Gurt Lush

For those more familiar with our blog, you may have noticed the absence of the more descriptive and precise accounts of our travels. One hastens to use the word ‘long’ but there is usually a more thorough account of our travels alongside my more ‘magazine-style ‘ updates. Alas the author of the full-length version is somewhat otherwise distracted. It wouldn’t be a proper holiday if Michael didn’t have a load of student essays to mark, so each day he has set himself a target to wail, gnash teeth and cry (otherwise know as marking). While he does this I have to find things to distract myself with.

On Sunday I took the metro to Parque stop to visit the Parque Eduardo VII. This is the largest park in central Lisbon and strangely isn’t named after some old Portuguese king but an old English one. When Edward VII visited Lisbon in 1902 they renamed the park in his honour. It was originally called Parque da Liberdade (Liberty Park), as staunch republican we think that’s a much better name (cue tutting royalist aunt).

The park is set out on a steady slope that rises north of the Avenida da Liberdade and the Marquis of Pombal Square in the centre of the city. A large lawn an low hedge maze cuts through the centre of the park running up to the monument and fountain marking the 25 April revolution. There are numerous sculptures, lots of trees which must provide much needed shade in the heat if summer, tennis courts and a children’s play park.

The real gem lies tucked away in the north west corner of the park, something you’d almost miss if you didn’t know was there. In the site of an old quarry is the Estufa Fria De Lisbon. This large greenhouse – well to be precise two modest greenhouses and a huge shade house – contains a stunning collection of tropical, Mediterranean and arid planting. Pools, streams and paths meander through the lush planting taking you on a horticultural journey through the worlds warmer climbs.

In the UK outside of the warmer south-easterly parts of the country we tend to see this kind of tropical planting confined to containers as domestic houseplant. Here there are whole walls of what we commonly know as cheese plants (so named for its holy leaves) reached up the wall to a height of at least 15 meters and Clivia plants with their orange tubular flowers in giant clumps 2 meters wide (mine at home has about ten leaves). Banana plants and palms touch the wooden slated roof and pink, purple and yellow flowers and foliage put on their best show to compete for your attention. As we’d say back in Bristol, this place is ‘Gurt Lush’.

This green paradise really set my heart a flutter and excited at the thought that back home spring is just around the corner. Even better than that, in less than a week Gardeners’ World will be back on our screens every Friday night – the return of Monty Don is surely a sign that beckons the start of spring

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