A Plantsman’s Paradise

This amazing garden near Paderne is owned by Lindsey and Andrew Henley-Welch, who have lived in Portugal for over fifty years. 

WORDS Tamsin Varley

Lindsey and Andrew initially bought a plot of thirteen hectares. As it had been dry farmed, there were a lot of almonds, carobs, olives and fig trees. Early on, they had a borehole dug and removed tons of rocks, some of which were used to construct the marina and breakwater at Vilamoura. They then planted up most of the land with citrus trees imported from the USA, along with avocados, which started the avocado business in the Algarve.

At the same time, they built a house. The garden landscaping began in 1973. They tackled a very small area around the house to restrict the red mud and summer dust from coming inside their home. Some grass was planted, a swimming pool was built, and sensibly, they kept the existing carob and olive trees, which give shade and added maturity to the garden. The very first plants were sourced from a nursery in Porto as there were no nurseries in the Algarve back then. Being green-fingered, Lindsey also grew seeds from the UK. In 1977, she managed to source some different plants from a nursery in Spain.

In the 1980s, their business evolved and they started their own nursery selling citrus trees and avocados to Portuguese farmers. Lindsey also grew ornamental trees, shrubs and climbers to sell to landscape gardeners and garden centres. A lot of these plants were grown from seeds sourced from South Africa and Australia, as Lindsey thought such plants would be well adapted for the Algarve climate.

The garden developed slowly over these years as they juggled running a business and bringing up a family. A lot of the plants were sourced from their own nursery. In 2000, they bought a bit more land that sloped down in front of the house and built a large fish pond at the bottom. The excavated soil was then used for the top of the garden, which was very rocky. As this area is a bit of a frost pocket, the more temperature-sensitive plants were planted at the top of the slope. This is Lindsey’s favourite area of the garden as it is packed with a huge variety of plants of different shapes and sizes so that there is always something of interest, whatever the time of year. She is one of the few people I know who successfully manages to grow kangaroo paws (Anigozanthus), which are extremely tricky.

Kangaroo paw on left

Lindsey laughed when I asked about successes and failures. Having a large garden means she’s been able to grow a lot of trees, which she loves, including a special area dedicated to palms. Her favourite tree is the Sweetshade tree (Hymenosprorum flavum), which comes from Australia and was grown from seed. I’ve only ever seen this tree growing in Madeira prior to visiting her garden. 

Sweetshade tree far right

She admits to many failures and says you learn from experience. 

Foremost in her mind are the acid-loving Melaleucas and Leptospermum, which all died, but as she says, it’s an opportunity to try something else. Her gardening triumph, though, must be the biodiversity bubble she’s created. Such a wide variety of plants has brought in many species of birds, hordes of insects, and more unusual inhabitants such as hedgehogs.

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



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