Three key sites in the hills outside Funchal proved ideal for planned garden visits.
These were Jardim Botanico, Monte Palace and Palheiro Gardens, each of which required two or three hours to appreciate the terracing and range of plants.
Access by cable car enriched the experience, trundling over dwellings and views of domestic plant-growing. One had a crop of potatoes ready to dig, as ours were in late June, and rows of lettuce. Another had a small grassed area on which a cow lay chewing its cud.
Predictably, the botanical garden had areas devoted to economic and scientific plants, specimen trees, shrubs and cacti. It was great wandering through the ornamental sections, meeting plants like old friends you haven’t seen for years and trying desperately to remember their names.
The wow factor was its iconic carpet bedding in red, white, green, purple, yellow and gold – a reminder of the Cragside beds maintained to the same high standard.
Ancient olive trees planted circa 300BC greet visitors to Monte Palace Tropical Garden. They demand a pause to consider world events since then.
Flights of steps lead through terraces as visitors negotiate the Japanese Garden. Eventually a small lake appears with swans, ducks, coy carp, waterfall and fern grottoes. Large, colourful tiles on pathways almost overwhelm with panels depicting Portuguese history.
Quinto do Palheiro Ferreiro offered interesting ornamental borders, with recognisable herbaceous perennials, camellia walk, rose garden and streamside plants. Lots of flower colour and beautifully maintained, it had a strong English late summer garden element.
Before this short break my glass was half empty, now it’s well over half full.