Tag Archive: restoration


IMG_0788Our 2014 September visit to Portugal featured some interesting new places, including three wonderful gardens. The first I’m featuring was a visit to the home of wealthy ex pat Brits when it was established over a century ago. Monserrate sits in the mountains north-west of Lisbon in the regal suburb of Sintra.

The website which covers many of the Sintra garden gems describes Monserrate gardens and its palace as:

‘..one of the most beautiful architectural and landscape Romantic creations in Portugal… unique representatives of 19th century eclecticism.The Palace combines gothic and Indian influences as well as Moorish suggestions together with exotic and plant motifs which are harmoniously extended to the exterior. The gardens have received species from all corners of the world, which were planted according to their geographical origin. The front lawn of the Palace provides a well-deserved rest, while discovering one of the richest Portuguese botanical gardens.’

It was built in 1858 for Sir Francis Cook, an English baronet who had amassed a fortune as a trader and textile baron and was created Visconde de Monserrate by King Luis. Cook turned to an English architect, James Knowles jr. for the house design. He took inspiration from the many countries Cook had dealings with and also the flamboyantly oriental Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England, built for the Prince Regent, later Goeorge IV over 50 years earlier. I loved the round tower and proportions of the palac, the use of reflected light under the wide eaves with subtle creamy and terracotta hues to create a lovely warm glow. The rich decoration is a generally successful blending of eastern, moorish and gothic revival styles. Here are some pics of the house….

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Cook hired William Nevil as Botanical expert and landscaper. The project was completed within 5 years and was Cook’s summer residence. The entire estate was put up for sale in the 1920s by Cook’s great-grandson, and after many years of neglect was purchased by the state in 1949. Since then it has been open to the public as a national monument.

The English influence emanates throughout the gardens which have a romantic feel, especially as you wind your way along rough paths through shaded glades with waterfalls, pockets of sunlight and mock ruins, and eventually up to the rather more manicured lawn (the first laid in Portugal) that stretches away from the house down to the grounds. These also include specialist and exotic gardens with non-native plants from Cook’s personal collection. Here are some pics of the gardens and grounds…

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The Monserrate Palace is the smallest of Sintra’s three palaces but it is by far the most decorative – and beautiful-  and certainly captivated me, as did the winding and varied gardens – especially the Mexican Garden, some pics of which follow…

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It has taken 20 years to restore the gardens and the result was recognised in 2013 when they were voted the winner of the European Garden Awards in the category for “Historical parks”. In 1995 the park was recognised by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site as a part of several palaces and parks in Sintra. The citation for its latest award says:

‘Light and shadow, exotic and rare plants, winding paths and breath-taking views, but even new garden sections, such as the rose garden that was opened in the year 2011 by the Prince of Wales, make a visit to Monserrate, in spite of the many other wonderful parks in Portugal, a unique, fascinating and therefore “prize worthy” event.’

 IMG_0786Old School Gardener

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IMG_8032Our October visit to Portugal concluded with a day packed with garden visits to the west of Lisbon and in the regal suburb of Sintra to the north- home to many a splendid palace and garden.

We began at a restored baroque garden in the riverside  town of  Caxias. The Quinta Real de Caxias is located quite close to the train station (direct services to and from Lisbon). It was a leisure residence of Queen D. Maria I, as well as the home of King Luís for a few weeks, before he moved to the Ajuda Palace (which we’d visited a few days before).

Inspired by the gardens at the Palace of Versailles, the formal parterres- woven in intricate patterns – are interspersed with various water features, statuary and tall Brazilian pine trees.

The waterfall, ornamented with terracotta statues (of the Machado de Castro school), is the centre piece. Set out at the end of the principal avenue the fountain itself (made out of weather – beaten limestone), is flanked by two wings of tiered terracing, accessed by staircases at either end – the perfect spot form which to view the patterns of the box parterres.

Awarded a European Prize for the Recovery of Historical Gardens, the local Council has done a superb job in restoring much of the baroque splendour of this ‘off the beaten track’ haven. I could have spent hours here ‘chilling out’ – and it would have been even more alluring if the water features had been in operation. Maybe that’s something for the next phase of restoration?

Old School Gardener

IMG_6583A rather lower key garden visit this one, but still very enjoyable.

The Godolphin Estate is the former seat of the Dukes of Leeds and the Earls of Godolphin. It contains one of the most fashionable Tudor/Stuart mansions in Cornwall. The present house is remnant of a larger mansion. At one time it was a secondary seat of the Dukes of Leeds, but the Duke sold it in 1929. The Estate is a total of some 550 acres (220 ha). The early formal gardens (dating from around 1500) are said to be among the most important historic gardens in Europe, having barely changed over the years.

These include some interesting formal walled gardens and further afield remnants of grassed areas, ponds and ancient trees, with the addition of some meadow areas. The atmosphere is one of quiet and restraint, typical of its age and predating some of the more exuberant formal and landscape gardens of the following centuries.

It was very pleasant exploring the gardens on a sunny August afternoon, the peace and quiet, interrupted only by the sound of bees humming around a series of hives which are part of a study looking into the qualities of the Cornish bee, one of the oldest breeds around. In some areas the gardens and planting are in need of careful restoration and renovation, to bring out their full interest and attractiveness. This process is being pursued by the National Trust, which has also been improving public access to the Estate. since they acquired it in 2000.

Further information :

National Trust Website

Old School Gardener

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The Lost Gardens of Heligan  (meaning ‘willow tree garden’ in cornish), near Mevagissey, Cornwall  are one of the most popular botanical gardens in the UK. The garden is typical of the nineteenth century Gardanesque style, with areas of different character and in different design styles.

The gardens were created by members of the Cornish Tremayne family, over a period from the mid-18th century up to the beginning of the 20th century, and still form part of the family’s estate. The gardens were neglected after the 1st World War, and restored only in the 1990s, a restoration that was the subject of several popular television programmes and books.

The gardens now boast a fabulous collection of aged and colossal rhododendrons and camellias, a series of lakes fed by a ram pump over a hundred years old, highly productive flower and vegetable gardens, an Italian garden, and a stunning wild area filled with primaeval-looking sub-tropical tree ferns called “The Jungle”. The gardens also have Europe’s only remaining pineapple pit, warmed by rotting manure, and two figures made from rocks and plants known as the Mud Maid and the Giant’s Head (see pic).

Source: Wikipedia

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