The Palmetum is more than just a reclaimed rubbish dump, more than a botanical garden with important plants: it has wonderful landscapes that were shaped through years of developing and improving designs. The hill has great views of both the sea and the city as well as several landscape features, like the three waterfalls and the rockeries created from huge volcanic rocks.
From the outset a natural design style was chosen, and the challenge was to “create the most informal and natural landscapes on the most artificial hill in the world”.Most of the hill has been planted with vegetation that can grow to a great size, but that will take decades to grow. The effort was enormous and planting of the Palmetum beganin 1997; landscaping of new additional sectors continued for nearly 20 years.
Most of the species in the collection were planted in groups in order to achieve a “natural populations” effect, representative of how they look in the wild. The flatter sections of the hill are covered by a mixed line of windbreak trees, which protect the botanical garden from frequent winter gales.
The park is divided intobiogeographical sectionsto represent the flora of different regions of the planet. Many contain a waterfall, streamor lake, decorated with rocks, rolling hillocks, hollows, orviewpoints over the sea. In the most extensive sections, different environments have been created: drier and sunnier or more shaded. For example, the Madagascar section has an extensive lawn and the largest lake as well as desert-like rock gardens. At various points in the park, small floodable spaces were created for growing wetland palms, such as Raphia,Nypa and Metroxylon.
The Octagon is roughly divided into New World / Old World and is a semi-enclosed space on two levels with a dense profusion of rocks, waterfalls and streams. One of its waterfalls, made of blocks of dark basalt, doubles up as stairs from one level to the other.
The Canary Island flora section occupies the slopes facing the city, in order to meet the city’s “Canarian criterion”. At 11,500m2, this is the largest native plant garden in Santa Cruz.
The Palmetum is large and its history is full of twists and turns. It does not have one single creator; rather the landscape design is the work of several technicians. The engineers on the first project decided on the routes of the main paths, the location of the buildings, lakes and Caribbean viewpoint. These were civil engineers Jose Luís Olcina and Juan Alfredo Amigóand agronomists Manuel Caballero and José Timón. Carlos Simón, a Fine Arts graduate, contributed to the early years (1997-1999) and definedthe overall style of the Palmetum. Carlos designed the waterfalls and the other stonework of the Octagon. He plantedthe first species in the Australia, Mascarene, South America and Africa sections, and in parts of the Caribbean, Madagascar and Indochina sections. The biologist Carlo Morici then planted thousands of specimens between 2000 and 2014, designed the Africa, Asia and Pacific viewpoints and the Hawaii, Melanesia, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Borneo, and part of the Caribbean and Indochina sections. He also fixed the boundaries of the geographical sections. Others who made notable contributions include Paco Álvarez, landscape architect, whose idea it was to build a bridge with a lift to the entrance building;Juan Peña, gardener, who built numerous smaller rockeries in the Caribbean section between 2008 and 2010; and the agricultural engineer, María Flores, who designed the garden outside the Palmetum entrance in 2014.
Por último, el diseño de los edificios es obra de los ingenieros Olcina y Amigó. Para el edificio de la entrada y la fachada del museo se inspiraron en el estilo del conocido arquitecto canario César Manrique, muy presente en el cercano Parque Marítimo.