Embark on a sensory journey through the Garden

The History of
Parque Terra Nostra The History of
Parque Terra Nostra

There is a Garden in Furnas Valley

where History spans over two hundred years



Thomas Hickling acquires the property: now his retreat and the beginning of everything

Thomas Hickling, a Boston merchant enchanted by the transcendent beauty of the Azores, arrives on São Miguel Island.

Intrigued by the geothermal wonders of Furnas that he had heard so much about, he embarks on his first visit and promises to return.

In 1782, he fulfills his promise, purchasing the property. He allows his body to rest and rejuvenates his spirit.

A common oak, Quercus robur, is planted, standing tall in its timeless nobility to this day. 

This oak stands as a neighbor to the thermal water pool, marking the starting point of a journey that guides us through the most significant collections of Terra Nostra Garden.


Yankee Hall, the 'tank,' and a special garden seed: the new leisure

Yankee Hall is the first summer home built in Furnas. Records indicate that Thomas Hickling named it "Hall of Liberty" at some point, reflecting his appreciation for freedom. 

In 1783, the house and a distinctive recreational 'tank' or small pond are built. A pond with an island connected to the shore offers opportunities for fishing, boat rides, or simply enjoying the presence of beautiful exotic birds. A surrounding grove of trees creates a new form of leisure.

Thomas Hickling fosters an atmosphere of inclusivity, welcoming people from all classes and statuses, and plants the seed of a shared passion for the garden.



The Viscounts of Praia acquire the property: the splendor and the refinement

Thomas Hickling Jr., who had inherited his father's property, later sells it in 1848 to the Viscounts of Praia.

The Viscountess, who had a special interest in Botany, and the Viscount, known for his reformist drive, acquire the property and start its expansion and rehabilitation.

The transfer of this enchanting place to another family comes with the condition that the Garden must remain open to the public, retaining its unique character and ability to captivate the senses of all who visit.


Construction of Casa do Parque: five decades after Yankee Hall

The Viscount of Praia's reformist vision leads to the demolition of the renowned Yankee Hall, which, after more than five decades of use, necessitates the construction of a new building — giving rise to Casa do Parque. 

This becomes the starting point for all dreams in mind and projects on paper. Thus, the entire estate is revitalized, with the assistance of foreign gardeners, including the Englishman William Webster.

Additional contiguous land is added to the Garden, expanding its borders. The recreational tank undergoes expansion, taking on a larger dimension. At the same time, the surrounding area is adorned with the grandeur and majesty of the Araucarias, which stand as the property's iconic emblem.


António Sousa inherits the Garden: more land and exotic species

After the death of his father Duarte, António Borges de Medeiros Dias da Câmara and Sousa, 2nd Viscount of Praia, continues the tradition. He advances the Garden's expansion and works and alters its design to its current layout.

With more land added, new exotic species are introduced, and the new features are also notable, such as the iconic serpentine canal linked to Casa do Parque by a 50-step staircase.


Palm Tree Avenue comes to life: beauty in the details

In the 1880s, Palm Tree Avenue comes to life.


Lakes and small caves, bridges, and garden benches dot the landscape, showcasing decorative elements that contribute to a more structured and refined ambiance.


Memorial to the Viscounts of Praia: shields of four families

In 1896, a monument is erected to honor the Viscounts of Praia, conceptualized by António Borges de Medeiros Dias da Câmara, the son.

In the form of a marble obelisk, it features legendary creatures, griffins that hold four shields.

These shields represent four families: the Borges, with a lion surrounded by fleurs-de-lis; the Medeiros, with five eagle heads; the Dias, with a ten-pointed star; and the Câmaras, with a castle and two wolves.


The Sugar Bowl is built: Gazebo or Belvedere

Built in 1889, the renowned octagonal structure, affectionately known as the Sugar Bowl Gazebo, commands the lower regions of the Garden, offering a vantage point of unparalleled beauty to its surroundings.



Visit of King Carlos and Queen Amelia: the ceremony and the speech

On a 3-day visit to São Miguel Island, King Carlos and Queen Amelia are welcomed at Casa do Parque, where they stayed.

They get acquainted with an illuminated garden, with balloons bordering the paths and between trees.
They experience the beauty of a surreal reception that culminates in fireworks, orchestrated to pain the skies and reflect on the thermal pool.

Before their return to the mainland, in his farewell speech, the monarch states that never before, during his reign, had his heart been as vividly touched as during his stay in the Azores.


Visit of Prince Albert I of Monaco: the gardens and the waters

In 1904, Prince Albert I of Monaco visits the Azores.


Enthralled by the archipelago's natural treasures, he dubs it a garden of deep waters and a veritable natural laboratory.

