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The flowers of Madeira.

Discussion in 'Tropical Gardening' started by PeterS, Apr 20, 2016.

  1. PeterS

    PeterS Total Gardener

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    I have just come back from a wonderful holiday - an escorted tour of the gardens and flowers of Madeira, with HF Holidays What made it for me was that we had a tour leader, who not only took us round but who was extremely knowledgeable of all the plants. He could name virtually everything that we saw and was more than happy to talk Latin names. It really was a perfect holiday.

    I felt like an excited, trainspotting, schoolboy. I was seeing loads of plants that I had heard of, but never seen – or seen in flower, and was furiously ticking them off mentally.

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    Madeira was a deserted island until it was discovered by the Portuguese in 1415. It’s made up of a chain of extinct volcanoes, which grew directly out of the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. Over millions of years, rain has worn away deep valleys in the side of the mountains, which explains why the picture above is so typical, showing roads as consisting of a series of tunnels through the mountain connected by viaducts across the valleys. I never saw a flat field.

    Jim, our guide, explained that that the climate was very mild and is often described as being “perpetual spring”. It is this and its mountainous aspect that explains the wide diversity of plants that grow on the island. As you go up the mountain the temperature drops and so you get a series of climate zones, with sub tropical at the base, rising to temperate higher up where they can grow potatoes and at the very top there they can even have snow in winter.
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    A good place to start is the flower market in central Funchal, with this lovely African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata) outside. These have been introduced from tropical Africa and are a popular street tree, flowering over winter to late spring.

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    Because Madeira falls so steeply into the sea, cruise liners can dock within walking distance of the centre of Funchal. And the flower market had plenty of cruise fodder in the form of cut flowers of different Protea and Strelitzea (Bird of Paradise flower – 10 blooms for 2 Euros), as well as many other bulbs and rhizomes. I managed to buy some Watsonia, Ixia, a large Heliconia rhizome, and a huge Musa acuminate corm weighing several pounds (2 Euros).

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    Agapanthus grows like a weed, though it was barely in flower yet. It is used as ground cover with a 1000 or more plants grown under a tree. They must look marvellous in full flower. In the countryside I bought 3 very large Agapanthus rhizomes for 1 Euro (79 p).

    My day was made when I went upstairs in the market and discovered a lovely lady, who spoke excellent English, who sold serious plants.

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    Pyrostegia venusta (Flame Vine). This picture was taken near our hotel. It’s a vigorous vine from South America, flowering in autumn, winter and spring. It has been on my hit list for some time, but no one in Britain seems to supply it. So I was delighted to be able to buy one.

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    Blue Ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora) – strictly speaking it’s not a ginger though it resembles them in growth and habit. This picture was taken at one of the gardens we visited. I have only seen it once in Britain, but no one sell it in the UK. So I was delighted to pick one up. Even our guide didn’t know what it was.

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    My greatest surprise was to be offered a Thunbergia coccinea. Eat your heart out @longk. It’s similar to T. mysorenses but is a pinky red colour. Whilst I had heard of it, I had never thought to ever find one so it wasn’t even on my wants list. It fitted very nicely in my suitcase. I never did see this anywhere else in Madeira – so I have never seen it in flower. The picture is from the internet.

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    I was also offered this – Petrea volubis. It's a woody vine form Central America, with harsh sandpapery leaves. Also pretty vigorous. I had to turn this down as I didn’t have space in my conservatory for my existing purchases – let alone one more. This picture was taken in one of the gardens we visited.

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    I liked this trailing plant supplied by my friend to the café just round the corner in the market. She didn’t know the name – but could it be Sedum morganianum? Trailing things is about all I have space for now.

    The Bird of Paradise Flower (Strelitzia reginae), was so common that I didn’t even bother to take a picture. It’s almost a weed, and was in flower everywhere.

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    At the Botanic Gardens we saw Strelitzia nicolai in flower. There is a huge one in the RHS Wisley glasshouse. Because it’s out of the wind the leaves are intact and it just looks like a massive version of S. reginae. But the ones we saw outside in Madeira had their leaves torn to shreds by the wind and looked far more like a banana.

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    We saw this in another garden – Strelitzia junceae – very strange.
     
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    • strongylodon

      strongylodon Old Member

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      You have discovered Madeira too @PeterS :dbgrtmb: A fantastic place for exotics.
      We went in August some years ago but want to go back when the Jacarandas are out, were they on your visit?
      Our favourite place in the evening was the Santa Katarina Gardens. Did you go to Quinta do Palheiro (Blandy's) and the Monte Tropical Gardens, they are all amazing as well as the Botanical Gardens, so much to see!
       
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      • JWK

        JWK Gardener

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        I am jealous Peter, now that's been added to the list of places I just have to visit - Thanks!
         
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        • PeterS

          PeterS Total Gardener

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          Strongy - I absolutely loved it. And April seemed to be the ideal time of year, with our trip culminating in the Flower Festival. There was a little bit of blue on the Jacarandas, but they weren't really out yet.

          We visited:- Funchal Municiple Gardens, Santa Katarina Park and the Quinta vigia (the govener's own garden round his house, Funchal Botanic Gardens, Quinta da Palmeira, Quinta da Boa Vista, Monte palace Gardens and Quinto do Palheiro Ferreiro.

