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Chapter 2: Portuguese Gardens




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I have often been asked whether the Portuguese have any distinctive form of gardening, and in answer I can only say that, though there is no attempt to compete with the grand terraced gardens of Italy or France, or the prim conven≠tionality of the gardens of the Dutch, still the little well-cared-for garden of the Portuguese has a great charm of its own. Here, in Madeira, their gardens are usually on a very small, almost diminu≠tive, scale, according to our ideas of a garden. In the mother-country, where they probably surround more imposing houses, they may attain to a larger scale, but of that I know nothing.

The love of gardening, unfortunately, seems to be dying out among the Portuguese in Madeira, and many a garden which was formerly dear to its owner, each plant being tended with loving hands, has now fallen into ruin and decay. The little paths, neatly paved with small round cobble-stones of a pleasing brownish colour, have become over≠grown and a prey to the worst pest in Madeira gardens, the coco grass, which is enough to break the heart of any gardener once it is allowed to get possession; its little green shoots seem to spring up in a single night, and the labour of yesterday has to be again the work of to-day if the neat, trim paths so necessary to any garden are to be kept free from the invader.    Or the box hedges, which were formerly the pride of their owner, have lost their trimness and regularity from the lack of the shears at the necessary season, and the garden only sug≠gests departed glories.

Luckily, a few of these gardens still remain in all their beauty, and the pleasure their owners display in showing them speaks for itself of their true love of gardening.

The plan of the garden is  usually somewhat formal in design, and as a rule centres in a fountain or water-tank, which serves the double purpose of being an ornament to the garden and of supplying it with water.     The entrance to  the garden is certain to be through a corridor, with either square cement and plaster pillars, or merely stout wooden posts, which carry the vine or creeper-clad trellis. The beds are not each devoted to the cultivation of a separate flower, as would be the case in an English garden, but single well-grown specimens of different kinds of plants fill the beds. Begonias, in great variety, tall and short, with blossoms large and small, shading from white through every gradation of pink to deep scarlet, form a most important foundation for every Portuguese garden ; as, from their prolonged season of blooming, some varieties seeming to be in perpetual bloom, they always provide a note of colour. Pelargoniums, allowed to grow into tall bushes, in due season make bright masses of colour, the velvety texture of their petals seeming to enhance the brilliancy of their colouring. Fuchsias in endless variety, salvias red and blue, mauve lantanas, scarlet bouvardias, and Linum trigynum, with its clear yellow blossoms, help to keep the little gardens gay through the winter months. The latter, though commonly called Linum, is a synonym of Reinwardtia trigynum and a native of the mountains of the East Indies.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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