A festival of gardens

A festival of gardens

Tim Sykes from Gardenproud heads off on holiday and discovers a garden festival while he’s there…


Who would’ve thought? A week’s break in the sun, with no grand plan and we arrive at Ponte de Lima in northern Portugal in the height of a garden festival! My wife is not entirely convinced that this was not planned.

Ponte de Lima is a rather nice town situated on the banks of the river Lima, just north of Porto and a stone’s throw from the Spanish border. It manages to retain that undiscovered feel, but still caters brilliantly for the tourist.

It is reputedly one of the oldest towns in Portugal and this is reflected in its beautiful buildings, narrow streets and well preserved surroundings. You get the impression that the locals love their gardens, as there are plenty of places to buy plants, and communal areas are well laid out, stocked and maintained to create a very pleasant ambience to the town.

The International Garden Festival is organised between June and October. It encompasses permanent displays and annual contributions from designers which are erected for the duration. In 2013 the festival won the International Garden Festival of the Year.

The site for the festival sits on the northern banks of the river and can be accessed via road from the car park adjoining the nautical centre. Or on foot it can be approached from the town centre via the famous Ponte de Lima bridge c 1359.
The gardens reflect designs from all over Europe. My favourites include:

The Five Senses Garden

A tunnel pergola, shaped from wooden frames takes you through the garden revealing different aspects, starting narrower and becoming wider as you progress.

The flower beds feature many plant varieties that create pleasant aromas.

A water feature dominates the central area formed out of weathered steel.

Thistles, Cosmos, Salvias and ornamental grasses are among the plants highlighted.

Garden Numbers

From an Italian designer, this is probably my favourite garden. The planting plan includes:

Agapanthus, Echinacea Purpurea, Dahlia, Campanula, Eryngium Alpinum, Kniphofia, Rudbeckia and Salvia.

Inspiration for the garden was taken from the golden ratio and the Fibonnacci Sequence.

Ponte de Lima 2

96 per cent

Scientists believe that everything we know about ourselves, and our planet amounts to 4% of everything we could possibly know. The scene is set in the garden by a large question mark as you enter.

Dominant features include a huge diagonal monolith wall splitting the garden across the centre. The monolith is broken in the middle by a water passageway you can walk through. This reveals a different section of the garden. It is dominated by shallow waterbeds with lilies.

Surrounding the hard landscaping are beds of Cosmos, Echinacea, Erigeron, Iris, Anthemis, Nymphaea and ornamental grasses.

Exported Knowledge

Designed by a local team, this garden seeks to question the concept of leaving your roots in search of greener pastures.
A crashed plane dominates the garden.

The plane is full of suitcases of knowledge (plants from Portugal) and acts as a useful metaphor. It lands in unknown territory and its surroundings are alien to the travellers.

Planting includes:
Sedum Spurium, Stupa Gigantea, Miscanthus Sinensis, Lavandula Stoechas, Lonicera Japonica, Echinacea Purpurea
and Achillea Millefolium.


For further information about Ponte de Lima and the Festival of Gardens, see www.cm-pontedelima.pt

If you are thinking of redesigning your garden or adding a feature then contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173 820, or via email at reallygardenproud@btinternet.com. You can also Google us at ‘Gardenproud’.