Jardin de Orquideas de Sitio Litre

The Orchid Gardens of Sitio Litre

The garden of Sitio Litre hosts a collection of almost 200 Orchids, always fresh and in flower, and is the most extensive collection on the island. The garden is a charming combination of English formal garden design and a host of colourful, beautiful tropical and sub-tropical plants. As well as its orchid collection, Sitio Litre is also famous for its Dragon tree, which is believed to be up to 600 years old. However, this specimen is not the oldest dragon tree on the island. That honour belongs to a tree in Icod de los Vinos. The Sitio Litre dragon tree is believed to have existed before the Spanish conquest in 1494. The original croquet lawn also survives.

History Of Sitio Litre

The mansion of Sitio Litre was built in the 1730s and bought by John Paisley, a Scottish wine merchant from Dumfries, in 1756. John Paisley was a successful businessman living in Lisbon exporting wine from Portugal, but when Lisbon was totally destroyed by the 'Great Lisbon Earthquake' of 1755, he decided to leave and moved to Tenerife. He worked exporting wines from Tenerife for many years.

In 1774 John Paisley's two nephews, Archibald and James Little, came to Tenerife to help with the wine export business and moved into the house. The house then passed to Archibald Little, where the name of the place comes from. The locals had problems pronouncing 'Little'; it was a bit of a tongue twister, so they changed it to 'litre'. Sitio Litre, Little's Place. The Little family held on to the house throughout the French revolutionary wars when England and Spain were at war. Archibald and James returned to Dumfries in Scotland in 1820.

Orchid Garden, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife

The house was sold to Charles Smith in 1856; the Little family first planned the English garden and was added to by the Smith family, who owned the house for the next 140 years until 1996.

Famous Visitors To Sitio Litre

Many famous people stayed in Sitio Litre as guests in the house or at the many garden parties, including Oscar Wilde's father, William Wild, Marianne North, the botanical painter and Agatha Christie. The first British envoy to China, Lord Macartney, spent a few days at the home in 1792 along with HMS Lion and HMS Hindostan officers on the first British diplomatic mission to China. In those days, there was no Suez Canal, so the ships had to sail around the Cape of Good Hope and stopped at Santa Cruz de Tenerife to take on supplies.

Alexander von Humboldt, the famous German geologist, scientist and adventurer, visited Sitio Litre on the 23rd of June 1799 as the guest of honour to a garden party held for him. He stopped at Tenerife for a week on his way to South America on a commission for the Spanish government to document unknown animal and plant species in the new world and spent a week on the island.

Orchid Garden, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife

Alexander von Humboldt, the famous German geologist, scientist and adventurer, visited Sitio Litre on the 23rd of June 1799 as the guest of honour to a garden party held for him. He stopped at Tenerife for a week on his way to South America on a commission for the Spanish government to document unknown animal and plant species in the new world and spent a week on the island.

The next visitor of note is Dr William Wild, nose, throat and ear specialist to Queen Victoria and the father of the author Oscar Wild. He came to Tenerife in 1837 and spent about three months living in Sitio Litre.

In 1856 the astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth and his wife Jessica came to Tenerife and were invited to Sitio Litre, where he stayed for about 10 days. Piazzi Smyth was Astronomer Royal for Scotland and pioneered placing telescopes at high altitudes to enjoy the best observing conditions. He climbed up Mount Teide and set up camp to test telescopes at high altitudes. Jessica Smyth brought with her the first-ever photographic camera to come to Tenerife. Some of the earliest photos ever taken on Tenerife were taken in the garden of Sitio Litre. It is due to the pioneering work of Piazzi Smyth that the Tiede Observatory in Izaña at 2390 meters is used today to study the sun.

Sir Richard Burton, a famous explorer, visited Tenerife in 1860 and 1863. He 'discovered' Lake Tanganyika and translated three erotic books of the east into English and wrote of his Tenerife visit in his book 'To The Gold Coast For Gold Vol 1'.

Marianne North, the famous botanical painter, stayed in the house for two months in 1875. She painted 27 pictures of Tenerife, 7 of which were painted in the garden of Sitio Litre. Some of the trees she painted in the garden still survive, including the 600 years old Dragon tree reputed to be the oldest in Puerto de la Cruz. Marianne painted over 800 pictures worldwide, all of which are on display at Kew Gardens in London.

Agatha Cristie visited the garden with her daughter whilst on holiday in Puerto de la Cruz in 1927. In her book, 'The Misterious Mr Quin' of ten short stories, one of the short stories 'The Man From The Sea', the plot is based in Puerto de la Cruz.

The house is still privately owned. In 1996 the current owner, John Lucas, bought the house opening the garden to the public the same year. After someone researched his family tree, John discovered his great, great, great, great grandmother, Jane Little, was the niece of Archibald Little. It was a great surprise, as he had bought the house without realising he was directly related to the original owners, the Little family.

The orchid garden of Puerto de la Cruz is the oldest surviving garden in Tenerife at over 240 years old and has been owned by British families continuously since 1730.

Also onsite is a café and a shop specialising in local products, serving brunch, afternoon teas and tapas.

Last modified on Wednesday, 24 November 2021 23:39