This used to be a municipal rubbish dump - ‘El Palmetum’ in Santa Cruz Tenerife

From dump to botanical garden - An example of sustainability.

Palmetum Santa Cruz Tenerife

‘El Palmetum’ is a 12-hectare botanical garden, specialized in the palm family. It is a unique project in the world, it has transformed a trash dump into a space for leisure and botanic culture, it is the outcome of a collaboration with several institutions from around the world.‘The Palmetum’ is located on the south coast of the city, on land claimed from the sea. Its name, "The Lazaretto”, bears testimony to the fact that people with contagious diseases were originally housed here; later it was home to various industrial facilities. The hill, with a surface area of 12 hectares and a height of 40m, was formed by the disposal of Santa Cruz’s municipal waste up until 1983, when it was closed.” 
As the city grew, it became necessary to close the dumpsite. The proximity to this inhospitable place, where fermenting waste released polluting gases and fumes, became a complex problem to resolve.
At the beginning of the 90s, the town council decided to transform this mountain of waste. Technicians, according to Manuel Caballero’s proposal and the approval of the artist César Manrique, planned to transform the wasteland into a botanical garden for leisure and culture that would bring pride to the city of Santa Cruz.
From 2007 ‘El Palmetum’ is an ecological park, perhaps one of the biggest of the world, given that herbicides and phytosanitary products have been eliminated. Plagues are controlled with water pressure washing and good cultivation practices.  
Furthermore, the ground is mulched with shredded vegetable debris, coming from the residues of the pruning taken place in the city, converted into a natural mulch that dampens the ground temperature, provides nutrients, and saves water.
The botanical garden was open for the public in 2014, however, its development lasted over 20 years. It uses an artificial mountain that started as a dump site, accumulating trash on the 70’s. Since 1996 work has been done to transform a space that was completely degraded into a paradise for nature.
Following a recap of the history of previous dump site, now, botanical garden:
1983-The dump site is closed.
A garbage mountain of 40 meters high is left behind. In the following years a public debate is created to decide what to do with the space. In the early 90’s the idea from the agricultural engineer, Manuel Caballero, is taken into consideration, who proposed a project of a botanical garden for the closed dump site.
1995-1996 – A project is born
Ideas turned into a Project and Palmetum appears in the media. In 1996 construction work begins with an investment of around 4million euros mainly from European funds. Debris is covered with fertile soil; roads are open, and an extensive gas extraction system is installed.
Meanwhile the creation of Palmetum collection begun. In the spring of 1996 biologist Carlo Morici becomes in charge of botanical matters. Major part of the species are germinated in greenhouse from imported sees from around the world, frequently proceeding from botanical institutions.
                                                                                                                                                                       by Manuel Caballero
1997-1999 – Buildings and Plantations
Work on the hill was now in full stride: the Octagon, the palm museum, streams, waterfalls, and other structures were being built.
A Fine Arts graduate, Carlos Simón, was hired to make the project more distinctive, by designing the waterfalls and the stonework near the streams and lakes. Simón was well-versed in tropical plants, and he oversaw the first palm tree plantations, which included large imported specimens. The early life of these plants was tough. After the stress of transplanting them on to the still barren hillside, they required months or years to fully recover.
Meanwhile the collection of seeds grew, partnerships for the collection of seeds from around the world were formed. The Palm Museum was under construction and the American Dennis Johnson oversaw obtaining the first objects of a varied collection of documented items, from hats to sculptures, medicines, and canoes.
                                                                                                                                                                         by Manuel Caballero 
2000 – 2006 -Waiting years
The first phase of the works was completed, and the project was put on hold, the park was closed, and the gardens received minimal maintenance.
Minor advances were made in 2000 and 2002. The Pacific Island sections were created, and species added that now take pride of place in the park.
2007-2009 – Slope improvements and new biogeographical sections
Less than half of the hill had yet been planted and vast empty spaces remained. In 2007, the project was reactivated with funding from the Government of the Canary Islands and the Town Council.
The government took charge of restoring and improving the immense irrigation and gas extraction systems and remodeling the more than three hectares of south-facing slopes, which were still strewn with debris.
                                                                                                                                                                       by Manuel Caballero
In 2007 planting began on two new sections. The collections began to grow again and gaps in the landscaped plateau were filled.
Also, in 2007 the Palmetum went "green” using organic mulch instead of herbicides and pesticides. In addition, reclaimed water from municipal sewage began to be used for irrigation.
2010-2011 – The construction work that turned it into a park
In the spring 2010 building work began that after two years allowed the park to be open for visitors. Finishing touches overall were built transforming the place completely making ‘El Planetum’ a presentable park leaving behind the look of an experimental field.
In October 2011 the work is finished and directives from the International Palm society visit ‘El Palmetum’.
                                                                                                                                                                                             by Manuel Caballero
2013 – 2014 – Open for visitors
Autumn 2013 a first step to the public inauguration is given by the organization of guided visits. ‘El Planetum’ appears in local media and stops being a closed and hidden project.
The 28th of January 2014, after 18 years of work, the park is finally officially inaugurated with the visit of the Prince Felipe and Princess Leticia, now kings of Spain. A ceremony culminated in the planting of a sampling of the Jamaican species Roystonea Princeps, the "prince of royal palms”.


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