All this recent talk of garden centres reminds me to remind readers about the truly hidden jewel in the world of orchids – right in the heart of Funchal. Having found Quinta da Boa Vista again a couple of months ago, approaching from beneath the estate (very difficult – much easier from above on the old airport road out of Campo de Barca where there is a small signpost to the right a mile or so out) we were absolutely taken with the wonderful stock of the very finest orchids still tended by the most amazing personality (apparently frail – but still so enthusiastic). I have lifted most of the following from their web site but if anybody is remotely interested in orchids you must visit! The door shows an admission price that is quite expensive, but if you are looking to purchase (from €10 upwards – cheaper and miles better than anywhere else – then admission is waived) Eventually, if you are lucky, the owner emerges and you are transfixed by the passion in her life and the incredible depth of knowledge on the subject.
The Boa Vista Garden Centre founded in the 1960s by the late Group Captain Cecil Garton, O.B.E., in the grounds of the Quinta da Boa Vista, which had been in his family for the past 100 years or so, and where he himself was born. After 30 years in the Royal Air Force, latterly spent as Air Attache in Lisbon and Madrid, he retired to Madeira where he took over the post of Honorary British Consul and devoted himself to developing the Quinta garden and to growing orchids. Cecil Garton"s widow, Betty, is the daughter of Sir William Cooke, one of the pioneers of orchid breeding, particularly of Cymbidiums, as well as being a collector of rare and beautiful natural species. Both father and daughter served for many years on the Orchid Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society, and the Orchid collection then known as Wyld Court Orchids, near Newbury in Berkshire, received considerable recognition from the R.H.S. in the form of First Class Certificates, Awards of Merit and Medals, culminating in the distinction of Grand Champion Hybrid and Best in Show for a home-raised seedling at the British Orchid Council Congress Show. After inheriting these plants, Betty brought them to join the others in Madeira, where she is continuing the hybridizing programme. Apart from the development of exciting new hybrids, one of the most important projects now is the propagation of rare and endangered natural species, as their habitats in the wild are increasingly being destroyed. Their son Patrick began painting after leaving Oxford University in 1990 with a degree in Botany, after which he pursued a horticultural career, spending three years at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, where he obtained their Horticultural Diploma. He is currently producing a series of watercolours based on orchids from the family nursery in Madeira, an exhibition of which recently received a Gold Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society when displayed in their hall in Westminster. His sister Dorothy is also deeply involved in the natural world, her specific concerns being aromatherapy and herbalism, within the realm of ancient Hindu practices.
From their web site again: “Just a 5 minute car ride from the centre of Funchal, or 20 minutes if you’re walking, will bring you into the tranquil setting of Boa Vista Orchids. This former working estate (quinta) is guaranteed to give you an ‘all round experience’ of the beauty and peacefulness that Madeira has to offer. The gardens include one of the last and oldest remaining systems of walled terracing, as they were back in the 19th century to be found within the close proximity of the city centre. Visitors to the estate will also chance upon the vestiges of that era such as the wine press and original storage house alongside, not to mention also the thatched cow house which looks so perfect in this setting. The quinta formerly grew market garden produce for visiting ships until approximately 60 years ago when the estate was prepared for Estrelicia plants and cut flower production. These days the estate proudly displays the best orchid collection on the island. Cut flowers (sold in season) and plants are available for purchase, plus many rare and unusual varieties can be seen.
The orchid flowering season is year-round, and as one group passes its peak another will be commencing, the showy blooms of the Cattleyas, Cymbidiums and Paphiopedilums (slipper orchids), which lift a considerable proportion of the trophies at the annual Madeira Flower Festival, mingling with the smaller but in many ways more intriguing natural species. As a bonus, many of the thousands of different varieties of orchids on show here are deliciously fragrant, a fact which is not widely known or appreciated.
Monday to Saturday 09.00 to 17.30
(Closed Sundays and public holidays)
Euros 3.50 – Feb 1st until May 31st
Euros 2.50 – June 1st until Jan 31st