Its luxuriant flora is, without doubt, one of the prime attractions of Madeira. A climate somewhere between temperate and subtropical fosters the growth and acclimatization of numerous plants from all round the world, while the island’s Atlantic location, in the middle of the route between Europe and the tropics, puts it at a crossroads between cultures, bringing in a flow of plants that is still fed today by its emigrant population.
The gardens of Madeira are unique because they reflect the island’s privileged position, while at the same time having an important role in the preservation not only of endemic species but also other species that are rare or on the verge of extinction.
Our proposed itinerary takes you to the Jardim Botânico, home to more than 2,000 exotic plants and a center of science and culture with a leading role in the conservation of threatened botanical species.
You will also visit Quinta das Cruzes, with its hugely varied array of plants both endemic and exotic, the Quinta da Boa Vista, where the habitats similar to the original are recreated for many species in danger of extinction, including South America bromeliads, martinets from Australia and aloes from Africa. The estate’s main attraction is its fabulous collection of orchids, whose superb hybrids arouse the curiosity of visitors. Roses of numerous colors and variety abound at Quinta do Arco, an estate that has gathered together a collection of more than 10,000 different species of rare and endangered roses, in varieties both ancient and modern.
Madeira is famous for the charm of its historical estates, famous for their lushness and variety of flora, praised by numerous travellers over the centuries.
Some estates in Madeira still belong to the same families that have owned them for generations. Each property is bordered by a garden that is, in turn, surrounded by an extensive area of vines or vegetables – the farm itself. Over the centuries, Portuguese aristocrats and British wine merchants alike have married their own stories to this island and dedicated themselves to the creation of gardens which, still today, shape the contours of the countryside. The history of the Quinta do Monte is inextricably linked to the production of Madeira wine, as its owners, the Gordon family, have long ago brought a peculiarly British flavor to the garden – one that it is still possible to find in many other gardens on the island, too. Palheiros gardens, probably amongst the island’s oldest parks, were created in 1804 and remain famous to this day for the beauty of their design on the hills of Funchal, as well as for the incredible variety of rare plants that can be found here. Palheiros is a Mecca for Camellia lovers, the main flowering season being from November to April. Visitors may be surprised to see trees such as Oak, Beech, Chestnut and Cedar growing alongside Eucalyptus and Araucaria pines, but such is the diversity of this unique garden. A special mention must also be given to the various members of the Proteaceae family that do well here even though they are generally considered difficult to grow outside their native lands. Outstanding, also, are the Silver trees (Leucodendron argenteum) and the Waratah (Telopia speciosissima), especially when you think that many of these plants are also rare in the wild.
Our last stop is Quinta da Palmeira, already considered one of the most important estates on the island by the mid 19th Century, particularly for the variety of plants originating in Australia, Africa and South America that are acclimatized and studied there – and especially for six species of fuchsia and their hybrids. The cliff-top location of the estate grants superb views over Funchal Bay – a truly memorable vista.
But the best-kept secret of the island lies in its private gardens and the special visits that we can organize to discover hidden places, making the itinerary even more unforgettable. At an estate whose origins can be traced back to the 16th Century, a farm continues to produce bananas and wine. Its garden is a repository of island fauna to savor, including Madeira geraniums (Geranium madeirensis), Madeira bluebells (Autonoe madeirensis) – the pride of Madeira – and a fabulous vanilla-scented orchid (Stanhopea tigrina). Here, each plant tells its own extraordinary story. In Vale Paraíso we will be welcomed to a charming farm. The owners’ family will take great pleasure in accompanying us on our visit and showing us the fascinating work of cataloguing the plants that is currently being undertaken. All these, are experiences that, for a day, will allow us to feel truly ‘Madeirense’.
Madeira is the perfect place to enjoy a variety of experiences linked to nature. The island’s characteristic levadas – an ingenious system of irrigation using ancient canals that bring mountain water to the slopes and valleys – offer a fascinating 1,400km course to explore the countryside of rare beauty. The laurel forest, dating back to the Tertiary Age, and survived the last glaciations, covers about 22.000 hectares of the island area. Due to its amazing richness, diversity and state of preservation UNESCO recognized and considered the Laurissilva forest a World Natural Heritage. Visitors can admire huge trees of the Laurel family (stink laurel, Ocotea foetens, laurel, Laurus Azorica, Madeira mahogany, Persea indica , Canary laurel, Apolonnias barbujana, and Madeira juniper, Juniperus cedrus) but also the enchanting Madeira orchid, Dactylorhiza foliosa, which is unique.
This special tour to discover the Gardens and Flora of Madeira can be taken as an extension of the Gardens of Lisbon and/or Porto tours, for a blooming experience of some of the best gardens in Portugal. Also you might enhance your experience in Madeira and be interested in our suggestions: