Published: 23 October 2012
Travelling in Tenerife
Take a trip to Tenerife with us as we learn about some of the flora that you will find on this volcanic Spanish island, and how it is maintained in such hot and dry conditions.

Echium wildpretii, also know as 'Tower of Jewels' or 'Red Bugloss'
A Gardening Times reader was suitable impressed by the urban greening of the towns across the island of Tenerife during his recent trip that he shared his observations with us...
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands located off the coast of West Africa on similar latitude to the Sahara Desert. It is basically a two hundred square kilometre lump of volcanic rock sloping in all directions to the sea from the 3718 metre central peak of El Teide, the highest mountain in Spain.  Much of the land is barren rock, surprisingly supporting a wide variety of wild plant life. In the north and in the mountainous central area of the island the northerly trade winds provide plenty of moisture to support this flora.
In the south however the atmospheric and ground moisture is in shorter supply. Despite this, local people have created green oasis within the urban areas particularly in the high rise holiday and residential centres of the island.

A town square with communal garden

Towering palms under planted with a profusion of flowering shrubs virtually hide the multi-storied hotels and apartments from street level. Residential apartment blocks are often built around open communal squares which are all planted with tall trees, colourful under planting, good seating and ornamentation. These areas are always busy with local people sitting, talking and shaded from the heat of the sun. Children’s play areas are also incorporated within these communal areas meaning that all the generations can play and relax together.

Apartment block balcony with ‘designed- in’ cacti bed
New roads are wide and tree lined. Some urban roads that are duelled are planted with trees and shrubs along the central reservations which are complete with footpaths meandering through them.
Many new apartment blocks are designed with built in balcony planters forming the balustrade and many buildings become cascades of colour and foliage as the planting matures.



Watering all this vegetation is potentially a problem, especially during the very hot summer months. This has been overcome, particularly in public areas and along street planting schemes, with the use of micro irrigation systems. Black tubing has been laid on top of, or just below the soil surface with micro tubing off shoots then stuck into the soil around the root of each plant. These are then activated from a central water source through the night.

Strelitzia reginea growing wild in a duel carriageway central reservation ‘park’ in Santa Cruz
Private garden watering takes place late at night once the heat has gone out of the ground. Locals are often seen in their gardens well after dark with a watering can in hand.

Planting beds and borders are often covered with a good layer of crushed dark coloured volcanic rock pieces about 1cm in diameter. Not only does this help reduce evaporation and wind erosion it also acts as a very attractive backing to the vibrant plant colours.
The town planners, architects and builders of Tenerife have undoubtedly created green urban environments. With their thoughtful planning and planting schemes these areas are not only pleasing to the people who live and work there but also to the thousands of holiday makers who flock there throughout the year.


Reported by 'The Traveller', Isle of Wight  

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