The Flowers And Gardens Of Madeira
By Florence Du Cane

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13 chapters

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6 minute read

INTRODUCTION The very name of Madeira (or island of timber, as the word signifies) brings to the minds of most people a suggestion of luxuriant vegetation flourishing in a damp, enervating climate. Such, indeed, was my own mental picture of Madeira before my first visit to the island. I expected to find every garden with the aspect of a fernery, moisture dripping everywhere, and the hills clothed with the remains of the primeval forests. The latter might possibly still have existed had it not been for the zeal of the discoverers of the island in making use of their discovery from a utilitarian point of view, and cutting clearings for the cultivation of the rich and fertile land. In order to clear the ground of the forests, which we are told clothed the island to its very shores, the drastic measure of setting fire to it was resorted to: hence...


10 minute read

PORTUGUESE GARDENS I have often been asked whether the Portuguese have any distinctive form of gardening, and in answer I can only say that, though there is no attempt to compete with the grand terraced gardens of Italy or France, or the prim conventionality of the gardens of the Dutch, still the little well-cared-for garden of the Portuguese has a great charm of its own. Here, in Madeira, their gardens are usually on a very small, almost diminutive, scale, according to our ideas of a garden. In the mother-country, where they probably surround more imposing houses, they may attain to a larger scale, but of that I know nothing. The love of gardening, unfortunately, seems to be dying out among the Portuguese in Madeira, and many a garden which was formerly dear to its owner, each plant being tended with loving hands, has now fallen into ruin and decay. The...


18 minute read

VILLA GARDENS TO THE WEST OF FUNCHAL The miniature gardens described in the previous chapter, which, as a rule, surround the more humble dwellings of the Portuguese, frequently only cover the small piece of ground at the back of the town house, which is either converted into the backyard and rubbish-heap, decorated with old tins and broken china, or converted into a little paradise of flowers, according to the temperament and taste of its owner. Apart from these are the larger gardens surrounding the villas, or quintas , on the outskirts of the town. Most of these gardens are owned by English residents, and to them Madeira owes the introduction of many floral treasures. The first impression of these gardens, taken from a general point of view, is that they are lacking in form, the idea conveyed being that the original owner of the garden made it without any definite...


14 minute read

VILLA GARDENS TO THE EAST OF FUNCHAL On the east side of the town lie many quintas with good gardens, especially up the very steep Caminho do Monte, or Mount Road, as it is commonly called by the English. The road itself at some seasons of the year is converted into a veritable garden, as its high wall is so clothed with overhanging creepers which have strayed from the gardens behind, that it presents more the aspect of the terrace wall of a flower garden than that of one of the most frequented highroads of a town. At a height of between 500 and 600 feet, just below the level road which crosses it, which is known as the Levada da Santa Luzia, several villas seem to vie with each other as to which can contribute the greatest wealth of plants to decorate the walls. Possibly the best moment to...


9 minute read

VILLA GARDENS TO THE EAST OF FUNCHAL ( continued ) The Quinta do Til is one of the oldest villas in Funchal, and a description of it is to be found in “Rambles in Madeira and Portugal,” published anonymously in the early part of 1826, in which the writer says: “The Til is a villa in the Italian style, and possesses much more architectural pretensions than any I have seen here; but it has never been finished, and what has, bears evident symptoms of neglect. The name comes from a remarkably fine til , one of the indigenous forest trees of the island, which stands in the garden, ingens arbos faciemque simillima lauro : it is, I believe, of the laurel tribe. In the court, too, is an enormous old chestnut, the second largest in the island.” QUINTA DO TIL The effect of the garden never having been finished is...


9 minute read

THE PALHEIRO About an hour’s ride from the town, at a height of some 1,800 or 2,000 feet, is the Palheiro, formerly known as Palheiro de Ferreiro (Blacksmith’s Hut), the principal country place in the neighbourhood of Funchal, belonging to the same owner as the Quinta Santa Luzia. The road leads past many smaller villas, whose gardens have most of them fallen into decay, and only undergo a hurried process of tidying when their Portuguese owner comes to spend a few weeks away from the summer heat of Funchal. Palheiro was not entirely laid out by its present owner, though the grounds have been very much enlarged and improved, and the house itself, having been destroyed by fire a few years ago, has been lately rebuilt. Some letters from Madeira, written by J. Driver and published in 1834, give the following interesting account of Palheiro, which in those days belonged...


6 minute read

CAMACHA AND THE MOUNT The road past Palheiro leads, through pine woods and long stretches of yellow broom and golden gorse, to the little mountain village of Camacha. Probably the village has become noted for its flowers from the fact that many English people, in the days when travelling was not so easy, used to make this place their summer-quarters, instead of returning to England, as they mostly do in these days of quick travelling. WISTARIA, QUINTA DA LEVADA One garden I can recall which, though now neglected, still shows how it was once well cared for. Though the turf is no longer mown, and the box hedges have lost some of their trimness, the beds are still full of what were once treasured plants. The rose-garden no longer sees the knife of the pruner, but the trees grow and flower at their own sweet will, in careless disorder. It...


