Growing British garden flowers in Tenerife
A single red Rose is blooming outside the apartment in which I am writing this. Around the block there is another garden with a yellow Rose. Yes, Roses can be grown in Tenerife, and so can many other flowers we find in Britain and Europe.
Just as plants we grow in the UK are also found here, there are many exotic species like Cordyline palms and Eucalyptus trees being grown there. People like to have something different from far away places, but they also feel the need for familiar reminders of their original homeland.
Tenerife is a very cosmopolitan island and this is reflected in the flora. In fact, the Botanic Gardens in Puerto de la Cruz were originally set up by King Carlos III in 1788, to see what plants from other hot countries could be acclimatised for growing in mainland Spain.
Experiments like these brought many tropical trees, shrubs and flowers to Tenerife, and people who have introduced temperate species to the tropics have reversed this.
Although temperatures can get very high, and much of the south of the island is arid, with plenty of water the desert can be made to bloom, and this is exactly what has been done. Water and moisture-holding compost have enabled gardeners to grow all manner of species from more temperate climes.
Garden centres stock a wide range of seeds and plants commonly grown in Britain. Geraniums (Pelargonium spp.), Pansies (Viola spp.), Petunias (Petunia hybrida), African and French Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) and Pinks (Dianthus spp.) are available as potted plants and are often seen in flower borders. Or you can buy seeds of Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), Morning Glory (Ipomoea spp.), and old-fashioned Pot Marigolds (Calendula officinalis).
Swiss Cheese plant
The variety of plants that can be grown provides the creative gardener with much scope. Many tropical trees and flowers that are grown as indoor potted plants in Britain can reach their full size in the warmth of the island. Massive specimens of the Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa), tall and bushy Rubber Trees (Ficus elastica) and large groups of variegated Mother-in-law's Tongue (Sanseveria laurentii) are all examples of this.
The hotter south of the island is a better habitat for some types of plant than the cooler moisture-laden north. Nasturtiums (Tropaeoleum majus) with their bright orange, yellow and red flowers and rounded leaves are a common sight in the topmost parts of the island but are seldom seen in the south.
The variety of fruit and vegetables is impressive too. You can grow the humble spud or Carrot but also Peppers, Sweet Potatoes and Aubergines all do well, and for exotic fruit, and if you have the space, you can choose from Mangoes, Bananas and Pawpaw.
Uva de Mar
There are many ornamental trees and shrubs, and some of these like the evergreen Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera) grow so well they may start to take over a garden. It is resistant to wind, drought and salty spray and its purple fruit are edible and make a tasty jelly.
Homegrown exotic fruit
Speaking of fruit, the Pineapple makes an interesting plant to grow, and roots easily if you plant the green spiky crown and keep it well watered in hot weather. I have managed to grow them in my house back in Wales but here it should be a lot easier. A homegrown Pineapple makes a great talking point and gives you a real sense of horticultural achievement.
British phone box
With climbing plants
A talking point in the Amarilla Golf area has been created by a couple of British phone boxes, in which local people of the Pinehurst complex have allowed Bougainvilleas to grow inside and out through the empty window panes. Combining the manmade with the natural, this is living art that blends memories of home with growing plants from the tropics. Phone home with flower power!
Footnote: First published in Living Tenerife, 2005
Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.