Words: Robin Powell
The two things most of us know about Madeira are its eponymous wine and fabulous flower, Pride of Madeira, Echium fatuosum. It’s not surprising that plants are the link: Madeira’s climate and geography make it a paradise for gardeners and growers and each spring Madeira hosts a fortnight-long Festival of Flowers. The good times and over-the top floral decorations culminate in a grand parade, with decorated floats, carpets of flowers and plenty of fabulous food and dancing.
William Reid was one of Madeira’s 19th century British entrepreneurs. He established hotels for the growing tourist trade, including the iconic Reid’s – our favourite.
The Reid family’s private park, Bom Sucesso, is now home to the Madeira Botanical Garden. Marvel at the garden familiarity of 100-plus plants that are indigenous or endemic to Madeira and the other Atlantic Islands, the Azores, Canaries and Cape Verde.
The Monte Palace, once a luxury hotel, is now a museum owned by the Portuguese art collector Jose Berardo. The museum holds one of the worlds’ most important collections of Portuguese tiles. Berardo also has an interest in gardens – those around the Berardo Museum in Lisbon are a delight – and here at the Monte Palace Japanese and Chinese gardens reference the connections between the Portuguese empire and East Asian cultures. They settle into lush tropical gardens overhung by mature tree ferns.
The main attractions here are the sensational orchids (they scoop up plenty of the trophies at the Madeira Flower Festival!). The collection is under the care of Betty Garton, who in the 1960s moved with her husband Cecil to his family’s century-old estate on Madeira. Betty’s father was a renowned orchid collector and pioneer of cymbidium hybridisation. He passed his orchid collection on to his daughter, and she has expanded it to form the amazing show at Boa Vista. And the gardens are not just about orchids – there are plenty of other tropical and subtropical exotics to admire.
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