Travel Pics Theme: G for Gardens. Funchal Flower Festival

Funchal Flowers

Funchal Flowers

This week, our Travel pics series is G for Gardens.

Funchal, on the island of Madeira, is justifiably known for its flowers – whether in a formal botanical garden like these or in roadside beds beside the route of the annual Flower Festival.

Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal, about 800km west of Morocco, and about 900km south west of the Portuguese mainland.

While it had been known about since the time of Pliny, it hadn’t been colonised until 1419.

Or at least, not colonised by people. Mice had apparently arrived there, probably on a visiting Viking ship, sometime around 500 years earlier.

Madeira’s original name was Ilha De Madeira – or Island of the Woods. It was heavily forested, until Europeans arrived, but is now almost all agricultural land .. because the Portuguese deliberately burned down the trees, in fires that reportedly burned for seven years without a break. They then planted sugar cane, brought in African slaves (who they worked to death and then simply replaced with more slaves) – and hence started an economic model that spread across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and brought hundreds of years of misery.

Such an ugly history, for such a pretty place.

Part of Madeira’s prettiness comes from its horticulture .. and particularly its floriculture.

One of the island’s top tourist attractions is the Madeira Botanical Gardens in the hills above Funchal, the capital city.

It’s been open to the public for more than 50 years, and was originally a private garden in the estate of a local hotelier’s family.

Besides a bird park and natural history museum, it has a much-photographed checker-board of flowers, plus a topiary exhibition, hundreds of Madeiran indigenous and introduced species, ponds, and walking trails, and rockeries. Oh, so many rockeries.

Everywhere you look, there are rockeries and garden-beds, with native and introduced flowers bursting with colour.

We were on Madeira on the final day of the annual Flower Festival, and the taxi-driver who was showing us around was quick to show us example after example of flower festivities – from the huge living carpet which covered the main street of Funchal to rockeries and displays hidden away in front yards and lookouts, and of course to the Flower Parade, which was celebrating its 15th anniversary.

Unfortunately, we were unable to stay and watch the parade – because our ship was due to sail as the parade ended, and we would never have got back on board through the tens of thousands of people lining the waterfront road between us and the wharf 🙂

So we had to get ahead of the floats, and reboard – but then got to stand on the Lido deck of our ship and watch the parade as it wound its way past us in all its colourful glory.

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