Open Gardens

In this new series, Tamsin Varley explores some of the Algarve’s most beautiful private gardens.

I have recently spent some time visiting Clube Dos Bons Jardins club members’ gardens after an appeal to share the history, interesting stories and photographs about them. I still have many gardens to get around, but would like to share what I have seen so far.


I had the great pleasure of visiting the fantastic garden of Lindsey Henley-Welch near Messines the other day. Lindsey has lived in the Algarve for over 50 years and has one of the oldest and most amazing ex-pat gardens in the area. 

Lindsey is an incredibly knowledgeable and green-fingered gardener and has some real plant gems in her garden, which she was keen to share with the Tomorrow readers. We spent some time in her Australian garden, which is at its best in early spring. Most of the plants were imported from Australia many decades ago so are mature shrubs. We enjoyed the yellow flowers of the emu bush (Eremophila maculata aurea) as well as various Grevillea with their unique spidery flowers in hues of red and orange. 

My favourite plant though was Grevillea, or Coastal Glow, which I had never seen before. It is a low spreading shrub and was smothered in red toothbrush-type flower heads that appeared to be a big hit with the local bees. We also admired her Sophora, known as Sun King, a large, handsome evergreen shrub or small tree. In the spring it has acid yellow waxy flowers. This came from the famous Hilliers nursery in the UK, although it is originally from Chile. It’s not often I have plant envy, but I would love one of these in my garden. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to propagate and it is usually done by grafting, which is a specialised skill. 

I could smell our final port of call long before we arrived at the Buddleja salviifolia, or South African sage wood, as its heady scent permeates the air all around it. It is a large, slightly untidy shrub with lance-shaped, silver-backed leaves and can grow between three to four metres tall. In spring it is covered in glorious pale purple heads of tiny, orange-throated flowers. Keep this beauty dry as mine got watered during vegetable irrigation one year and all but one stem died very suddenly, which was heartbreaking.


Elly Clayman is a stalwart of the garden club and has lived in the Algarve for almost 40 years. She invited me to come to visit her mature garden near Carvoeiro, specifically her Blue Spur Flower or Plectranthus barbatus. In full bloom at the moment, this plant is a tall, multi-stemmed large shrub that can grow up to 2.5 metres. It can spread from aggressive runners so it needs space to flourish and look its best. Its long blooming period starts in spring when it is covered in spikes of royal blue flowers, which are very eye-catching. It needs regular cutting back to keep it bushy and thrives in shade or full sun and is reasonably drought tolerant. 

This plant is very easy to propagate as Elly can testify. She first came across it 35 years ago in Zimbabwe and brought some cuttings back to Portugal, which she shared with her gardening friends. She claims that it’s thanks to her that it is found so commonly out here now.

Tamsin Varley is a member of Clube Dos Bons Jardins, a small, friendly multi-national garden club that meets at different locations around the Algarve on the 2nd Tuesday of every month with an optional lunch afterwards.


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