Sofias Country Gardens
El Drago Milenario
I love travel. I mean who doesn't? But more than anything I love travel that includes visiting gardens. I find seeing other gardens inspirational, and being a bit of a country bumpkin it soothes my soul to be surrounded by greenery. Travelling can be intense, and the amount of other people can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming - especially after having stayed at home for nearly two years! I usually spend my days in the quiet and on my own, so suddenly being in a foreign land with so much hustle and bustle can be as tiring as it is inspirational. It is a funny juxtaposition isn't it, this love of new impressions filling my soul while at the same time finding I need time to calm the senses. Visiting gardens while travelling gives me that, as well as a deep feeling of happiness. It's wonderful to see how many beautiful little oases there are in the world, filled with plants, insects and wildlife.
In Tenerife my favourite garden is the Parque del Drago, a 3 hectares garden built around the oldest known specimen of Dracaena Drago, the dragon tree. Its age is disputed, but currently it is believed to be between 800 - 1000 years old. Regardless of age, it is impressive. The tree stands 20 meters tall, with over 300 main branches and a circumference of 20 meters. In the middle of it is a 6 meters tall hole, where a fan has been put in to aid air circulation and prevent mould. The name stems from the red resin that is secreted when the bark or leaves are cut, resembling dragons blood and used in traditional medicine.
The park was created at the turn of the millennium by Wilfredo Wildpret de la Torre and Victoria Eugenia Martin Osorio, who are professors at the University of La laguna, which is the oldest university on the Canary Islands. There was some controversy around the creation of the park as a stone wall was erected between the tree and the road, but since it is also visible from the town square Plaza de San Marcos a compromise was felt to have been reached. The park charges a 10 € entrance fee, which seems fair enough considering maintenance costs.
Unusually for most gardens, this one is created with a variety of plants that are endemic to Tenerife and the Canary Islands. There are younger dragon trees, Tabaija mejorera, Canary Island spurge (Euphorbia canariensis), cardoons (Cynara cardunculus) and succulent Bejeque (Aeonium urbicum) to name but a few. It is a predominantly dry garden, reflecting the climate and soli conditions of the island, and I really enjoyed seeing how beautiful a garden filled with native plants can be. There is really no need to fight nature when you can work with it rather than against it, and the result of going with existing conditions can be just as beautiful as making a man made artificial oasis - if not more so in fact.
In the gardens there is also a cave housing a representation of a Guanches burial, which was really interesting to see. Next to the garden is a butterfly house, but we never ventured into it. I was perfectly happy seeing native wild bees and butterflies fluttering about amongst the plants and watching little lizards basking in the sunshine, while enjoying a mild breeze from the sea alleviate the heat. Such a beautiful day out!