I found it really difficult to research flowery activities while on holiday in Madeira and so I thought I would post a quick summary of what I got up to and what I recommend. I visited in late May 2016 and here are my top tips...
(1) Visit the Worker's Market in Funchal (Mercado Dos Lavradores)
Foraging is strictly out of bounds in Madeira and so I did visit the market to buy some locally grown cut flowers and have a little play. There isn't a huge variety of flowers on sale (which is surprising given the flower filled surroundings) but it is very cheap. Protea for 80 cents anyone? For me, it was fascinating to see how much a 'homegrown' bouquet differs in this part of the world. The flower stalls are grouped around the entrance to the market on the ground floor and, while they don't have a huge array of cut flowers for sale, they do have a wide variety of plants and bulbs on offer. Here is the bouquet I made while husband was off cycling (note to self - grey slate is an excellent backdrop!)
The entrance to the market can be found on Rua Brigadeiro Oudinot between Rua Hospital Velho and Rua Latino Coelho.
I'm not sure how my hotel felt about me improvising buckets with straw bins and plastic bags but that is another story...
(2) Don't go out of your way for flowers if you are just having a quick trip
There are amazing wild flowers EVERYWHERE and so if, like me, you have a husband or pal who is tiring of being dragged around gardens then consider letting them off lightly for once! The wild flowers in Madeira are incredible - I have never seen anything like it. A gorgeous mix of sweet little alpines and tropical whoppers. I fell particularly in love with the wild hydrangeas and agapanthus which line all of the roads. Walking the levadas is a must in Madeira and you will see bucketfuls of flowers along these paths - no picking though I'm afraid my flowery friends....
(3) Palheiro Gardens
For me a true highlight. The garden is infused with very bright colours and beautiful flowers and after every corner you turn an unexpected planting scheme greets you! My husband gave up on me and left me with my macro lens - he reports that the cafe ran out of bread and so there were no toasties on offer. Therefore his contribution to this journal entry is to bring a picnic. There were also lots and lots of frogs. Don't let my terrible photography put you off, I promise you won't regret a trip here.
(4) Visit the Botanical Gardens in Funchal... Especially if you like succulents/cacti
I enjoyed my visit to the Botanical Gardens but I didn't find the planting that inspiring and it was very touristy. I like my gardens to have little hidden spots of tranquility and unexpected corners of flowery delights but the Botanical Gardens were pretty run of the mill. The gardens are great if you want to have a picnic overlooking Funchal and it is definitely worth popping in if you are passing. For the real plant nerds there are some absolutely huge cacti towering over the entire garden and more succulents than I have ever seen.
(5) Flower Festival
I can't comment on this because obviously I did not plan my trip carefully enough for it to coincide with the festival (grrrr - one day). But, I did try to find some florists or shops to visit for inspiration and failed miserably. Whenever I asked anyone they said I should come during the flower festival and so it seems prudent to point this out in case you are still planning your trip! Please let me know if you have heard of some wonderful florists out there so I can add them to my to do list for next time.
Now back to Kent!
Jennifer Pinder xx