Tag Archive: tropical

So, here are the final four wonderful pictures taken by my friend Jen over in Vietnam.

First, a plant with a common name of ‘Canonball Tree’ due to its large rounded fruits (and its flower buds also rather resemble Brussel Sprouts!). Couroupita guianensis, as its name suggests, was originally native to South America.

Couroupita guianensis

Couroupita guianensis

Second, one of the range of River Lilies  Crinum. I think this one might be the ‘giant Spider Lily’ Crinum x amabile, which can grow to 6 feet tall in the right conditions.

Crinum x amabile

Crinum x amabile

‘Folded and floating’ is how Jen describes these amazing Lotus flowers…

lotusFinally, this one caused me a lot of searching (including via our postman’s Vietnamese friend!), but I’m pretty sure its the ‘Cockspur Coral Tree’ or Erythrina crista-galli (the latter means ‘cock’s comb’). A native of South America it is also the national tree and flower of Argentina. The picture shows the dramatic terminal raceme of flowers, in this case not yet open.


Erythrina crista-galli

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this mini series; I have certainly found it fascinating trying to track the plants down! Thanks once more to my friend Jen.

Old School Gardener

tropical backdrop

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

Old School Gardener

This beautiful tropical garden is  located next to the Palace of Belém (the Portuguese Presidential residence).  The 15 acre garden is a charming, yet often overlooked spot that has maintained a number of ponds, towering palm trees, and many hundreds of species of tropical plants that it had when it was created in the early 1900’s.  The Tropical Botanical Gardens (Jardim-Museu Agrícola Tropical) are also known as ‘Jardim do Ultramar’ (‘Garden of the Colonies beyond the Sea’) or ‘Jardim das Colónias’ (‘Garden of the Colonies’) as most of the plants come from old Portuguese colonies.

The entrance is an avenue created by huge California Fan palms and Mexican Fan palms, and on each side you can see several ‘living fossils’ – species that have not suffered any mutations for millions of years. On the left, Ginkgos, Dawn Redwood and Monkey-puzzle trees go back to the age of the dinosaurs. Close to the lake you can see Sago palms, native from Japan, and sacred figs from south east Asia, also known as the Buda tree. There is an oriental garden that shows off the Chinese Hibiscus.

Created in 1906 by royal decree (King D. Carlos I), and located in the grounds of a former zoo, it was opened in 1912, the presence of natural water influencing the choice of location. It sits on the slopes overlooking the River Tagus in Belem, one of the most interesting of Lisbon’s districts. It is one of three botanical gardens in the Lisbon area, the others being the Ajuda Botanical Gardens (also in Belem) and the Botanical Gardens near the Science Museum in central Lisbon.

The garden has rare tropical and subtropical trees and plants (many of them endangered species) from all over the world, such as Dragon Trees from the Canary and Madeira Islands and Brazilian Coral Trees. Most of them are labeled, so a visit here can also be a learning experience. It is a tranquil place regularly visited by leading international scientists and botanists. Its scientific work continues today and in its grounds you will find a seed bank, greenhouses, in-vitro culture laboratory and a xylarium (wood collection).

A highlight is the Macau Garden complete with mini pagoda, where bamboo rustles and a cool stream trickles. Young children love to clamber over the gnarled roots of a Banyan tree and spot the waddling ducks and geese.

It is a joy to amble along its palm – lined avenues and discover the grottos and ponds, the oriental garden and the topiary accompanied by the friendly birds. A welcome, peaceful, shady retreat on a sweltering summer’s day!

Other articles about Portuguese gardens:

Portuguese Gardens: Estrela Gardens, Lisbon

Oranges and Azulejos: Portuguese Heritage Gardens

Sources and further information:

Go Lisbon


Old School Gardener

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