Tag Archive: botanical


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Thanks for reading this, my 1000th post on Old School Garden. I’ll do a fuller review of my blogging experience on my first anniversary on 17th December. But for now I hope that you enjoy my review of an interesting garden in Portugal.

A little off the beaten track in one of Lisbon’s northern suburbs (Lumiar), sit the Gardens of Monteiro Mor (this translates as ‘the High Huntsman of the Royal House’ refering to one of the former grand residents).They come with not one, but two bonuses – small, but fascinating museums, one focusing on Portuguese Theatre and the other Costume.

The surrounding gardens are a very engaging mix of formal, botanical display and wilder woodland walks – all very pleasant on a warm autumn day. And there are a number of curious sculptures to see en route too, along meandering paths and steps which take you to a variety of water features and through glades of mixed, mature trees and shrubs.

Interestingly, a communal food growing area seems to have been created on the edge of the parkland, and we also were lucky enough to see a wide range of flowers on display when we visited.

The museums, housed in two former grand houses a few paces from each other, are very well laid out. The Theatre Museum comes stocked with a huge array of printed and pictorial material along with theatre models, sculpture and theatrical props (including some lovely puppets and larger costume displays).

No need for much in the way of interpretation here as the visual richness speaks for itself!

The Costume Museum is an altogether more restrained affair, with displays of clothes and accessories from different periods set off wonderfully in the elegantly decorated rooms of the former palace. Varied lighting levels and effects and a nicely uncluttered feel all contributed to a beautiful wander though time.

This became especially interesting when we reached the 1960’s and more recent displays, which brought back some long-lost memories!

This was a visit well worth the subway ride from central Lisbon, the ‘one for all’ ticket being very good value.

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!).

History

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

Old School Gardener

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‘The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, usually referred to as Kew Gardens, comprises 121 hectares of gardens and botanical glasshouses between Richmond and Kew in southwest London, England. “The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew” and the brand name “Kew” are also used as umbrella terms for the institution that runs both the gardens at Kew and Wakehurst Place gardens in Sussex.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew… is an internationally important botanical research and education institution with 700 staff and an income of £56 million for the year ended 31 March 2008, as well as a visitor attraction receiving almost two million visits in that year. Created in 1759, the gardens celebrated their 250th anniversary in 2009.

The Gardens.. contain the world’s largest collection of living plants… The living collections inlcude more than 30,000 different kinds of plants, while the herbarium, which is one of the largest in the world, has over seven million preserved plant specimens. The library contains more than 750,000 volumes, and the illustrations collection contains more than 175,000 prints and drawings of plants. The Kew site includes four Grade I listd buildings and 36 Grade II listed structures in an internationally significant landscape.’

Source : Wikipedia

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