Secrets Places: Terra Nostra Is One Of The Most Beautiful Gardens In The World (… And Is In The Azores) ♦ It has over 200 years and an area of 12.5 hectares. It is located in the Furnas Valley, in the crater of a dormant volcano since 1630. It became popular only in the late 19th century. XVIII due to the growing interest in the use of mineral waters to treat diseases such as rheumatism and obesity. Secrets From Portugal will bring you once more the best itinerary, this time about the Terra Nostra garden is the amazing island of Azores.
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Parque Terra Nostra is a Portuguese botanical garden located in Furnas Valley, Povoação municipality, São Miguel island, Azores archipelago. This park houses one of the largest collections of camellias in the world, with over 600 different sons-in-law and also the largest collection in Europe of Cicas. The foundation of this botanical garden dates back to 1780, when the then US Consul on the island of St. Michael Thomas Hickling had his summer residence, then known as Yankee Hall, built in this space. It was however in the mid-nineteenth century that the garden itself had a large development, the occupied area of two hectares, on the initiative of its successive owners, whether the Viscounts of Praia or later the Bensaude family, gradually increased to a size quite comfortable.
There has been a garden in Furnas Valley for over two hundred years. From the top of the Pico do Ferro viewpoint you can see that it is not exactly a valley. It is a crater, 7 kilometres in diameter, the last memory of a long inactive volcano. Although initially ignored by the first settlers, Vale das Furnas began to be popular in the late 19th century. XVIII, due to the growing interest in the use of mineral waters for the treatment of diseases such as rheumatism and obesity. Furnas had hundreds of small springs and watercourses, all with different properties. Terra Nostra Park was at the centre of this magnificent hydropolis.
Around 1775, Thomas Hickling, a wealthy merchant from Boston, who became an Honorary American Consul in São Miguel, built a simple wooden summer house, which came to be known as Yankee Hall. In front of the house, there was a pool with an island in the centre, both surrounded by trees that were brought in mainly from North America. An English oak planted by Hickling can still be seen there today. At Terra Nostra, you can find flora typical of the Azores, as well as numerous plants native to countries with climates that are completely different from that of Furnas. This adaptation has been made possible, in part, by the shared experience of Terra Nostra’s gardeners, who have been successful in adapting various plants, species and varieties to the existing conditions of the garden.
In a garden which is two hundred years old, along with a number of different possible pathways, you can find plants in very different phases of growth. There are hundred-year-old trees of the genera Metrosideros and Araucaria, and other important tree species, such as, liriodendron tulipifera, Sequoias sempervirens, Quercus robur, Taxodium ascendens, Taxodium distichum, Eucalyptus globulus, Ginkgo biloba, among others; innumerable shrubs the size of trees, such as rhododendrons, magnolias and camellia; as well as other plants and flowers, particularly azaleas, hydrangeas, Kaffir lilies, calla lilies, of the Araceae family, tree ferns, and countless other species, all of which contribute with their colours, forms and growth to making the garden a fine destination in itself, and wonderful to visit any time of the year.
Over the past two decades, the Terra Nostra continued to enrich its botanical value through the acquisition of new plant species. This constant concern to diversify and enrich the existing flora ensures that the garden now possesses large collections and beds with plants of major historical and cultural value. These collections and gardens include the Fern Collection (with nearly 300 different species, varieties and cultivars), the Cycadales Collection (with 85 different species and sub-species), the Camellia Collection (with more than 600 different species and cultivars), the Azorean Endemic and Native Flora Garden (including several examples of the major plants endemic to the island of São Miguel) and, finally, the Vireya Garden – Malaysia Rhododendron, with a display of magnificent colours, all year round.
This collection is still in the experimentation phase and the plants are still adapting to the climatic conditions. However, the new garden already has nearly 100 different bromeliads, some of them arranged on the magnificent roots of a few existing trees, commonly known as “Til”, the scientific name of which is Ocotea foetens.
New projects are continually being developed in such a way as to ensure the conservation of this unique environment, particularly, the creation of a bamboo garden and an artificial lake to host the Victoria cruziana Orb., a water plant of the Nymphaeaceae family, from northern Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia. Today, the Terra Nostra Garden is the site of one of the most remarkable collections of camellias in the world, with more than 600 varieties of different species and cultivars, with one of the largest, if not the largest, collections of Cycladades in Europe. The peerless beauty of this garden is the result of the Bensaude family’s taste and the dynamism of the current head gardener, supported in particular by Patrícia and Joaquim Bensaude.