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In Search of Orchids – A Visit to Quinta Boa Vista

Orchids are a passion in our family.  Waifs and strays are picked up from the local supermarket and given all the love and care they need, well that’s if they spend time with my parents, they have to be slightly hardier if they want to live with me.

So, cymbidiums flourish in the garden, phalaenopsis grow bigger by the day and loosened from their stiff bindings sweep majestically out as if waiting to say hello. However, there comes a time when you need to branch out and new orchids just must be found.

Not having been to this orchid garden before, we, my family and I went for an intrepid day out.  Getting there took nerves of steel as my car climbed ever steeper on ever narrowing roads, so taking a taxi is advisable, especially as we ended up at the bottom gate and had to walk up a steep hill to get to the garden.

The gardens are natural with different species tumbling into each other, while the lawn is interspersed with separate beds made up of bromeliads, red hot pokers and additional heat-seeking favourites.  The refreshment area enjoys magnificent views over Funchal. A decking platform hosts several tables and chairs with shading provided by several overhanging trees. Refreshments comprise excellent English tea and cakes which are homemade and delicious, especially when served with a compote of Philadelphia cream cheese and passion fruit.  The prices are very reasonable, and it’s a perfect excuse to sit down and chat about the variety of plants and any impending purchases.

Entry to the central gardens is free. However, there is a charge of €4.50 to the orchid houses.  The gentleman serving us was knowledgeable, friendly, helpful and quite happy for us to leave all our goodies on one side, while we meandered for a little longer or had another cup of tea to think about things.

The greenhouses themselves are on different levels and house an exotic range of Cattelya’s – the colours were extraordinary with oranges and yellows shining brightly between the more usual pink and cream.  Phalaenopsis, dallied amongst them, creating contrast and colour to the currently blooming gems.  There were also several species of Coelogyne orchids, in particular, Coelogyne Cristata (AKA String of Pearls) which I’m particularly passionate about, Epidendrums and an outstanding species of Angraecum, similar to the Angraecum eburneum which I must admit I covert.  But don’t just take my word for it, you need to see them for yourself.

Not only were the plants themselves impressive but Patrick Garten (the owner) explained that he was experimenting  with a different growing medium for his plants and was more than happy to advise on the growing conditions of several species, what we should and shouldn’t be doing with our orchid seeds (a naughty bee got into the orchid house, pollinated one of the cymbidiums and we would love to be able to grow at least one orchid on from the millions of seeds inside the pod – but the chances are slim).  Also, his knowledge of Bromeliads was excellent as he discussed several species, their care especially here in Madeira and talked about the different varieties that my parents might like to add to their collection.  He was also kind enough to give them a short tour of his Bromeliad greenhouse.

For those searching for new species, the collection is limited at this time as they are growing on the more exotic Epidendrums and Angraecum in their greenhouses.  However, for those who would like to start off in a small way they have an excellent starter pack of five small orchids for €25.00.  Which makes them ideal if you are on a budget and they are easily transportable as they can be popped into a suitcase just before you fly back home; orchids tend to be quite tough so a couple of hours in an aircraft shouldn’t phase them too much.

We spent a pleasant morning enjoying the orchids, drooling over some different types that we will just have to add to our collection, drinking tea under the shade of an old tree and chatting.

I would also like to thank Patrick for his time, advise and taking the trouble to talk to us about his orchids and orchids in general.

Quinta Boa Vista is open Monday to Saturday 09:00 – 18:00.

Samantha Gannon

info at madeira-weekly

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