Delightful island mixes the sub-tropical, houseplants and traditional garden plants
Another in my Cool Gardens series, where I report on as many gardens as my family and friends will put up with on our travels. This time – Funchal Municipal Garden, Madeira.
Madeira is known as a gardener’s paradise and now that I’ve visited, I’d urge everyone to go to this lovely Portuguese island.
Located in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Canaries, it has the perfect climate for growing – a real ‘Goldilocks’ island, not too hot, not too cold.
The capital, Funchal, is beautiful, overflowing with all sorts of botanical gems, nowhere more so than the Municipal Garden, also known as Dona Amélia Garden.
It’s located right in the city centre near the Cathedral Se, opposite the Municipal Theatre and The Ritz Madeira Restaurant Cafe and Bar.
A large pond and fountain fill one corner and the park is shaded by huge, mature tropical trees, most of which were unknown to me.
Perfect picnic spot
An ideal place for a picnic, it has a small amphitheatre and a craft market was being held there on Saturdays.
The garden is built on the remains of the Convent of Saint Francis once stood (you can still see the coat of arms) and covers an area of 8,300 m2.
Packed with plants from Madeira and all over the world, its charm comes from the juxtaposition of what we in the UK would seem as odd bedfellows.
There are ‘houseplants’ as bedding, traditional roses, hollyhocks and Shasta daisies mixed with subtropical planting and huge examples of Swiss cheese plants (Monstera deliciosa) which you’ll see everywhere in Madeira.
And the best thing about the gardens? They’re free and so obviously treasured by locals and tourists alike.
Funchal travel tips
- Where: Funchal Municipal Garden (Jardim Municipal)
- Address: Rua Ivens, Funchal, Madeira
- Facilities: None but plenty of bars, restaurants, etc over the road.
- Madeira tips: Try to stay in the old town and avoid the hotel zone, which is a taxi ride away from anything interesting in Funchal. We stayed in the quirky Hotel do Carmo (https://www.hoteldocarmomadeira.com/), equidistant between the Cathedral and market. Rooms have individual 1960s themes (we had The Beatles room) and a rooftop pool with excellent views over the bay.
- Best bar: Funchal Beer Festival is in June but if you miss that, you can’t beat The Black Pearl, Rua Joao Tavira 59, FB blackpearlsnackbar.blackpearlsnackbar. Andres, his wife Jackie and brother Eusebio made us very welcome during the World Cup! Food is excellent, especially the local speciality, bolo de caco (Madeiran sweet potato bread, a bit like a stottie, filled with garlic butter, steak and mustard).
- Beer: The local brew is Coral, a refreshing lager, good in the heat. There’s also a stout available.
Other plants I couldn’t resist…
Here’s a slack handful of plants photographed around Funchal and during a trip to the north of the island, including a slightly blurry Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans) growing wild – I was in a jeep!