Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring Break Travels - Part 7: Os Jardins do Palácio Nacional de Queluz

After moving a large number of boxes and assorted furniture items into summer storage and a fun two-day family road trip that included stops in Quincy, Massachusetts, Newport, Rhode Island, and at Kykuit, the Rockefellers' historic estate in the New York's Hudson River Valley, I am finally back in Michigan. Posts about the gardens visited and plants seen during our journey home will go up soon but first I wanted to finally posts about gardens I visited during my spring break trip to Portugal. I know it is rather odd to finish up posts about things done and sights seen during spring break when my summer break just started but I also figured it would be a shame not to post about these great places, so here we go:

As you can tell by the title, the subject of this post is the park surrounding the National Palace in Queluz, Portugal. Located on the outskirts of Portugal's sprawling capital city of Lisbon, this elegant Rococo palace was begun in 1747 under Pedro III and Maria I as a summer palace. It became the main residence of the Portuguese Court in 1794 and remained the primary palace of the monarchy until 1807 when Napoleon invaded Portugal and the Portuguese royal family fled to Brazil. The palace is a playful creation painted in delicate light yellow and pastel pink, while its interior is sumptuously decorated with quirky wallpapers and chandeliers, mirrors, gold leaf, tile panels, and much else besides. Quite a few rooms even have ornamentation that is flower or garden-themed.

The façade of the palace overlooking the Jardim Pênsil

The Sala dos Embaixadores or Hall of Ambassadors

A playful blue and pink chandelier

Trompe l'oeil decorations depicting rose-filled urns and forest

The gardens are divided into several quite distinct sections. Directly beside the palace, one finds the Jardim Pênsil or "Hanging Garden" and the Jardim de Malta or "Malta Garden", two formal boxwood parterres laid out by the architect Jean-Baptiste Robillon in the "French Style" and decorated with fountains and classical statues.

The Amphitrite Pond in the Jardim Pênsil

Ceramic urns in the Jardim Pênsil

Statuary, boxwood hedges, and Magnolia grandiflora in the Jardim Pênsil

Other features for which the garden is famous include an artificial boating canal decorated with Portugal's trademark azulejo tiles, terraces descending from the palace planted with further trimmed boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), Citrus trees, and Bird-of-Paradise (Strelitzia reginae), and a free-standing stone cascade.

Azulejos depicting garden scenes on the outside of the boating canal

View along the boating canal
View across the canal towards the palace

A tile detail depicting an iris on the outside of a garden pavilion

The terraced gardens below the Jardim Pênsil

Flowers of Strelitzia reginae

The view from the Jardim Pênsil into the outer gardens

The free-standing Grande Cascata or "Great Waterfall" built in the 1770s

The rest of the gardens consists mainly of formally laid out but somewhat neglected woodlands with a dense, fragrant understory of bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) and laurustinus (Viburnum tinus). Wide paths lined with clipped hedges, stone benches, water features, and statuary cut through this idyllic forest. Thanks to the relatively wet local microclimate the growth is quite luxuriant, with mosses and ferns colonizing tree trunks and periwinkle (Vinca minor) carpeting the ground. Even though these parts of the park could benefit from a bit more care, they are still quite charming.

Stone busts framing the entrance to a walk in the park

Flowers of laurustinus (Viburnum tinus)

A walk in the outer gardens
Ferns and other small plants colonizing the trunk of a willow by the stream that runs through the park, next to a hedge of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

A serene fountain, surrounded by tiled benches

A small blue flower growing by the wayside which I could not identify.

On the whole, the Palácio Nacional de Queluz and its gardens are definitely worth a visit if you ever happen to be in the Lisbon area. The palace and the grounds are open year round and throughout the week except on Tuesdays and if you come on a Sunday before 2:00 pm entrance is free. For more information, you can visit the site's official website here.

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