As spring arrives in the garden in our part of Scotland in this pre-Easter week, and flowers and shrubs blaze out in sunny yellows, joyous pinks and creamy whites, I think back to our visit a few weeks ago to the Botanic Garden in Funchal, Madeira.
It was officially still winter in Madeira (though difficult to remember that given the mild weather) so we couldn’t expect vast arrays of flowers blooming their hearts out. But we weren’t disappointed by what we did see. There were plenty beds of flowers in bloom. This is, after all, a climate where bananas grow outside all year round and where the temperature rarely dips below 14°F even at night.
The Botanic Garden, like most things on Madeira, clings to a steep hillside. It borders the ravine down which fire raged during the bad forest fires in summer 2016. So it was fascinating, and heartening, to see blackened tree trunks with fresh new growth sprouting from the tops.
Much underplanting looked relatively new, so what was there was most probably also a victim of the fires, as was the nearby orchid garden which was sadly destroyed. Orchids are now readily and cheaply available in supermarkets here, but there’s something glorious about seeing them grow outside during months which, to us, mean short days and freezing temperatures.
I photographed the geometric area of planting in ruby reds and lime greens that all garden visitors snap, the photo which invariably appears in brochures, on websites and TripAdvisor.
We passed on a path above and didn’t go down to try and identify the plants. Whatever they are, they make quite a stunning, and colourful, design against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.
A favourite part for me was the area with succulents.
I loved their size, the varied leaf shapes and often twisted forms of plants that I’ve only previously known as house plants, or rather succulents, prone to death by over-watering and chilly draughts, or growing leggy and sparse in search of Mediterranean sun.
Wandering around the garden is a lovely relaxing way to spend an afternoon, though the bus journey is fairly hair-raising with narrow roads and hairpin bends, but the drivers are used to it.
Before leaving don’t forget to do as husband and I did and enjoy a half bottle of white wine and a couple of generous slices of delicious cake at the café while listening to the croaking of frogs in nearby ponds and taking in a view across Funchal to the ocean.
And then a pitstop before making our way to the bus stop.
And in case you thought I’d forgotten about the croaks, then this was one fine frog specimen in one of the ponds. Maybe if I’d kissed him he would have turned into a prince!
Lovely afternoon amongst plants.