Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Peredeniya Royal Botanic Gardens.


We spent this morning in a garden, in a Royal Botanic Garden known as Perediniya.  It is Sri Lanka's premier garden.

Located just a short drive from where we were staying, it was on our list of must-go-to places in Kandy.  Chandana got all four of us tickets and a map to guide us.  I left it up to Chandana and my brother to decide where to go - they are the real plant lovers so who better to read the map and figure out where the highlights are.

As they consulted the map, I looked around.  It was a very well manicured garden with lots of flowers in bloom.



Being the orchid lover, the top sight to see on my brother's list was the orchid house.  He knows his orchids and I'm pretty certain that by now, he's reached the stage where he knows the name of whatever orchid you put in front of him.

It took a few minutes to orient ourselves in relationship to the map and of course, it helps that Chandana has been here a time or two or three or more times than he can ever remember :-)

It was a nice walk, down a shaded path, to the orchid house.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  Too bad it was so humid otherwise, it would have be a great day for a walk through a garden.


The orchid house was a small house.  Plants requiring shade were placed underneath the mesh *roof*.  As I had expected, there weren't any plants that my brother did not recognize.  He knows his stuff!!


The guys were trying to follow the map. I had no idea where we were going so I just walked and enjoyed the garden views.



We were headed in search of a particular tree....more on that further down in this posting.  As we walked down one path and then another, I heard a familiar chirping sound.....coming from high up in trees.  I looked up and there they were....the fruit bats that are common to this part of the world.  I don't know why but I am completely fascinated by these creatures. Probably because we (humans) rarely encounter them.  I don't remember ever seeing one even in a zoo and this year, I've seen them twice.  The other time was on my trip to Thiruvananthapuram - first time was on a visit to the zoo (they were hanging up in trees, not in cage or house, and the second time was by the roadside when we took a quick stop to use the facilities and stretch our legs.


We crossed paths with a lot of children who all looked like they were on school field trips.  In Sri Lanka, all the uniforms are white in color.  Girls have knee length white, pleated skirts and the boys wear long pants. The kids where ties that identifies their school.  The only exception we saw to that uniform was the young monk - he was allowed to wear his saffron colored robe.  The typical hairstyle for the girls seems to be double pony tails.....very long pony tails.

Our walk eventually led us to an open field.  Kids were playing soccer and there were a few people sitting on the grass, just relaxing.



Before I left for Sri Lanka, my mother had told me there is a massive ficus tree in Perediniya somewhere. She remembers it from the time that she was here. We couldn't anything on the map about a big ficus tree but there was a marker for a big fig tree.   Standing and looking at it from afar, it didn't seem to be so massive....at least not as massive as I somehow imagined a giant fig tree ought to be.


We walked up to the tree and stood under it.  It was a big fig but not as impressive as the pictures that I've seen of it.  It seems to have lost some branches and leaves....maybe because it's dry season at the moment.

We continued walking.











Every now again, we would come across an unusual plant. Chandana knew enough about his native flora to point out the odd ones to us.  This is a coconut species that has fruit in clusters of three.  In all my years of living and traveling in the tropics, I have never seen a plant like this.  Unfortunately, it did not have an identification label on or near the tree so I have no idea what species or variety it is.  Very different for sure.















There was also this plant which had already dropped its seeds and so all we could see were the open pods.  There were bright red in color, velvety to the touch and each of four sections was heart shaped.  You can call it Sterculia Colorata, native to Sri Lanka and India.  I just called it pretty. 














Quite a few of the trees in the garden showed their age.....very old tree.
















And there were a few stands of timber bamboo.  Very, very large running bamboo!


Eventually, our walk led us down an *avenue* flanked on both sides by some odd, conical shaped pines.  Some were a bit crooked - don't know how they got that way.



The Avenue of Pines ran alongside a river.   We spotted three men bathing two elephants in the river.  One of the elephants was completely submerged in the water and the other was being scrubbed down by his caretaker.  We figured those must have been elephants from last night's Perahera.  It's good to be an elephant in Sri Lanka :-)


After the pines, we went to a section of the garden where the flora, mainly trees, was all planted by famous people.  Each tree identified the person who planted the tree and the year.  The most famous resident is the Canonball Tree which was planted by British royalty in 1901.



It is a very unusual looking tree with a very unusual flower that Chandana said was fragrant.  According to Chandana, when the tree is in bloom, you can smell the scent of the flowers all around the area near the tree.






By now, we were all wilting in the heat and humidity and pretty much ready to leave the gardens.  But, before we headed out, we stopped at the snack shop (near the giant fig tree) and got ice creams and cold sodas. 

We back tracked to the entrance. Just outside the entrance was the garden's nursery. Of course, my brother had to see the place even though he could not buy anything. *sigh* I followed him in and scanned the plants for sale. Everything here is so cheap compared to what we pay for plants in the US. If I lived in Sri Lanka, I would have a big garden with lots of plants and flowers!

Perediniya is a pretty little bit of Eden on this small tropical island and I'm glad we made time to see it!