Madeira is a beautiful, verdant volcanic island rising high above the Atlantic, some five hundred miles off the North African coast. Every inch of workable land is cultivated with pocket-handkerchief terraces growing a vast array of tropical and subtropical crops. Madeira means timber, and was originally covered in dense laurel forest, which still exists intact in much of the interior. The discovery of Madeira and the cultivation of its landscape are wrapped in myth and legend; even today it continues to convey the image of a paradise garden. Visitors and settlers introduced plants from their homelands that have since thrived alongside the rich native flora, earning Madeira the titles of the Floating Garden and the Jewel of the Atlantic. The gardens we visit all feature an overwhelming array of wonderful plants. The tour is to be led by Gerald Luckhurst, who lives in Portugal, designing gardens and landscapes throughout the country and is also author of The Gardens of Madeira (2010). You are accommodated in the wonderfully elegant, stylish and deeply comfortable Casa Velha do Palheiro, originally a royal hunting lodge that was converted into a small luxury hotel in 1997, continuing a noble tradition of hospitality at the highest level. Situated in the hills above Funchal, the Casa Velha do Palheiro estate is also home to the famous wine-making Blandy family, whose exquisite gardens are but a short stroll from the hotel’s door.
Day 1: Monday 11 April
Depart 12:35 from London Gatwick on flight BA2780, arriving in Funchal, Madeira, at 16:25. We then travel to Casa Velha do Palheiro where we dine together after an introductory talk by Gerald Luckhurst.
Day 2: Tuesday 12 April
The first sensible step in learning about a new region’s flora involves a visit to the local botanic garden, in this case Bom Sucesso, the Botanical Garden of Madeira where its array of native and exotic sub-tropical plants are clearly labelled. Following lunch in a local restaurant we return to base to visit the superbly-planted gardens of Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro, originally laid out by the Conde de Carvalhal. The gardens, with magnificent trees, sunken topiary gardens and long exotic flower borders, are enjoyed by many visitors, but when the gates close each day they revert to a private, well-loved family garden.
Day 3: Wednesday 13 April
Travelling to the north of the island we visit the extensive rose gardens of Quinta do Arco, one of Portugal’s largest collections. This is a relatively new garden created by today’s President of Madeira, Miguel Albuquerque, a passionate and dedicated rosarian, whose amazing collection is displayed in beds each devoted to individual rose breeders. Along the island’s spectacular northern coast we visit Quinta do Furao, where we are invited to sample its wines and enjoy a delicious lunch overlooking sea cliffs and the ocean beyond. On the return journey through the mountains, we stop at Ribeiro Frio to see a collection of indigenous plants, including Echium candicans, E. nervosum (Pride of Madeira), Isoplexis sceptrum (yellow foxglove) and Sonchus fruticosus, the giant Madeira sow thistle.
Day 4: Thursday 14 April
A day in Funchal with Gerald Luckhurst who takes us to some of the hidden and most richly-planted corners of this jacaranda-clad capital of Madeira, including the Regional Presidents garden, the Hospice of Princess Amelia with its 150-year-old dragon trees, and Santa Catarina Park, a colourful tribute to traditional Madeiran gardening. Lunch is included at the Pestana Village Hotel surrounded by rich collections of sub-tropical trees, shrubs and climbers. This garden was designed by Gerald Luckhurst for a local hotelier who recognises that flowers are of prime importance to the island’s discerning visitors. Mangoes, frangipani, palms and papayas are all grown for the guests’ enjoyment where 118 plant species have been counted that flower continuously throughout the year.
Day 5: Friday 15 April
We take the cable car up into the hills to Monte Palace Gardens, to see its varied and personal collections – animal, vegetable and mineral – accumulated by Jose Berardo, who made a fortune overseas before returning to Madeira where he established a local charity and created these remarkable gardens. Luxurious planting is embellished with almost random collections of statues, archaeological artefacts, historical Portuguese tiles, Japanese koi carp and exotic birds. We then visit the magnificent Boa Vista Orchid Garden and Nursery to meet owner Patrick Garton. This exceptionally knowledgeable young man continues the family orchid-growing tradition established by his parents and his grandfather, Sir William Cooke, Bt (1874-1964) who famously collected and bred orchids at his nursery at Wyld Court, Berkshire.
Day 6: Saturday 16 April
En route to the airport we make a visit to the lively fruit, flower and food market in Funchal, ahead of an 11:45 check-in for flight BA2781, departing at 13:45 and arriving back in London Gatwick at 17:20.
How much & what's included:
The price per person: £2,790
A single supplement of £200 is levied by the hotel.
The price includes five nights with dinner and breakfast at Casa Velha do Palheiro and four lunches, all with local wines, as well as return flights from London Gatwick. Please note that if you wish to arrange your own flights we will be happy to deduct £97.00 per person from the tour price if we are notified at the time of booking.
To make a reservation please send the completed Booking Form with a deposit of £200 per person to:
Boxwood Tours, Rhiw, Llanbedr, Gwynedd, LL45 2NT, UK.
Telephone: +44 (0)1341 241717
Facsimile: +44 (0)1341 241712
Please make cheques payable to ‘Boxwood Tours Ltd’. Payments by Maestro, Mastercard, or Visa, may be made by telephone to the Boxwood Office or through the bookings facility on the web site.
This tour is financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. Please see our booking conditions for further information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate