Home Places to visit Cool Gardens: Madeira Botanical Gardens, Funchal

Cool Gardens: Madeira Botanical Gardens, Funchal

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Botanical Gardens, above Funchal, Madeira
Botanical Gardens, above Funchal, Madeira

Taking carpet bedding to ridiculous lengths

If you’ve been to Madeira, then you’ve probably been here, whether you like gardening or not, linked as it is with central Funchal by cable car, always a bit of a tourist trap.

As one of my ‘allocation of three gardens’ on my summer holidays (the other half can only stand so much), it was the obvious choice.

You need to take two cable cars to get to the Botanical Gardens (Jardim Botânico da Madeira) – the first to Monte, then there’s a seriously steep walk to the station to take you up to the garden.

On that note, if you have health conditions, you might want to rethink – the garden paths are steep, uneven and there’s nothing to hold onto. I struggled!

The reason is that the gardens are built in terraces which overlook the João Gomes river ravine – hence the need for cable cars.

Cable car and garden confusion

To add to the cable car confusion, there’s another seriously good garden up there, the Monte Palace Tropical Garden – get off at Monte and pay separately to enter – more on that one in another post.

Incidentally, if you’re doing both gardens on the same day, the botanic garden is connected to Monte by a cable car.

The main station is inside the botanic garden, and the other is beside the Lado das Babosas Lake in Monte.

Nevertheless, once you’re there, the views over the bay and Funchal are amazing.

The garden was the former Bom Sucesso Estate, dating from 1881 and was created by the Reid family as their private park.

State-owned former private park

Opened to the public in 1960 and now state-owned, it covers an area of 80,000m² and is home to a wide variety of plants, including:

  • Madeiran indigenous and endemic species
  • An arboretum
  • Succulents
  • The much-photographed ‘carpet’ gardens and topiary
  • Agro-industrial plants
  • Medicinal and aromatic plants
  • Palm trees and cycads

Tropical orchids flower from November-March but there’s always something to see whenever you go.

There’s also a small Museum of Natural History featuring botanical, geological and zoological exhibitions.

Attached to the garden is the Jardím dos Loiros Garden, (Parrot Garden) but typically this was closed when we visited.

Not my favourite garden but…

Although there are amazing views and pretty impressive plants and planting, I didn’t really warm to the garden.

Some bits looked a little ropey, while an army of gardeners was watering and clipping the carpet bedding centrepieces. I hate it when plants spell out words – it’s like a gangster’s funeral.

Also, I do like information about plants on show, which was sadly lacking. As some of the plants were new to me, please excuse my lack of information!

To sum up: the cable car rides and views are well worth the visit and I do recommend it (unless you’re mobility impaired) but I got far more pleasure out of Funchal’s Municipal Gardens, which were free.

For more information on Madeira’s parks and gardens, visit here.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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