A great many years ago, we lived on La Palma in the Canaries for a while (~6 years). My youngest was nine months old when we returned to the UK and this year when we discussed taking a holiday there it became clear that he felt that he was the only one in the family with no real memories of the island. So when we touched down on the La Palma runway (extended into the ocean to get the stopping distance and flat landing), he began his catch up. In fact, he started a lizard obsession, but that is another story!
Meanwhile, I was busy getting re-acquainted with the flora. The island really is generously covered in sensational flowers. Indeed, La Palma is nicknamed La Isla Bonita (the pretty island) by the locals. It is a volcanic island (last eruption 1971), with an unusual erosion crater at its core, but it is also wonderfully forested (Canarian pines and laurel) and exceptionally green and beautiful.
April is a great month to see everything in full bloom, particularly the native flora, before the summer dryness takes that lushness away with the wind. This (below) is newly cleared patch of the laurisilva forest is erupting into a sea of purple and white (wild cineraria and Ageratina adenophora).
Roadside flowers are looking either dramatic:
or fantastically colourful:
The garden of the home that we were renting was a treasure trove of glorious flowers too, many of which I had no idea about. I’ve been looking them up since we got back and there seem to be a number of exotics that will be impossible to grow in Cambridge. It won’t stop me from trying a few though. For instance, I’ve not grown cannas at home and I want to try Canna glauca:
Sadly, the following beauties will have to remain in paradise (and apologies if I’ve mis-indentified them – please do say though).
My favourite was Erythrina crista-galli. This was grown as a tree over the driveway and had such sumptious colour. Obviously pea family!
Then there were the fluttering butterfly-like flowers of the Orchid tree, Bauhinia blakeana. This had seeded around. How lucky for the owners!
There were several examples of another pretty blue butterfly-like shrub, Clerodendrum ugandense. (I’ve seen this in the glasshouse at Cambridge Botanics).
In the orchard there were avocados, pomegranates, lemons and this showy fruit flower: The pineapple guava, Feijoa sellowiana. I’d have liked to have tried one of the fruits. Alas, too soon though.
This next one was a huge tree: Brachychiton populneus or the Kurrajong tree.
which had rather lovely honeycomb seed pods:
There were also a couple of very exotic looking yellow Leucospermum cordifolium plants.
And there were several bottlebrush trees in the garden, happily in full bloom. They were covered in honey bees. Now I do have a small one of these at home, but around La Palma I discovered that they are used as street furniture. Trained as high standards and planted in rows along the roads, they gave the towns a literal buzz of red. Strange, but I’d not noticed this when we’d been living there.
Well, I thought I would finish with the iconic flower of the Canaries (or at least the one they sell at the airport in great bundles): Strelitzia reginae, the Bird of Paradise flower.
And that is probably enough drooling on my part, but I hope that you can see why I had a lovely time on La Palma.