Friday, 13 March 2009

Rise, Progress, and present State of Gardening in Portugal

520. Gardening in Portugal is very little attended to as an art of design and taste. The quintas, or country-seats, of the principal nobility are generally in ruins, and many even of the royal residences have an air of desolation. Some merchants, principally foreigners, have villas in the immediate neighbourhood of Lisbon and Oporto; but these are exceptions to the general rule. The style of all is nearly the same. Every quinta has numerous stone cisterns, or fountains, and most have a small patch of ground lying high among the surrounding crags of rock, where, carefully shaded from the sun by hedges of palm, and sedulously watered every day, the lettuce and other vegetables requiring a cooler climate are cultivated. Carnations are generally grown in antique-shaped earthen pots, or in deep layers of earth, upon the top of the stone walls of the gardens. Open galleries communicating with the sitting-rooms are often carried round the outsides of these villas, somewhat in the style of the Swiss farm-houses. (Baillie's Lisbon.)

521. Among the principal gardens in Portugal may be mentioned that of the palace at Belem, which is laid out in the geometric style. Attached to this palace is a botanic garden, and also a museum containing an anatomical collection.

The royal palace at Queluz is a neat, agreeable place, surrounded by forests and pasture-land. Part of the road to it from Lisbon is lined with myrtles and geraniums grown wild. The gardens are decorated with a variety of handsome bridges, temples, waterfalls, fishponds, &c. The park, woods, and pleasure-grounds are extensive, and abound in game. The grandees possess the right of shooting on every royal park in Portugal, and can confer that privilege on others.

The grounds of the Marialva palace are always open to the public, and are generally crowded on Sundays and holidays. The palace is celebrated for its magnificence; the grounds are rich and very extensive: while the prospects they command are extremely beautiful. The garden near the house is laid out in the geometric style, and affords a striking contrast to the wild and picturesque scenery by which it is surrounded.

The quinta of the Penha Verde (the green rock) is so called from a lofty mountain rising immediately behind it in the form of a cone covered to the utmost peak with a luxuriant vegetation, that forms a line contrast to the bare and craggy rocks that surround it. The noble woods belonging to this seat are so umbrageous, and are so constantly refreshed by numerous fountains, that it is possible to wander among them during the most sultry hours of the day without incurring either heat or fatigue. The grounds are not devoid of that constant appendage to every Portuguese quinta, a sort of terrace, accommodated with seats, and shaded by vines, myrtles, or other light foliage, raised upon the wall which overlooks the public road. Here the ladies of the family consume the greater portion of their time watching the passers by.

522. There are public gardens in Lisbon near the Roscio, where the fashionables of the town occasionally walk. (Broughton's Letters, &c.).

523. The English Cemetery at Lisbon is very picturesque. It contains a handsome chapel, and is of considerable extent. It is planted with pine trees, which give a somewhat melancholy shade: verdant shrubs adorn the avenues, and flowers are planted on the graves. Fielding is buried in this cemetery; but there is no tombstone over his remains. The Dutch have a share in the enclosure, as have the Germans, who hare a separate chapel.

524. Gardening in Portugal, as an art of culture. Portugal is adapted by nature for the easy culture of the vegetable productions of the torrid and temperate zones. But though the first coloniser of India, till within a few years mistress of Bnuil, and still retaining extensive African possessions, she has never stood forward as the patroness ol botany. Unlike Spain, which, under every disadvantage, has laboured hard for the science, she can boast of but few individuals who, incited either by a laudable curiosity or by more enlightened views, have availed themselves of her natural advantages, to introduce those botanic treasures to which for nearly three centuries there has been access: though, like her, the ignorance, inappetence, and poverty of her legislation, have for years been formidable impediments to the advance of science. An intelligent traveller, speaking on this subject, observes, that " the same want of assiduous industry, which is so apparent in the culture of the vegetable and flower gardens of the Portuguese, is equally visible in regard to the gifts of Pomona, who has been bountiful in the extreme. There are absolutely no such things in Lisbon or its environs as either nursery-grounds, flower-shops, or gardeners regularly bred to the profession, and living upon its resources. If you desire a root of a rare carnation, or a cutting from any other particularly fine plant, you must either purchase it from the gardener of some rich man, and thus give encouragement to dishonesty, or make up your mind to relinquish your wishes."

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