Tenerife climbers and flowering vines
Garden walls in Tenerife
In the UK there are plenty of rambling roses growing up garden walls but here in Tenerife in the Canary Islands you are far more likely to see Bougainvilleas. These beautiful flowers are a very common sight on the island and come in a range of glorious colours such as deep purple, red, salmon-pink and white.
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Climbers and vines
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The plant, which is also known as Paper Flower, was named after Admiral Louis de Bougainvillea who discovered it in 1768. The Bougainvilleas (Bougainvillea glabra and B. spectabilis and their hybrids) are drought resistant, fast growing, evergreen and tolerant of most soil types, so make ideal climbing plants for covering a wall or trellis.
Another very popular climber is the Passion Flower with its unique flowers, which have 5 petals and 5 sepals and were thought by early missionaries to represent Christ's 10 disciples, leaving out Peter and Judas. The coloured filaments in the centre of the flower they likened to his halo or crown of thorns and the tendrils the plant uses to climb were the whips used to scourge him.
As well as this interesting background and a very attractive appearance, some species such as Passiflora edulis also bear delicious fruit that can be used for jams and jellies as well as for its juice.
Yet another unusual climbing plant seen in Tenerife is the Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum halicacabum), which grows up trees, fences and over walls. It has bunches of small white flowers, which are followed by conspicuous green bladder pods. These dry out and turn a pale straw yellow and contain the hard brown seeds.
Similar in their habits are the Morning Glory vines of which there are many colourful species. The Blue Morning Glory (Ipomoea learii) with funnel-shaped blue-purple flowers is commonly seen covering whatever it has climbed all over and will go right up trees and poles.
The Mile a Minute Vine or Messina Creeper (Ipomoea cairica), as its name suggests, is a very vigorous plant that is often cultivated on the island for its beautiful purple-pink blooms. The Port St. John's Creeper (Podranea brycei) and its close relative the Zimbabwe Creeper (Podranea ricasoliana) are very popular climbing shrubs that are excellent for forming screens and covering walls or fences.
Both plants bear beautiful lilac-pink trumpet-shaped flowers nearly all year round and have glossy evergreen foliage. They grow fast and tolerate drought, salt spray, wind and heat.
Many vines and climbers have these qualities and so they are excellent for growing in parks and gardens in the Canary Islands. Another example of such a plant is the Flame Vine (Pyrostegia venusta) and a carpet of this bright orange-red flower trailing over a wall or rooftop is an unforgettable sight.
The Golden Cup (Solandra maxima) has big golden yellow flowers and large evergreen leaves that provide a background contrast. It comes from Mexico but does very well in Tenerife.
The Leadwort (Plumbago auriculata) has plenty of attractive blue or white flowers. In South Africa, which is where it comes from, it is regarded as a magical and medicinal herb. The ground up root has been used to treat headaches and other inflammation.
The Sky Flower or Bengal Clock Vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) is another very beautiful blue-flowered climber often grown in Tenerife. The related Scarlet Clock Vine (Thunbergia coccinea) is another attractive climbing plant.
The species described above are just a selection of the climbers that can be found growing on Tenerife and these plants provide much of the unforgettable colour seen in the gardens of the island.
Climbers are very useful for providing a quick magnificent floral display and for covering over unsightly objects. They also are good for providing a bit of privacy and stopping people seeing over your wall or fence. Cultivate a climber!
First published in Living Tenerife, 2005
© 2008 Steve Andrews
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