An island of flowers – Part 3: the quintas of Funchal

As this article explains quite well, the simplest definition of a Portuguese quinta is that of a countryside estate with a large house, surrounded by orchards and gardens. Many quintas have been swallowed by developments and incorporated into the urban mesh of Funchal, but they still carry a hint of Madeira’s aristocratic past.

In the heart of Funchal ‘Old Town’, the Quinta das Cruzes, which has been turned into a museum, is surrounded by romantic, 19th century gardens. There are for example very English-looking rose beds:

Rose garden

The rest of the garden however does look more suited for the Madeiran climate, with this stunning Karoo cycad (Encephalartos lehmannii – a South African plant which has been assessed as “near threatened” in the wild) for example:

Encephalartos lehmannii

The orchid shadehouse is full of surprises (not a single label to be found though!):

Orchid shadehouse

For cycad enthusiasts, there’s also Cycas circinalis, an endangered species from Southern India; and for tree lovers, the large, South American Phytolacca dioica with its long white racemes:


The garden only covers one hectare, but there is plenty to see, from aroids to bromeliads, large palms or tree ferns:


Even the lawn weeds have a certain exotic look (and exotic origin, as they are both from Southern Africa) – Bulbine frutescens with its fluffy stamens, and the striking Freesia laxa:

Freesia laxa

The second quinta we visited, located on the heights of Funchal, is the Quinta Jardins do Lago. Established in the 18th century, it was the home of the British Commander during the Napoleonic Wars (early 19th century), and I have to say it does have a definite British feel!


The house is surrounded by themed flower beds, like this one which displays dry-environment flora:


There are trellis with exotic climbers on every single wall. Here, the red flowers of Clerodendrum splendens, and the large purple Sandpaper Vine (Petrea volubilis – often nicknames “tropical wisteria”) from Mexico:

Petraea volubilis

Pathways are covered with pergolas, like this jaw-dropping one covered with Thunbergia mysorensis:


Unusual sightings include the South African tree Schotia brachypetala and the (appropriately named!) cup-and-saucer-plant Holmskioldia sanguinea, an Asian relative of our wild skullcaps (Scutellaria sp.):

Schotia brachypetalaP1130162

I quite liked the gardeners’ choice of plant pots: cut palm trunks and clay pot with holes for orchids!



And I have to dedicate this post to the local resident, Colombo, a giant tortoise from the Galapagos Islands who was born in 1958, and who has been living on Madeira for over 45 years! He is sweet, isn’t he?

Colombo, a 47-year-old Galapagos tortoise


    1. Apparently Sir Lovell bought a large house called “The Quinta” in 1948 and created the Arboretum from the neighbouring land. I wonder whether the previous owners were Portuguese…

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