          John - it was well worth visiting. And for anyone serious about plants I would suggest a gardens tour with a leader who knows their plants. It made an enormous difference for me. I can really recommend HF Holidays, our leader Jim was terrific, other guides include Christine Walkden, who Jim knows well.
           
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          • Ady

            Ady Gardener

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            I have been to Medeira fantastic place like you have all said fantastic for exotics and fantastic gardens, i also visited some orchid nurseries one i visited grew just Cymbidiums for the cut flower market thousands and thousands of them incredible.
             
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            • shiney

              shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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              Excellent photos :blue thumb:

              It's well worth visiting at other times of the year. Back in the early 60's I used to be there every two months and saw how things changed throughout the year.

              We go back fairly regularly, at different times of the year, because it's a lovely place to relax in. Even fairly early in the year there's plenty of colour with a lot of it growing in the wild.

              A lot of the plants we see growing in the wild, when we take walks along the levadas, we are able to identify but some we aren't.

              @Peter do you know what these are? It was in early March a couple of years ago. The second one looks as though it may have escaped from cultivation.

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              • longk

                longk Total Gardener

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                Now that is a stunner! In fact I'm jealous of all of your haul!
                There is a similar market in Las Palmas that I found. Off the tourist track and a real gem of a find.

                I'll hold off on the first one although I'm confident that it is in the Zingiberaceae family and I think that it begins with an A. Buggered if I can remember where I saw it though.
                The second is Protea, possibly P.cynaroids (King Protea).
                 
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                • shiney

                  shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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                • shiney

                  shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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                  Another one I couldn't recognise :noidea:

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                • strongylodon

                  strongylodon Old Member

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                  Alpinia, although I don't know which one.
                   
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                  • PeterS

                    PeterS Total Gardener

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                    Shiney - how wonderful, you must know Madeira really well. Your middle picture I would have guessed at as a Protea - we saw a lot growing. But I have no idea about the other two.

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                    I learnt there are two endemic Echiums on Madeira. The one above is E. nervosum, which only grows below about 500 meters.

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                    And this is E. Candicans, which grows at higher altitudes. Its a bit larger and with a deeper blue flower. They are both, confusingly, called "Pride of Madeira".They are also almost the only perennial Echiums, most others from the Canaries are biennial, but can take three or four years in the UK to flower. After which they die. I had hoped to see the very tall E. pininana or E. wildpretti but apparently they are only seen in the Canaries.

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                    Geranium maderense. Said to be the most beautiful of all the hardy Geraniums - but it's not hardy. This too is monocarpic and dies after flowering.


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                    Then we came to the real treat - the Quinta da Boa Vista. An orchid specialist nursery run by an English family. This shows one of our members about to enter down a curtain of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides). That lot would cost a fortune in the UK.

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                    There were some beautiful orchids, but I am afraid that I know nothing about them.

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                    Then we rounded a corner, and ..... there it was. The Green Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys). It was at least 30 feet long and 6 feet wide, hanging from two sets of wires. There were literally hundreds of flowers.

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                    We were told that when flowers hang down like that they are almost invariably pollinated by bats which have easy access. However the nursery didn't have any cuttings for sale, nor according to my friend in the flower market is it available anywhere in Madeira. But I was speaking to someone today - Heather, who was on the Fibrex Nurseries stand at the Harrogate Flower Show, and she said that she was one of a very few people that were able to propagate Strongylodon. She had sold it in the past, but had had a problem with her compost that has now been cleared up. So there may be some plants available in the future. She sells quite a few plants in the UK that nobody else does. In the past, I have has a Thunbergia mysorensis and a T. battiscombei from her. She used to run the Old Walled Garden Nursery, which has now been absorbed into the Fibrex internet site under Conservatory plants.

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                    Close to the Strongylodon was @longk's favorite, and mine too - a massive 40 feet long Thunbergia mysorensis in full flower.

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                    Thinking of Thunbergias reminded me that this T. grandiflora was growing on the wall of our hotel. Jim, our guide, said that it stays in flower for months on end.
                     
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                    • longk

                      longk Total Gardener

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                      That is just the best way to see it - unexpectedly as you round a corner.

                      I was wondering where the Old Walled Garden had got to. Thanks!

                      Such a willing plant bloom wise over a long period.

                      Mine would have looked like that if the cold hadn't killed it :heehee:
                       
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                      • strongylodon

                        strongylodon Old Member

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                        That's a weird name!:snork:.
                        That is one of the Gardens/nurseries we didn't go to.:wallbanging:
                         
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                        • PeterS

                          PeterS Total Gardener

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                          Have you ever grown it Strongy? Or was it just part of a dream?
                           
                        • strongylodon

                          strongylodon Old Member

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                          I haven't grown it for myself due to the heat and humidity required plus the height. I rooted a cutting and grew it on for a few months when I briefly worked for an exotic plant company.
                          The company folded (1987) and the plants were sold off and the Strongylodon went to Wisley.

                          If I remember rightly, the Old Walled Garden specialised in Callistemons but not so much now.
                           
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