In March 2008 the big north wall of the garden fell down, or part of it did anyway, and the structural engineer who inspected it said as it was built in 1820 it was time expired, and to pull the rest of it down before that fell down too.
It dawned on us that as the whole wall would need to be rebuilt the rebuilding would totally wreck the main working part of the garden, the part where we have the reception after services, dinners on the lawn etc.
A chance for something really exciting! A totally new garden?
So we approached Gerald Luckhurst MLI. MI Hort. APAP. Chartered Landscape Architect, (Gerald to us, a great character married to a Portuguese lady and they have four daughters, and, by the way he has just published a beautiful new book "Gardens of Madeira"). Gerald is based in Sintra on the mainland but has a branch here designing and maintaining gardens for among others the Pestana Hotel group, Reids and others.
Would he take us on? We are only a poor church! Design a new garden for us? A place of beauty, peace and tranquillity in the busy heart of Funchal?
Bless him, he did! But, we would have to do most of the work ourselves, and we did. This triggered the launching of the Garden Appeal to raise 30,000€ to pay contractors to do most of the hard landscaping work, the drive pebbles which badly needed restoration, the lighting of the garden at night, and four new benches. Anyone who has built a new garden knows the huge amount of work involved, and we have a big garden!
While the new wall was built and faced in its lovely stone we had the use of the big digger, a lorry and four men for four days to remove all the overgrown, tired, clearance items that would not be in the new garden, eleven lorry loads! (Can't make an omelette without cracking eggs comes to mind). Then the contractors set to building the stage, the pergolas, the new coffee distribution area, the wall for the bed (succulents, it's hot) at the base of the big wall and the Contemplation Area. The new lawns were levelled but needed more topsoil, eleven loads, they looked just like either giant mole hills or a grave digging competition! And then it rained; we started to know how Noah felt, and poor Madeira had the raging storms of water everywhere. The garden was put on hold.
Eventually Madeira dried out, the soil was levelled and the lawns sown, 1000 sq. metres! The sowing of the grass was interesting, we found a chap who does the seeding of the Via Rapida banks. He arrived with a long wheelbase Land Rover towing a trailer with a large tank on it, in the back of the Land Rover were big bales of green cotton wool like fibre, bags of fertilizer, bags of football grass seed (rye grass) and a precious small bag of Kikuyu grass seed, it's a tiny seed, from the USA (Kikuyu is a grass that is hard wearing, drought resistant, a rhizome spreading plant but very slow to germinate, hence the quick to germinate rye, the mother grass). All where put into the tank a hose put in and the tank filled with water. A paddle inside mixed it all together, a big fire fighting type hose with a spray nozzle was hoisted onto the shoulders of three men and a pump started and the man on the end literally painted the soil with a green slurry, wonderful! The rye germinated within five days and we had a brilliant green lawn! The Kikuyu has crowded out the rye now and taken over and has itself given us a lovely lawn, like walking on Wilton carpet!
In September last year 2010 we arrived at crunch time for planting. A call had gone out to our membership for plants from Gerald's list. Palheiro Gardens sent us two truckloads of plants, wonderful, thank you. Members sent their plants but two days before Gerald was coming to do the placing of the plants. Susana, his manager on Madeira, sent down five large lorry loads of plants from their nursery, 1,500 plants, a gift to the Church! Gerald and Susana put them in their positions and fifteen of us ran around after them planting as fast as we could. Then it rained for two weeks, perfect.
Small details, finishing touches, have gone on since and our sub-tropical climate has worked its magic on the lawns and beds which are filling out and beginning to show Gerald’s skill as a plantsman. Every day brings new delights as his vision unfolds. A fulfilment of the wish for a place of beauty, peace and tranquillity in the heart of Funchal. Put it on your wish list as a must see destination.