In the north of Tenerife, blessed by the moisture carried on the Trade Winds, many garden plants familiar from UK gardens thrive. I remember being surprised by the scent of roses in the church square in Icod de los Vinos. Roses are difficult to grow in the drier south of the island. Likewise, hydrangea, amaryllis and wisteria, all gorgeous blooms that are familiar but seem larger than life in this warmer atmosphere. All of these had defeated me when I came to plant my first garden here.
I consulted a friend who was living in Texas, with experience of a similar climate. He recommended lantana, a shrubby plant with yellow or orange flowers, it isn’t as exotic as some, but has the advantage of growing like wildfire! In its native habitat in North America or in Africa it’s often designated a weed because it spreads so much. It did the trick for me, providing colour whilst other plants took longer to grow.
On the popular coastal strip between Candelaria and Los Gigantes coaxing plant-life that is not endemic to the area isn’t so easy. It’s basically desert, but I’ve seen a huge difference in the years I’ve lived here, as the problems of supplying water have been solved.
In the higher villages of this region, like Guia de Isora or Arico, you may also find roses, delphinium and other recognizable blooms. The climate above the coast is not so harsh. The secret, despite water being more readily available, is to plant flora that tolerates the dryness.
The most ubiquitous plant of all around the south of the island is undoubtedly bougainvillea. You will find it trailing up the side of buildings, over garden walls, and even trained in tubs in almost every hotel or apartment block in Playa de las Americas and Costa Adeje. Named for the French explorer, Antoine de Bougainvillea, this notoriously spiky plant, whose origins are in South America, has been described as a bush, a vine and a tree, so take your pick. It’s often used as a hedge, and with its thorny branches it’s pretty effective at keeping out unwanted folk and animals. Like the poinsettia, the colourful ends of it branches are actually leaves and not flowers. The flower is just a tiny, white tip. Not only is it drought tolerant, but it doesn’t mind the salt air either, another important consideration.
Apart from hibiscus and bougainvillea, the other most common shrub-like plant is oleander. Its origins are uncertain, but it’s generally accepted that it came from Asia. It thrives, despite poor soil and drought, to such an extent that in a certain Los Cristianos street, it is pruned back in Autumn much as we do with roses in the UK, but by the end of the following summer it’s over head height again.
The full name of the Botanical Gardens in Puerto de la Cruz includes the word acclimatization, in other words, flora was brought here from all over the world during the “golden age” of exploration, so it isn’t surprising to find that so many of the plants and flowers around Tenerife’s streets come from further afield. In the end learning about what would grow in my garden became a geography and history lesson too!
Category : about tenerife
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