Archive for 13/11/2013

Gold for Norfolk Master Composters

Adding home made compost or other organic matter to your soil will improve its structure and nutrient levels

‘Getting their hands dirty – and encouraging others to do the same – has paid off handsomely for Norfolk’s Master Composters who have won a national golden Green Apple Award for helping to stop thousands of tonnes of waste from being landfilled in Norfolk….’

PicPost: Maxing out

Garden Museum: Visits Programme 2014


New programme just announced!

  1. Suffolk Study Day with Tom Hoblyn – Re-Scheduled for Spring 2014

  2. A Garden of Surprises at Burghley House, 12/03/14

  3. Design Study Day with Cleve West, 07/04/14

  4. Syde and Frampton Manor Gardens and Pan Global Plants, 25/06/14

  5. Longstock Park Water Garden & Houghton Lodge, Hants, 14/05/14

  6. Walking London Squares with Todd-Longstaffe-Gowan, 22/05/14

  7. Traditional Splendour in Cambridgeshire gardens, 05/06/14

  8. The Old Rectory with Dan Pearson and Rockcliffe House, Glouc,02/07/14

Old School Gardener

Tiered Box hedging in the lower garden
Tiered Box hedging in the lower garden

My recent trip to Lisbon, Portugal, was very much a ‘Garden Fest’ (even though it was really about seeing our Daughter and Son-in-law who live there). I seem to have found several more superb gardens and parks to add to those old favourites covered in earlier articles in the category ‘Portuguese Gardens’. The Jardim Botânico d’Ajuda (Ajuda Botanical Garden) was the first we visited, after an interesting tour of the nearby Royal Palace of Ajuda – richly decorated and with some ‘garden’ interest of its own- (more on that in a later article!).


The Ajuda Botanical Garden was a real find. The first and oldest botanical garden in Portugal, it is also without doubt one of the most beautiful I’ve visited in Lisbon. It was created in the 18th century for the Portuguese royal family.When the earthquake of 1755 hit Lisbon, the royal family was living in the palace of Belém (just down the hill next to the River Tagus), and which sustained relatively little damage. However, fearing more tremors, they camped in tents outside the palace for some time, and later, as the king refused to live in a brick building, the Marquis of Pombal (a powerful statesman who led the reconstruction efforts after the earthquake), had a wooden residence built for the royal family furtehr up the valley side. However (and how unlucky must the King have felt), a fire destroyed this building in 1791. So it was later replaced with the Palace of Ajuda.

In 1765, the King ordered naturalist Domingos Vandelli to create a botanical garden near the, then wooden, residence of the royal family. The king wanted to create a garden for his grandchildren, where they could play and learn about horticulture. Vandelli constructed the garden over the course of the following three years with the help of Júlio Mattiazi, who was master gardener of Europe’s oldest botanical garden in Padua, Italy.

About 25 years later Domingos Vandelli was appointed director of the Royal Botanic Gardens and in this position he collected some 5.000 different plant seeds from all over the world. During the 18th until the late 20th century, the garden was maintained by a number of different institutions, and more often than not it was neglected. In 1993, with the support of funds from the EU and the Lisbon Tourist Association, a reconstruction effort started, and the garden regained its earlier glory in 1997.


The Design

The garden is designed in Baroque style with a strict geometric layout and decorated with monuments. Occupying some 3.5 hectares on the side of the river valley, the garden is divided into two terraces connected with each other by a monumental Baroque staircase, the Escadaria Central.

The lower, bottom terrace, has an Italianesque layout with a geometric pattern of paths and long hedges of boxwood arranged around flower beds. Plenty of tall trees provide some welcome shade. At the center of the lower level stands a monumental fountain, the Fonte das Quarenta Bicas (Fountain of the Forty Spouts). The 18th century fountain actually has 41 water spouts, disguised as serpents, fish, sea horses. Other statues of frogs, shells and ducks decorate the fountain that is placed at the center of a large basin with water plants.

At the western end of the lower level there are some exotic plants as well as a small rock garden, but the most interesting exotic plants are housed on the upper level where there are some remarkable specimens, most notably a 400 year old dragon tree and an equally large Schotia Afra. There is also a fair number of smaller plants such as the colorful Tecoma Capensis and the Japanese Camellia.

As a bonus, there are not just plants in the botanical gardens; plenty of peacocks strut around the gardens, doing their best to ignore the visitors!

I also had a pleasant time chatting to one of the gardeners, who was setting out leaf cuttings in one of the large glasshouses, this one devoted to a wide ranging collection of succulents, many beautifully arranged in naturalistic table top settings. This gardener was hugely complimentary of Kew Gardens, where she had worked and  was, she said, trying to recreate something of that wonderful exotic collection here. She was doing a grand job, and I told her so.


Look out for the next instalment in this latest ‘Gardens Tour of Lisbon’!

Source: A View on Cities

Related articles:

Oranges and Azulejos: Portuguese Heritage Gardens

PicPost: Great Garden @ Pena Palace Park

PicPost: Great Garden @ Praça do Império Garden, Belem, Portugal

PicPost: Great Garden @ Buddha Eden, Portugal

Portuguese Gardens: Tropical Botanical Gardens, Belem

Portuguese Gardens: Braga

Portuguese Gardens: Estrela Garden, Lisbon

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