He establishes a strong connection with the archipelago, enabling him to attain unparalleled scientific insights.


Vasco Bensaude acquires the Pool: maintain, expand, and consolidate

Vasco Bensaude, equipped with integrity and business acumen, acquires the pool, which becomes known as Parque Terra Nostra or Terra Nostra Garden.

Man of many interests - reading, photography, natural sciences, and the sea - is from early on passionate about plants. 

He uses theoretical study and weight of practice to learn and master the proper conditions, suitable fertilizers, and methods to prepare and preserve plants, recording all their care in the book "Notas Hortícolas" or "Horticultural Notes."

With the support and collaboration of Scottish gardener John McInroy, a new era of development and restoration commenced at Terra Nostra Garden.


Statue of Thomas Hickling: the inauguration

The statue is inaugurated to honor Thomas Hickling, offered by the City Council of the Ponta Delgada district.

Due to its profound symbolic and historical significance, you can now find it at the beginning of the pathway leading to the elevated sections of Terra Nostra Garden.


Introduction of the Restoration Plan: by Joaquim Bensaude

Joaquim Bensaude, a connoisseur of plants and well-acquainted with the lush surroundings, presents a comprehensive restoration proposal to the Bensaude Group's Board of Directors.

Recognizing the Garden's vast potential, he advocates for a strategic intervention to assess its phytosanitary condition and implement restoration measures.

In 1990, the proposal is accepted by the group's leadership.


Restoration begins: on the path of the world's great parks

The restoration works begin, and arboriculturist Richard Green studies and analyzes the tree flora, with the Garden's renovation in the hands of horticulturist David Sayers and Fernando Costa, the Garden's head gardener.

With the collaboration of all, numerous botanical collections are introduced that become internationally renowned and position Terra Nostra Garden among the world's greatest parks.


The Vireya Garden: a journey of striking blooms

David Sayers and Richard Green introduce the Malaysian rhododendron into the Garden, a symbol of danger and escape in the language of nineteenth-century flowers.

This section emerges after the restorations, elevating Terra Nostra to the distinction of being the sole European botanical park where this plant group flourishes outdoors.

The Vireya Garden is known for the long blooming duration of its rhododendron specimens.


The Endemic Garden: Azorean native flora

Fernando Costa begins the first Endemic and Native Flora of the Azores, transporting us to some of the largest relics of the regional forest.


With its rich array of species and dense biodiversity, Terra Nostra Garden houses and nurtures some of the most representative plants of Azorean native flora.


The Fern Collection: art and romance

The Fern Collection, a symbol of humility and salvation, is introduced to the Terra Nostra Garden in 1995. Located in the surrounding area of ​​the Yellow Stream, these plants benefit from high environmental humidity. 

Next to the serpentine canal, the Fern Valley is one of the most iconic nooks in the Garden, reminiscent of exotic and lush ecosystems.

Over time, these plants have been curated into collections, incorporated into artworks, and set up in romantic landscapes.


The Flower Garden: with nuances from England

In 1998, Fernando Costa designs the Flower Garden after a trip to England.

Inspired by the border gardens next to natural walls or hedges, he envisions and brings to life this area with creativity, a burst of vibrant colors, and artistic expression.


Collection of Zoomorphic sculptures: time stories

In 1999, Head Gardener Fernando Costa created the Collection of Zoomorphic Sculptures, covered with mosses and climbing plants. 


You can find them next to Memorial Lane.

In the last century
In the last century


The Cycad Collection: a significant exchange

Continuing the tradition of introducing exotic species to the Azores, the inception of one of Europe's most comprehensive cycadophyte collections took place in the year 2000. 

The origin of this collection traces back to a plant exchange with German collector Christian Muller. During his visit to the Garden, he was captivated by an exotic tree (Cunninghamia lanceolata), and, in return for this gesture, he presented several cycad species to the Garden.

This marked the beginning of a new collection within the Garden, encompassing plants often mistaken for palm trees, however distinct and significantly older.

The ecological niche was built by Fernando Costa's team, thus ensuring the optimal conditions for developing these rare plants.


The Camellia Collection: home of the gods

Historically cultivated in temple gardens and sacred spaces, Camellias arrive at Terra Nostra Garden.

Benefiting from optimal edaphoclimatic conditions for cultivation, the Garden proudly houses one of Europe's largest and most comprehensive camellia collections. Fernando Costa's team initiated this collection in 2004.


Camellias flower in the fall and maintain their blooms for about six months.


Wollemia nobilis: the critically endangered pine

Patricia Bensaude Fernandes offers the possibility of introducing the species Wollemia Nobilis in Terra Nostra Garden, becoming the first plant of this species in a Portuguese botanical park.