13 minute read

A RAMBLE IN THE HIGHER ALTITUDES The Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte is the starting-point of many an expedition made by those who have a wish to see more of the beauties of the island than can be done within the restricted area of Funchal. Should the Metade Valley be the point chosen, or the bleak Pico Ariero, with its enchanting views, or should the traveller be bent on a longer tour, and be proposing to make the little village of Santa Anna his headquarters for seeing the beautiful scenery of the north side of the island, the road up to a height of some 4,500 feet will be the same. Gradually the steep path winds its way through the fir woods, which in the early morning while the dew is still on them, exude a delicious aromatic scent, and the bushes of the little red Fuchsia coccinea and...


8 minute read

A RAMBLE ALONG THE COAST The vegetation along the seashore is naturally very different to that at a higher altitude. Wherever it has been found possible, the ground has been brought into cultivation, even up to a height of 2,500 feet. Pressed by the ever-increasing population, and the consequent need of more food for more mouths, the country-people are continually bringing into cultivation fresh patches of ground. No minute piece seems to be wasted, and many an odd corner and neglected patch which, from its steepness or the poor quality of soil, escaped cultivation in years gone by, being rejected as incapable of bringing any return for the vast labour which has to be applied to it in the first instance, has been, as it were, pressed into service of late years. The larger expanses of cultivated ground have been utilized for the profitable and ever-increasing sugar crop, and these...


10 minute read

CREEPERS The year opens in Madeira with a wealth of blossom, as in the month of January the bougainvilleas, for which Madeira is so justly famous, will be in all their flaunting beauty. It is true that the lilac-coloured Bougainvillea glabra will have already shed most of its blossoms, as it is a summer-flowering creeper, but it is replaced by so many other varieties that its pale beauty is forgotten. The brick-red coloured Bougainvillea spectabilis —which must have the full force of the sun upon it in order to bring out its colour to the best advantage, being apt otherwise to look a false colour—when grown over pergolas, or corridors as they are called in Madeira, or allowed to wander at will over a wall or bank, provides a gorgeous mass of colour. I had seen bougainvilleas in other countries, but only grown against walls, and closely cropped by shears,...


30 minute read

TREES AND SHRUBS The list of indigenous and naturalized trees and shrubs growing in Madeira is such a long and varied one that it is not surprising that Captain Cook, in his account of his first voyage, should have said: “Nature has been so liberal in her gifts to Madeira. The soil is so rich, and there is such a variety of climate, that there is scarcely any article, either of the necessaries or luxuries of life, which could not be cultivated there.” The place of honour among the island trees must be given to those belonging to the laurel tribe, of which there are a great number, and splendid specimens still remain in the country, survivors of the wholesale destruction of the primeval forests. To this tribe belongs the til, one of the most beautiful of evergreen trees, its shiny green leaves contrasting admirably with the light grey bark...


1 minute read

PAINTED BY ELLA DU CANE DESCRIBED BY FLORENCE DU CANE SQUARE DEMY 8VO., CLOTH, GILT TOP, CONTAINING 50 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR. Price 20 /- net. Post free 20/6. Morning Post. —“Taken as a whole, this ‘gardening’ book is one of the most fascinating that has ever been published, and is worthy of its most fascinating title. Its pictures are all of them beautiful, and admirably reproduced, and the letterpress matches them well.” Guardian. —“Miss Ella Du Cane catches no little of the Japanese spirit, its delicate harmonies of colour, its wonderful use of blended washes in preference to our cruder European methods of manipulating sharply contrasted tints, its careful study of line, and its studied suppression of all hardness. The whole forms a singularly attractive gift-book.” Daily News. —“This is so charming a collection of the dainty landscape scenery for which Japan is now well known that we should...


1 minute read

PAINTED BY ELLA DU CANE DESCRIBED BY RICHARD BAGOT SQUARE DEMY 8VO., CLOTH, GILT TOP, CONTAINING 69 FULL-PAGE FACSIMILE REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOUR. Price 20 /- net. Post free 20/6. Globe. —“Especially noteworthy for the lightness and delicacy of the artist’s touch, and the felicity of her colouring as appropriate to the scenery it represents. The text is a capable accompaniment, supplying much information of a useful and interesting character.” Standard. —“‘The Italian Lakes’ have, perhaps, never been more superbly depicted in all the richness of glowing colour than in the illustrations to this attractive fine art volume. We take up the book, and in a moment London and all its fogs are forgotten, and we seem to escape, as by magic, from the madding crowd, to one of the fairest regions in the world. Mr. Bagot has quick eyes for the picturesque, and writes with admirable restraint in the romantic...