Madeira is known for its wine and flowers, and the capital city Funchal takes both seriously. A frequent stop for cruise ships, the city of Funchal dates back the 1505 when it received city status and is teeming with old world charm. The name, Funchal, derives from the Portuguese word for fennel, which grew abundantly at the site of the present town. If you visit the city via ship you will probably only have one day there, which is a pity because there is so much to see, but you can enjoy a sampling of what the city has to offer.
Two free public gardens in the center of the city are worth visiting and are an easy walk from the other major sites in the town center.
Jardim de Sao Francisco
Located on the former site of a Franciscan friary, this garden occupies one city block.
It is densely planted and bursts with color.
Old favorites like hollyhock bloom with Shasta daisies.
Here, lirope and lantana make a refreshing combination.
Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’, wandering jew, and yellow marigolds are teamed together.
A mass of red amaryllis echo the color of the delicate flowers of the Erythina abyssinica tree blooming above.
Many trees are covered with flowers.
Specimen trees make an impressive statement.
Colorful foliage enhances many beds.
Paths weave through the beds making the small garden seem much larger than it is.
Simon Bolivar liberator of Panama, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela is honored with a statue.
An amphitheater provides a venue for outdoor entertainment.
The pavement is rough so wear shoes with thick soles to protect the bottom of your feet.
Jardim Sata Catarina
Located a five minute walk from the Jardim de Sao Francisco, between the downtown and hotel zone, is Jardim Sata Catarina.
The slope is steep and the garden is terraced.
A vast lawn extends up the central portion.
Densely planted flowerbeds provide bright splashed of color all around.
We see favorites like pot marigold,
as well as scabiosa and African marigolds,
Plants were artfully located to produce beautiful and interesting combinations.Here salvia echoes the red in the flowers of the lantana while the abundant bright green leaves of the daylilies intensify their red color.
Pink and red pentas contrast in color.
The large shiny coarse leaves of bergenia contrast with the delicate flowers of Euphorbia hypericifera ‘Diamond Frost’
The fine textured leaves of the marigold contrast with thick succulent leaves of the agave while the the marigold’s flowers make a striking combination with the blue-green color color of the agave leaves and brighten the duo.
The flowers of a flame coral tree are set off against the blue shy and clouds.
The top of the garden features a lovely pond and a view of the city.
There are many other gardens near the downtown area but all require a bus or taxi ride. Here are some of the best to consider.
Located two miles outside of the downtown, this garden includes are large selection of native and exotic plants that grow well in Madeira, a parrot park, topiary, formal beds, and panoramic views of the city. Open daily 9am to 5:30pm; admission $3.50.
Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro
Five miles from Funchal, this garden has a distinctly European influence and features a long avenue of plane trees and giant camellias, a sunken garden, stream garden, rose garden, and herbaceous borders. Open Monday-Friday 9am to 4:30pm; admission about $11
Monte Palace Tropical Garden
With a Japanese garden, a lake with swans, ancient olive trees, and indigenous plant collection, this garden is located in the upscale suburb of Funchal known for its lush gardens, cool air and fabulous views. Open daily 9:30am to 6pm. Admission about $11