In this issue of Amateur Gardening : I ALWAYS LOOK forward to the first sightings of exotic plants when I go abroad, usually moments after I’ve stepped off the plane. So I was horrified the other week on a trip to Lanzarote to clap my eyes on the bleakest looking landscape I’d ever seen. Acres of black soil lay before my eyes – patches of it resembling broken up tarmac – and there was hardly a tree or plant in sight – I thought we’d landed on Mars! As our transfer bus got closer to the hotel I was relieved to see some greenery at last – Canary Island palms and a few aloes, as well as flowering hibiscus and bourgainvillea. Later I found out that Lanzarote’s unique landscape is due to a volcano that erupted constantly for six years during the 18th century, taking out much of the plant life. The drying north-easterly trade winds don’t help either, and any moisture from rain clouds tends to dry out before it has a chance to reach the land. So it’s mainly succulents and cacti that are able to survive this hostile environment, and as the week unfolded I enjoyed discovering plants new to me, like Euphorbia canariensis – which I nicknamed the ‘Churros cactus’ because it looks like those long Spanish doughnuts! Although Lanzarote’s terrain is bizarre, the trip taught me not to judge a book by its cover, and that there’s always interesting plant life to discover, wherever you go – if you look for it. Have a great gardening week. Sally Charrett - Deputy Editor
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