I'm just back from a short break to Tenerife. We were staying on the North side of the island in Puerto de la Cruz, much lusher than the arid Southern strip where all the big brash bars and hotels are. There's more rain and cloud in the North as well but given the sometimes tropical weather, the planting is much more varied. We were moments away from the island's botanical gardens - not a deliberate plan on my part but convenient nevertheless!
The garden has an interesting history. It was created by King Charles III of Spain in 1788 as somewhere for the plants that were being brought from the tropics to acclimatise before their final journey on to Spain. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, all the plants that were held there were catalogued by the French naturalist P. Ledrú, according to the Linnaean system. It claims to have important collections of tropical and subtropical plants together with a herbarium of mostly Canarian flora, with over 37,000 dried specimens.
I have to say I was rather disappointed with the garden. It's laid out as a formal 18th century walled garden, quite small (20,000 m2 though it is currently being enlarged by adding another 40,000 m2). Maybe it was the rather repetative planting: bed after bed of Ficus, Bromlieads and Dracaena made it look rather like the houseplant section at Homebase. We were too early to see the Brugmansias and Clivias doing their thing but the palms were impressive, dating back some two hundred years judging by their size.
Surprisingly few plants went on my 'Wanted' list. My one real wish plant was Euphorbia atropurpurea (below). No immigrant from the tropics, this is native to Tenerife but I wasn't able to buy seed of this beauty anywhere. Probably just as well - it isn't hardy and I don't think my greenhouse is big enough!
Lovely Erythrina speciosa var. rosea
I might try and hunt down this Begonia heracleifolia var. nigricans. Could look splendid in pots with the flowers held so high on those long stems.
So my advice is that if you're on the South of the island, it might not be worth the 2hr+ round trip to get there but if you're in the location with just a little time to kill, you might enjoy it.
I guess we mustn't forget that the very fact that so many of the plants were familiar to us now as houseplants across Europe is due to gardens such as these being created en route. But I couldn't help remembering the astounding public garden in Madeira which, while I'm no fan of the carpet bedding there, is beautiful maintained with a terrific variety of plants. Comment feedback please: Could this be the British 'nation of gardeners' influence in Madeira??