Blooms with a view

I AM ALWAYS WARY of ‘must see’ attractions because I dislike crowds and waiting in queues. So, last year when we visited Madeira, I thought it wise to avoid seeing the famous Botanical Gardens. In any case, most of Madeira’s capital, Funchal, is full of exotic plants and flowers – a veritable botanical garden in itself.

This May (2023), we decided to ‘bite the bullet’, and visit the Botanical Gardens high above Funchal. Getting there and back by local bus was easy. At the entrance to the Gardens, there was hardly any queue for tickets. And despite plenty of large tour buses parked nearby, the Gardens were not at all crowded.

Although I once owned a house with a 180 foot long garden in Gillingham, Kent, I am no gardener, and can hardly name any plant accurately. However, I love visiting gardens. The Botanical Gardens of Funchal are on the slopes of a hillside. All of the plants or groups of them are labelled. There are several terraces from which you can enjoy superb vistas of central Funchal, the sea, and the mountainous countryside.

The Gardens, which were opened to the public in 1960, are on land previously owned by William Reid, the founder of Funchal’s Reids Hotel. A bust in the garden commemorates Rui Vieira (1925-2009), a botanist who contributed much to the development of the botanical Gardens.

The highlight of the Gardens for me was a collection of mostly huge cacti, many of them bursting into flower. Everything else was also worth seeing in this well-kept, beautifully arranged garden. I am very glad that we visited this ‘must-see’ attraction on Madeira.

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