A gardeners' visit to Madeira

by Pippa Greenwood

Madeira is one of my very favourite garden destinations. I love seeing what we would regard as houseplants growing with weed-like vigour on the roadside, or trimmed to form a hedge...

Bird of paradise flower, StrelitziaEvery now and then I’m asked to host a gardening cruise, and I’ve just returned from the most recent, to Madeira. I’m pleased to report that the fantastically floral island was just as lovely as on my previous visit, years ago.

Madeira is one of my very favourite garden destinations. I love seeing what we would regard as house plants growing with weed-like vigour on the roadside, or trimmed to form a hedge. Poinsettia always looks wonderful there, not to mention the tangled jungles of Opuntia, the prickly pear, which are often dotted with fruits.

The bird of paradise flower, Strelitzia, always seems at its most vigorous and vibrant in Madeira, too. I always find hard to avoid the temptation of buying a packet of the seed while I’m there. There’s no reason to grow strelitzia from seed, of course, here at home. It can be very slow to germinate, even when exposed to the necessary levels of heat, then you face a long, long wait for the plant to eventually flower. It would be so much easier if we had a Madeiran climate!

After 10 days in the company of more than 100 keen gardeners, I feel refreshed and invigorated. The calabrese I planted the day I left has doubled in size, and the last-minute tomatoes that I planted also seem sturdy and unstoppable. So, although I had a wonderful trip, I’m still glad to be back in my own garden…

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Gardeners' World Web User 04/05/2011 at 16:41

I saw a poinsettia plant in Nairobi over fourteen feet high in full flower. It was glorious but then my Clematis montana is too, climbing over my garage roof. I agree, Pippa, it's lovely to see the exotics but the real thrill is what we can grow here. I am buzzing with delight at the superlatives expressed by my first visitors en masse to my garden today - beautiful and wonderful were the in-words. I did so enjoy pointing out my favourites and the weather was perfect. Can't wait to do it again.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/05/2011 at 19:24

Hi Can anyone help. I am new to this site and have just put a pond in my garden it is 4ft by 3ft roughly and I have bought a myosotis (water forget me not) and am not sure whether to put the plant directly in the water in its pot or grow at the side in the soil? however this soil is relatively dry? Many thanks

Gardeners' World Web User 04/05/2011 at 22:59

Hi Kate44cam, water forget me not is a pretty little fellow and when in the right conditions will reward you with plenty of growth and flowers. From my experience they like damp soil so I would stand the pot on a brick or stone so that the water just covers the surface of the soil. Alternatively you could dig out some of the soil from the edge of the pond, line it with polythene with a few holes in the bottom and then refill it with soil and some gravel then plant the water forget me not and you will have the start of a mini bog garden by the edge of the pond. (Answer based on my own experience only) Hope this helps? http://higgysgardenproject.blogspot.com/

Gardeners' World Web User 04/05/2011 at 23:11

Interesting post about exotics and how they are in their native landscape. I have been planning a jungle/exotic planting scheme for some time and have now cleared an area where I can start it. Obviously many of the plants you talk about on here Pippa wouldn't survive in my Somerset garden so I have been looking for alternatives. So far I plan on using bananas,Cannas, Gingers, ferns and grasses but any other ideas for a bit more colour would be appreciated? The area I intend to use is approximately 10x4mtrs and runs alongside my Koi pond, I plan to use raised wooden running boards as a walkway and then plant around this. Obviously although mainly a summer garden it will need to have some form of year round interest so I presume the grasses and ferns will help here, again any thoughts on other plants would be great? Regards Higgy http://higgysgardenproject.blogspot.com/

Gardeners' World Web User 05/05/2011 at 06:39

Yes, it's great seeing 'house plants' in their proper habitat, isn't it. I'll never forget a massive rubber plant once in Turkey, which made the plant at home in my bathroom look like a bonsai version. http://www.mandysutter.com/reluctant-gardener-day-265-tv-gardening/

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