely “Sunken garden”) and naturalist settings.
Palheiro Garden: a top-class garden destination on Madeira Island
Praised as one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, Palheiro gardens are one of the 5 Portuguese gardens included in the book “The Gardener’s Gardens” by Phaidon Press. Episode Travel tailor-made garden tours in Portugal are a great way of discovering this and other botanical treasures. At Palheiro gardens, some of the most astonishing treasures on Madeira island await you: around the teahouse, a centennial Brazilian araucaria and a magnificent New Zealand metrosideros; the chestnuts and the collection of camellia, the amazing topiary, the perfumed rose garden, the lakes and fish ponds, and the beautiful flower beds, in a myriad of colors and scents, on the terraces.