Camellias are known as the official flower of Porto. These flowers come from Asia. They traveled a long way to our city and conquered the hearts of its inhabitants. Every year there is an exhibition where you can admire camellias in all their colors and splendor.
These flowers had been embellishing gardens in China and Japan for centuries until they were discovered by European navigators who brought them to Europe, more specifically, to England and Portugal.
Camellias in Porto
The first records of camellias in Porto date back to 1800-1810. They were introduced by the British community living in town. The typical British family gardens of Porto were famous for the camellias.
Camellias were a symbol of social and economic power and a mandatory presence in every garden in the 1800s. Nowadays, these flowers can be found in almost every villa, garden and park in Porto. Public or private.
There are three species of Camellias from Porto: the Jane Andresen, created by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen – a renowned writer; the D.Pedro V, a Portuguese prince, and emperor of Brazil and the ‘pomponia portuensis’, evoking the city itself.
If you want to admire the flowers and the gardens, there are a couple of places that should be on your list, when visiting Porto from late January to mid-March.
The botanical garden
Porto’s Botanical Garden dates back to 1951. It is located on Quinta do Campo Alegre that belonged to the Order of Christ. After a number of owners, it was bought by the Andresen family, who developed and embellished the gardens. The villa was sold to the Portuguese State in 1949 and turned into the Botanical Garden in 1951.
Its 4 hectares are divided into 3 main steps: the Andresen house and the formal gardens, divided by high camellia hedges; the second where you can find three greenhouses (cacti, tropical plants, and orchids) and xerophytic plants, cacti and succulent plants and, the third step, the ‘arboreto’, where you can find collections of conifers, autochthonous and the fetal trees and the biggest lake in the Garden. There are plenty of rare species at the Botanical Garden, plus this is a perfect example of the Villas of the 1800s.
Quinta de Villar d’Allen
A family estate, dating back to 1839. It’s open to the public and you can walk through its lavish gardens and admire the camellias and other species, such as a Sequoia from America, a pine tree from Japan and an Araucaria from New Zeland. The house resembles an English mansion and the gardens are a true example of a Romantic garden.
Serralves Park spans for 18 hectares and houses a wide variety of spaces, from formal gardens to woodlands and a traditional farm. It was designed in the 1930s by Jacques Greber. There is no fixed route for the visit and you can choose your own. Organize your visit or just wander around the park.
Don’t miss out on the Camellia garden, located next to Casa de Serralves (the pink building). It is a romantic and delicate spot. As you are in one of the most beautiful places in town, take your time, breath in and breath out and enjoy the peacefulness of the gardens.
The plant, and its flowers
There are more than 3000 hybrids of camellias. Most of them are red, pink (or pinkish) and white. Yellow camellias are rare.
The flower is mostly used for decorative purposes. The leaves are used for tea or tea infusion production. There are thousands of camellia based types of tea. It depends on how the plant is planted and its leaves are harvested and prepared.
In Portugal, there are 400 hybrids of this flower, and they are predominant in the north of the country and in Sintra. Camellias thrive in acidic soils and humid climates and Portugal’s northern region is a perfect place for these flowers. Camellia plants usually have a rapid growth rate, maintaining their green leaves throughout the year.
Chanel defined camellias as a symbol of elegance and glamour.
Every year, in March an exhibition is held in Porto, in an iconic venue in the city. The most beautiful national camellias are exhibited and it’s one of the most colorful events in town.
Porto and Sintra are listed in International Camellia Society in the Europe Gardens of Excellence, making reference to historical facts and that ‘camellias were cultivated outdoor, in aristocratic parks, and they are nowadays the largest camellia trees in Europe’.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we wish an amazing day to all our readers. As Christian Dior put it, ‘after women, flowers are the most divine creations’.
Let us take you to some of the most beautiful gardens in Portugal and let yourself be seduced by the romantic atmosphere and beauty of these flowers and the city, itself.