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Library : Books : Flowers & Gardens of Madeira Last Updated: Jun 28, 2008 - 12:29:23 AM


Chapter 2: Portuguese Gardens
By Florence Du Cane
May 1, 2007 - 11:08:14 PM


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Last, but by no means least in importance, come the sweet-smelling plants, essential to these little miniature gardens. Olea fragrans, or sweet olive, also called Osmanthus fragrans, must be given the palm,   as  surely  its   insignificant  little  greenish-white flower is the sweetest flower that grows, and fills  the  whole  air  with  its   delicious  fragrance. Diosma ericoides, a well-named plant—from dios, divine, and osme, small—ought perhaps to have been given the first place, as it will never fail at every season of the year to bring fragrance to the garden. The tender green of its heath-like growth, when crushed, yields  a  strong aromatic scent, and no Portuguese garden is complete without its bushes of Diosma.    If allowed to grow undisturbed, it will make shrubs of considerable size, and in the early spring is covered with little white starry flowers; but as it bears clipping kindly, it is especially dear to the heart of the Portuguese gardener, who will fashion  arm-chairs, or tables, or neat round and square bushes, in the same way as the Dutch clip their  yew-trees.    Rosemary  also   ranks   high   in their  affections,  not only for its  sweet-smelling properties, but also because it can be subjected to the same treatment.    Sweet-scented verbenas are also favourites, and in spring the tiny white flower of the small creeping smilax suggests the presence of orange-groves by its almost overpowering scent. Camellias, white and pink, single and  double, are favourite flowers, but as a rule the shrubs are subjected to drastic treatment and cut back, so as to keep the plants within bounds and in proportion to the size of the garden. Here and there a leafless Magnolia conspicua adorns the garden with its cup-like blossoms in the early spring, and a few other shrubs are permitted within the precincts of the garden. Franciscea, with its shiny green leaves and starry blossoms, shading from the palest grey to deep lilac, according to the time each bloom has been fully developed, should have been included in the list of sweet-smelling plants, as it has an almost overpoweringly strong scent. The bottle-brush, Melaleuca, with its strange reddish blossoms, showing how aptly it has been named, and the pear-scented magnolia, with its insignificant little brownish blossoms, are all favourite shrubs.

Various bulbous plants seem to have made a home under the shelter of their taller-growing companions, and in February, freesias, which in this land of flowers seed themselves, spring up in every nook and cranny; also the unconsidered sparaxis, whose deep red and yellow striped flowers are hardly worthy of a place. But the bright orange tritonias and deep blue babianas are highly prized, and in May the red amaryllis adorn most of the gardens, in company with the rosy-white Crinum powellei.     The delicate Gladiolus colvillei, known in England as the Bride and under various other fancy names, open their pale pink-and-white spikes of bloom early in May.     A few plants of carna­tions are treasured, as they are not easy to grow. Rose-trees are given a place, many being such old-fashioned varieties that I could not find a name for them; while the walls of the garden may be clad with heliotrope, which seems to be in perpetual bloom,  or  Plumbago  capensis,  whose  clear blue blossoms  cover the plant in great profusion in late autumn and spring.    In summer the yellow blossoms  of the Allamanda Schottii appear, and later in the year the waxy-white Stephanotis flori-bunda and  Mandevilleas will  all in  turn be an ornament   to  the  garden, though  in  the winter months their glossy green foliage will have passed unnoticed.

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