This tree was acquired at a Sotheby's auction and planted in memory of Elie Bensaude Markovitch. 


The Bamboo Collection: syncronized blooming

The head gardener starts the Bamboo Collection in the Garden in 2009. 


The flowering of these plants occurs in long cycles and is sometimes synchronized in bamboo of the same species. 


In certain cultures, the plant is a symbol of vitality, discipline, and integrity, and in many rural communities is used in the manufacture of various objects.


While strolling through the Garden, you'll come across the Bamboo Garden at the boundary of Memorial Lane and Ginkgo Avenue.


The Bromeliad Collection: the distinction and luxury of the pineapple

In 2011, the head gardener began the Bromeliad Collection at Terra Nostra Garden.

The diversity of species is enormous and adapts to the most adverse environments.

This plant family includes the pineapple, often associated with the Azores. In the nineteenth century, José Bensaude made the first agricultural rehearsals with this species for commercial purposes on São Miguel Island. In 1864, the first pineapples were exported to the English market, bound for Queen Victoria's table.


Victoria cruziana: the giant water lily phenomenon

The cultivation of this giant water lily was introduced in 2012 at Terra Nostra Garden, one of the only gardens in Portugal that can keep this plant outdoors.

A Czech visitor, who kept this species in a greenhouse, offered some seeds to Joaquim Bensaude to try growing them outdoors.


To this end, the head gardener and his team built three tanks with walls heated by thermal water to create a suitable habitat for developing these plants.


That summer, the plant flowered, bore fruit, and produced viable seeds.


Camellia Garden of Excellence: the award for a unique collection

In 2014, the International Camellia Society attributed Terra Nostra Garden to the prestigious Camellia Garden of Excellence award.


The exceptional quality of its collection and its team's dedication are acknowledged, highlighting the unique excellence of Terra Nostra Garden.


Vasco Bensaude Bronze Bust: the creator of the Ginkgo Avenue

In 2015, the Bensaude family honors Vasco Elias Bensaude with a bronze bust placed at the beginning of Ginkgo Avenue.

This stunning avenue, lined with numerous Ginkgo Biloba trees, was constructed in the 1930s according to his vision.


The Gardener’s Garden: among the 250 best gardens in the world

In 2015, Park Terra Nostra is included in Phaidon Press's The Gardener's Garden, considered one of the 250 best gardens in the world and an iconic emblem of São Miguel Island.


Flower Garden Reconstruction: the colors of the seasons

In 2016, Carina Costa takes on the reconstruction project of the Flower Garden.


Today, this garden is an open area where we can find a set of beds with annual plants, which are replanted according to the flowering period to maintain the contrast of colors along the different seasons of the year.

It is an enriching circuit with a formal, appealing, and balanced look.


1st Prize at Porto's Camellia Expo: diversity in plants

In 2017, at the Camellia Expo in Porto, one of the most important in Europe, Terra Nostra Garden showcased Camellia nitidissima flowers and was honored with the 1st prize.

An ongoing objective of the Garden team is to continually create new cultivars, thereby increasing the morphological diversity of the plants.


The Orchid Collection: at the nursery

Head gardener Fernando Costa begins the Orchid Collection in 2017.

Nestled within the nursery, this small collection has room to expand and evolve, potentially transforming into one of the primary collections in the near future.


Collection of Aquatic Plants: the plants of the lake

Fernando Costa installed a new Collection of Aquatic Plants in 2017, one of the most recent in the Garden.

This lake is located on the bottom section of Terra Nostra Garden.


Endemic and Native Flora Garden: inspired by the island

In 2018, Carina Costa rethinks and expands the Endemic and Native Flora Garden.


To enhance the diversity and beauty of Terra Nostra Garden, new species are continually introduced, emphasizing the significance of preservation. This highlights how indigenous flora holds ornamental value, capable of enhancing any garden's aesthetics.


A new area is also established, drawing inspiration from the islands' natural landscapes, mimicking the altitudes found in the mountainous and coastal regions.


Renovation of Casa do Parque: now Botania Hall

The setting for a variety of events and a must-visit for notable personalities, Casa do Parque (Park House) underwent renovations in 2021 to meet the evolving demands for comfort and visitor experience.

It is renamed Botania Hall.


A major undertaking at Terra Nostra Garden: the inauguration of the project

The Garden's highlights are blended with influences from the Western landscape culture of diverse gardens, giving rise to this unique creation.

A new comprehensive project is conceived to harmonize the entire Terra Nostra Garden area, encompassing enhancements from the ticket offices to the changing rooms, seamlessly blending with Nature's splendor.

In 2023, a fresh and enhanced experience awaits all visitors to the Garden.
In the last century