The Azorean Garden at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Azorean Garden

This July, The Royal Horticultural Society introduced a new idea – the World of Gardens – for the first time at its Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. There were four gardens entered, from very diverse destinations: Switzerland, Jordan, St. Petersburg and
The Azores.

It is very difficult to explain, to those who do not understand the British passion for gardens and gardening, that each day some 30,000 people visit the show – which is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday inclusive – and that the Hampton Court Flower Show is the largest gardening event in the world.  It covers a huge area of some 30 acres or so.  It took me six months to persuade the Azoreans to enter a garden.  Understandably, they found it hard to comprehend the concept and the fact that the show garden created would have to be world class because the RHS is the leading horticultural organisation in the world and it sets the highest of standards. 

However, once they understood what a perfect opportunity this was to raise awareness of their islands to an audience whose main interest was, after all, gardens, then there was no stopping the flow of ideas.  The islands of the Azores are, effectively, one big garden.  This is a lush landscape of fertile volcanic soil, set in a temperate climate within the Gulf Stream, where seemingly anything grows in profusion. Flowers abound and, in June, hedgerows of hydrangeas twist like ribbons through the hills and valleys where half a million contented cows produce what I think is the best cheese in Portugal.

Sunvil Marquee Though the plants typically found in the Azores were sourced in the UK for The Azorean Garden at Hampton Court, the volcanic rocks, scree and basalt were shipped from the various islands and formed a stunning backdrop to the plants.  The Azores, being volcanic, are blessed in being able to derive most of their energy from geothermal sources.  Fumaroles abound, especially on the main island of Sao Miguel, and the garden designer and the builders were tasked to reproduce a smoking, bubbling pool, fringed with, white, volcanic rocks, so typical of the village of Furnas, which is built in the crater of an extinct volcano.

Nothing was going to put gardeners off from visiting Hampton Court, let alone a little rain! Such was the interest in the garden and in the islands themselves, that we had 15 staff there daily – from Sunvil, from other specialist operators and from the Azorean tourist board – manning the garden and the information tent.  Three and a half thousand visitors entered the Sunvil prize draw for a week’s free holiday.  Cheese from the island of Sao Jorge was on offer, plus a fortified wine from the island of Pico. Many thousands of information leaflets and brochures were handed out.

What were the most frequently asked questions?  Probably “Where are the Azores?” was number one.  I lost count of the times I said, in response:  “One third of the way across the Atlantic from Lisbon to New York”. Another regular query was:  “What is the best time of the year to go?”.  Most people were surprised to learn that there’s a direct flight from Gatwick operating between April and October and that summer temperatures range between 18 and 24 degrees Centigrade, while winter temperatures do not fall below 14 degrees Centigrade.  The islands of the Azores offer an unsophisticated and unspoilt destination with spectacular scenery, very reminiscent of New Zealand in its variety, and wonderful for walking, cycling, whale watching and island hopping by air – perfect for garden lovers and those who enjoy the great outdoors.

The Azorean Garden The garden was awarded a Silver Gilt medal at the show, and in the region of 180,000 visitors walked past  – what more could one ask for in terms of creating awareness about this unique destination?  Monty Don and Rachel de Thame recorded the opening shots of the Hampton Court Special for Gardeners’ World on BBC 2 from the Azorean Garden, pulling in a huge number of people along with the TV cameras, and Jo Swift, also of Gardeners’ Word, talked animatedly from the Azorean Garden about the vast array of plants that could be found on the Azores and about the fumaroles, used by the islanders as nature’s own slow cooker for their national dish, Cozido. 

My favourite plants from the Azores are probably the tree ferns (Dicksonia Antarctica) and agapanthus, both of which self-seed on the islands.  I confess that I bought a couple of tree ferns from the Azorean Garden.  I can’t wait for them to be planted in my small Twickenham garden – they will be a wonderful reminder of the exotic flora to be found in the Azores every time I look out of the window.

124 people found this helpful
17357

Share Article:

Noel Josephides

Chairman of Sunvil

Leave a comment

*

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Geoff Moore joined events across the island to celebrate Liberation Day, one of the most important dates in Guernsey’s calendar…
The Royal Shakespeare Company offers far more than just live theatre as Gillian Thornton found out on a visit to…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.