Attractions on your very doorstep
These are two privately owned gardens of note in Puerto, fundamentally different, but both well worthy of a visit. You might think they would appeal solely to those with a horticultural mind, the green fingered variety amongst us, but you would be mistaken. My gardening prowess is limited to following the mower around and over-enthusiastic pruning. Apart from this, I am totally mystified. A plant is a weed to me and vice versa and plant names other than the most common are completely Greek or perhaps that should be Latin!
The point I am trying to make is everyone should to some extent appreciate what these gardens have to offer. I have visited both this year. It may have taken me far too many years to get around to it. However I will visit both again and will try not to leave it so long next time.
Sitio Litre is one of the oldest surviving gardens in Tenerife; it has seen many prominent visitors, has remained in British ownership since 1774 and is “steeped in history”. Risco Bello, on the other hand, may not enjoy the same provenance as it is a mere youngster by comparison and lacks the heritage. Nevertheless, it is certainly “steep” – well to be honest, it should be “steepness” as it is built into the side of a hill. Therein is the very essence of its appeal.
Entry to Sitio Litre is through a simple gateway which in no way prepares you for the tardislike dimensions of the garden it hides inside. Surrounded by high walls, the atmosphere, despite its close proximity to a busy main road, is amazingly tranquil and quiet.
The garden is best described as a series of rooms, linked and bordered by level walkways and is shaded from the sun by mature trees and a succession of arbours and pergolas. Nooks and crannies abound, either displaying interesting artefacts or offering quiet places to sit and reflect. I really can’t emphasize enough just how peaceful it is. With the way it is laid out, you could easily be forgiven for thinking you were the only person in the garden, unless of course your visit coincides with that of a coach-load from the mainland.
Being British-owned, you might have expected a more traditional country house garden with borders full of bedding plants, yet in retrospect the mature planting reflects the climate. In fact the ‘Britishness’ is only truly evident by the inclusion of a croquet lawn. As the name suggests for those who appreciate them, there is a very good display of orchids but they only form a small part of what is a beautiful, interesting, well-established garden right in the heart of Puerto.
Risco Bello could not be more different. It is primarily an aquatic garden as the bulk of the planting reflects. A series of connected ponds step their way down a steep incline and the sound of running water is ever present as one pond spills into the next via a succession of waterfalls and overflowing terracotta pots. Initially the garden hides its promise well; it is reached from a side road adjacent to the Taoro building. The house and a level lawn area come first and are but a disguise.
The first hints of what lies beyond are the handwritten direction signs which point you in the right direction. The first pool you come across is arguably the best but follow the advised route and there are more to follow as you descend ever further down the hill. How far only really hits you as you reach the very end and arrive at the bottom of the steep stone steps destined to lead you right back to the top. I suppose there must be an alternative route. Retracing you steps will certainly reduce the number of steps and I simply can’t imagine the gardener forever bumps his wheelbarrow up and down.
This garden is far more exposed to the elements, although dense planting offers some shade in places. Being next to a main road, there is an element of traffic noise and of course there is the ever present sound of running water, which could play havoc with your internal plumbing. There is dense planting throughout these pools and gardens and in some places, has a rather wild appeal. In my opinion, this adds rather than detracts from the overall character.
I could have gone into far greater detail on each of these garden. However my aim is merely to offer you a taster, to perhaps prompt you to visit, or indeed revisit, besides there is only so far you should go with what amounts to a free advertisement.
Part of the appeal for me is that neither of them are too commercialised. Of course both have entrance fees but in no way could they be considered excessive, the equivalent of a couple of pints of the local brew and in my opinion money well spent. Sitio Litre does have the almost obligatory ‘gift’ shop but even so it does not look out of place and no-one forces you to go in. Risco Bello is even more laid back. I was at odds as to where to pay when I visited until that is I came upon a woman sitting on a bench with a cat on her lap, the owner I believe, who held her hand out for the entry fee. Both offer refreshments in pleasant surroundings, a terrace near the house at Sitio and tables scattered throughout the lawn at Risco.
Sitio Litre can be found in a small side street by the same name, just off Carretera del Botánico. Risco Bello is physically just a stone’s throw away on the other side of the road, yet reached from Carretera Taoro, within easy walking distance. Why not visit both in the same day and then if still not green fingered enough there is always the Jardin Botánico further up the road.
An insight into Sitio Litre (the Orchid Garden) and Risco Bello (the Aquatic Garden)