As promised in my previous post, this is a visit to a nearby but completely different place, the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens.
Located slightly higher (600m above sea level), the Monte hills can be reached by an impressive cable car overlooking laurel forest:
Where the Botanic Gardens were exposed, filled with cacti and succulents, the Monte Tropical Gardens are cool and shaded, with a splendid diversity of woodland plants. Established on the land of a 18th century quinta, the garden was created in 1987 with a very oriental inspiration. The visit starts with Japanese-like red stairs descending into the valley:
Water is omnipresent, with little streams and cascades surrounded by Japanese lanterns, ferns, subtropical shrubs such as Fuchsia boliviana and large Clivia. The diversity of ferns and bryophytes is incredible, here’s for example a liverwort that was growing on the side of a path.
Monte Palace is not just a pretty garden. There are artistic and historical references scattered in the landscape. This is a wall called “The Portuguese in Japan”, which depicts how 16th century Portuguese explorers brought Christianity to south-western Japan:
The garden is home to one of the largest cycad collection in the world, with dozens of species which are threatened in the wild. Sadly, it appears that the cycads (725!) in the collection were acquired illegally, against CITES regulations by the owner of the property in 1988. I really hope that they are propagating these plants in some way as they have a great scientific value… This is the Eastern Cape Blue Cycad (Encephalartos horridus) which is endangered in its natural range (Cape Province, South Africa).
As I know that some of my readers are fond of cycads, here are the cones of Encephalartos eugene-maraisii (Waterberg Cycad), also endangered in the wild:
As everywhere in Madeira (you are probably getting used to them now!), there are stunning views to the sea from various terraces:
The central lake is a bizarre mix of roman-like arches, traditional Madeiran buildings, cascades…
but also sculptures like this sphinx and fern-rich walls:
There’s an orchid promenade, as well as several ponds with koi carps, and to stay in the oriental theme, a large buddha statue surrounded by tree ferns:
Every wall is covered in greenery – this corridor for example is filled with Ficus pumila. Another interesting idea is the use of tree fern caudices (trunks) as stairs – Madeiran recycling style!
The rest of the garden is devoted to Madeiran flora and designed to imitate a typical laurel forest. Two examples here: the endemic daisy Argyranthemum pinnatifidum and the Madeira Holly (Ilex perado subsp. perado).
Next time, I will blog about Madeira’s wild (although not necessarily native) flora. But before that, just to make you all very envious, the view of a roof terrace filled with plants and overlooking the hill…