PGG Study Tour of the Algarve – Garden Visits (Part 2)

This is another post about the time I spent in Portugal earlier this year. To read the first post in this series please click here.

We visited several very different gardens during our time in the Algarve. Both Rosie and Marilyn wanted to show us the diversity in designing gardens for a Mediterranean climate, primarily with the waterwise garden theme in mind.

After visiting Margaret’s garden we moved onto Viv’s. Vivian Hirst is a very experienced garden designer who has lived in the Algarve since 1981. She and her husband bought the property, Mandihari, in the 1980s and transformed the house and garden, which is nearly 3 acres in size. There was nothing there to start with except a 500 year old Quercus suber, an awe-inspiring cork oak specimen.

Views of the garden

View of the garden

View of the garden near the swimming pool

Everything else was planted, 70% of which came from seed, the other 30% was bought in. The soil is heavy clay mixed with sand, it was clear to see how appropriate plants had been chosen to suit the conditions. I found the atmosphere wonderfully peaceful, especially in the dry zone of the garden with a fantastic collection of Australian type plants.

500 year old Quercus suber

The huge cork oak tree


Close-up of the cork oak tree

The Monet style bridge over the large ornamental pond was picture-perfect, a big Corymbia citriodora along the water’s edge added shade to an otherwise sun-baked area. It was a massive specimen, I was amazed to hear it had been grown from seed in 1984. The scent of citrus from the crushed foliage was telling as to why it is commonly known as the lemon-scented gum. It had a friend in the form of an adorable Siamese kitten basking in the shade, she was so cute I wanted to take her home!

Corymbia citriodora

Corymbia citriodora

Very cute Siamese kitten!

Very cute Siamese kitten!

Another example of a mature specimen was Eucalyptus macrocarpa, with stunning red flowers which were similar to Banksia blooms. Tipuana tipu, the Pride of Bolivia, also had stunning vivid yellow pea-like flowers. It’s the only member of the genus Tipuana.

I noticed palms we had seen before, such as Trachycarpus fortunei and Chamaerops humilis. A more unusual one was Dypsis decaryi, the triangle palm, which is native to Madagascar. It’s famously known for its tristichously arranged leaves that form a triangle.

Eucalyptus macrocarpa flower

Eucalyptus macrocarpa flower

Collection of Aechmea sp.

Collection of Aechmea sp.

I recognised Robinia pseudoacacia, the black locust tree, with hanging clusters of scented white flowers. It’s a rapid growing, deciduous tree native to North America which is a common sight in streets and parks in England. Not one of the plants I was expecting to see in the Algarve!

Another view of the garden

View of the garden from the pond

Dracaena draco trees

Dracaena draco trees

A particularly gorgeous shrub was Leptospermum scoparium, the New Zealand tea tree. It had vivid pink flowers which were practically glowing in the sunshine. Petrea volubilis had purple flowers like jasmine, a beautiful climber a tad like a tropical Wisteria.

Leptospermum scoparium

Leptospermum scoparium

View of the ornamental pond

View of the ornamental pond

Euphorbia cotinifolia, the copper bush, had deep burgundy foliage, similar to Cotinus. I loved the contrast it gave against the brilliant blue sky. Streptosolen jamesonii was a bright, evergreen shrub, its clusters of flowers change from yellow to red. It was easy to see why it’s commonly known as the marmalade bush!

Viv’s time living in the Canary Isles showed in the many choice exotic plants and trees, like the dragon trees Dracaena draco, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis and other succulents.

PGG trainees with Viv and Rosie

PGG trainees with Viv Hirst and Rosie Peddle, photo by Viv's husband

We had a quick scout round the wildflower area just outside Viv’s garden and found the common broomrape Orobanche minor as well as Opuntia ficus-indica and Echium plantagineum growing en masse.

Orobanche minor

Orobanche minor Crop

My least favourite garden!

Horrible WAG house and garden

We also saw a prime example of the type of garden not to have in the Algarve. . . It was an opposing looking house with formal lawns and hedging surrounding a huge swimming pool. Give me Viv’s garden over that any day!

Plants noted:

  • Aechmea sp.
  • Chamaerops humilis
  • Citharexylum spinosum
  • Corymbia citriodora
  • Cupressus sempervirens
  • Cycas revoluta
  • Dracaena draco
  • Duranta repens
  • Dypsis decaryi
  • Echium plantagineum
  • Eucalyptus macrocarpa
  • Euphorbia cotinifolia
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
  • Justicia adhatoda
  • Kalanchoe beharensis
  • Leptospermum scoparium
  • Melianthus major
  • Musa sp.
  • Opuntia ficus-indica
  • Orobanche minor
  • Petrea volubilis
  • Quercus suber
  • Robinia pseudoacacia
  • Schinus molle
  • Senna didymobotrya
  • Spathodea campanulata
  • Streptosolen jamesonii
  • Tipuana tipu
  • Trachycarpus fortunei
  • Wisteria sinensis


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