Entrance to the Estrela gardenFollowing my article about Portuguese Heritage Gardens, I thought I’d turn my attention to a few of my favourite public gardens in that country. I’m beginning with one of my real favourites, one I love to return to when I’m in Lisbon (not that that’s very often!).

It’s the Estrela Garden (the Jardim da Estrela or Garden of the Star) which has a wonderful blend of exotic, artful, friendly charm with an atmosphere from the best of classic 19th century neighbourhood parks and gardens. It’s no surprise, then , that it remains as one of the most popular gardens in Lisbon. The orignal layout – 19th century romantic landscape style – features plenty of exotic plants and a central pond.
It is known officially as the Jardim Guerra Junqueiro (Junqueiro was a famous poet and politician who was a key figure in the downfall of the Portuguese monarchy and the establishment of the Portuguese Republic in 1910). In the 1840s the governor of Lisbon saw the need for a public garden in the densely populated city, and thanks to a donation by a wealthy baron, the governor was able to acquire the area  (5 acres) opposite the Estrela Basilica. Work on building the garden started in 1842 but due to the outbreak of war and financial difficulties, it didn’t open to the public for another ten years.

The gardens are laid out in a landscaped style with plenty of exotic trees, cacti, flower beds and a pond with fountains. The garden is especially popular with locals who come here during weekends to socialize, stroll along the paths, have a drink at the café, or play cards at one of the permanent tables among the trees.

The garden was designed by gardeners Bonard and João Francisco and it originally featured several romantic structures such as a gazebo and a Chinese pavilion. These structures are no longer there, but there are plenty of sculptures and a 19th century wrought iron bandstand, originally located at the site of the City’s main boulevard, Avenida da Liberdade. It was moved here in 1936.

After the creation of the Portuguese republic, several statues were installed in the park, the most expressive of which is of a farmer (sculptor Costa Mota,1913).  There is another of a female nude known as ‘O Despertar’ (sculptor Simões de Almeida).The most famous statue in the park is probably that of the Guardadora de Patos (keeper of the ducks) – a limestone replica of the marble original from 1914, it shows the protagonist of a popular fairy tale. Other statues include a dog spouting water from its mouth and 3 other busts depicting poets and an actor. More recent additions include a children’s playground and a pond-side cafe. The garden hosts the annual  Out Jazz festival – on Sunday afternoons during this time (usually May), Jardim Estrela will be alive with music and people enjoying the Sunday evening jazz in the open air auditorium.

Beyond the park is the English Cemetery, founded in 1717 and originally shared with the Dutch community. Novelist Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones, died during a visit to Lisbon and is buried here.

Here are some images to let you get the feel of the place.

Source: A View on Cities

Old School Gardener

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