March 2012


A Stroll Through The Royal Botanic Gardens
March 2012




Visitors to the Royal Botanic Gardens walk along the picturesque Royal Palm Avenue

Outside the Royal Botanic Gardens of Peradeniya, life bustles along the roadway leading into Kandy City. Vendors call out to throngs of hurrying pedestrians and vehicles plying the road honk noisily. To walk through the gates of the Gardens however, is to leave behind the jarring din and be enveloped by beautifully manicured grounds, bird sounds and soft breezes.

Words Haseena Razak | Photography Menaka Aravinda

Just within the main entrance of the 147 acre property is a pleasing prelude to the Royal Botanic Gardens: a tarred walkway encircles an island of lush green grass bordered by colourful beds of dainty flowers. At the far end of the small green islet, the road leads through tall trees and vines which form an alcove of the walkway. From this point the road, which had been laid out in a straight line through to the other end of the grounds, enables a brilliant perspective and teases with glimpses of what could be expected further along the walk.

Trees and vines are allowed to form a thick curtain around the road and they filter in a green-tinged sunlight

The shady alcove is a treat to traverse. Trees and vines are allowed to form a thick curtain around the road and they filter in a green-tinged sunlight. At the end of this walkway is the Great Circle, a large turf, around which the road leads. Several Memorial Trees have been planted in this region of the Gardens by prominent personalities from all over the world. There is a Tamarind Tree planted on February 4, 1948 by Sri Lanka's first Prime Minister, D. S. Senanayake, to commemorate National Independence. A Bo Tree, planted by King Edward VII in 1875, stands tall. Among these trees is also one planted by Sri Lanka's current President, Mahinda Rajapaksa. The trees bear evidence of the visits of several other foreign and local dignitaries, even the astronauts of Apollo 12. These notable visitors demonstrate the prestige that the Gardens are held in, the world over.


Past the Great Circle, the straight roadway continues along a palm lined walk, called the Royal Palm Avenue. The avenue brings visitors to the far side of the Gardens where the Suspension Bridge is located. Built in 1931, the purpose of the bridge was to make the Gardens accessible to students at a school of agriculture on the other side of the Mahaveli River. Presently, the Bridge is a popular attraction for those seeking a different view of the River and also for children, who are unfailingly delighted by the gentle swaying of the Bridge.

The row of Giant Java Almond trees inspires awe in passersby with their sheer magnitude.

The straight trunk road, which passes through the middle of the Gardens, branches out into the many different regions of the property. We found that the Great Lawn was one of the most popular areas, with families picnicking and groups of people playing games on the open green. In the past, there was an astonishingly large Java Fig Tree sprawled out on the lawn, its branches covering about 2,500 square metres. Today, the original tree is no more. The Gardens' officers have however, succeeded in saving a branch of the tree. As a result the new Java Fig Tree, a smaller version of its predecessor, stands secure and full of promise.


Home to over 4000 species of indigenous and foreign plants, the Royal Botanic Gardens of Peradeniya, comprise of many attractively tended areas including the Flower Garden, the Spice Garden, the Lake, the Orchid House as well as a collection of bamboo and palms. The Flower Garden is a burst of colour, with its neatly trimmed beds, the picturesque Japanese Garden and a conservatory shaped like a two-tiered cake. Species like cinnamon, pepper and cardamom occupy the Spice Garden. Some of the oldest nutmeg trees were planted during the 1840s. The lake shaped like the Island of Sri Lanka is surrounded by plant life that flourishes in marshy areas. Vivid hued flowers in purples and pinks adorn the surface of the water.

The Orchid House holds possibly the strongest appeal for visitors. The allure of these delicate, exotic flowers lie in the various shapes and colours they sport. The Royal Botanic Gardens boasts several different varieties such as Cattleya, Vanda, Dendrobium as well as hybrids.

With a veritable smorgasbord of plants and fruits to select from, it is only natural that a multitude of bird species live in and visit the Gardens


The Royal Botanic Gardens also plays a conservational role by nurturing plants outside their natural habitat. As a result, the Gardens is home to several species that are endangered or extinct in the wild. The Suwanda, Maha Kuratiya and Pini Veraliya trees are not only endemic to Sri Lanka, they are also rare in the wild. Therefore, the trees may be the only surviving specimens on earth. The row of Giant Java Almond trees inspires awe in passersby with their sheer magnitude.


With a veritable smorgasbord of plants and fruits to select from, it is only natural that a multitude of bird species live in and visit the Gardens. Bird enthusiasts are rewarded with sightings of endemic, indigenous and migratory birds. Mammals like bats, troupes of macaques and porcupines are also frequently sighted.


In addition to the enterprising role that the Gardens plays in conserving plants and promoting horticulture, it also renders an invaluable service by helping to instill a deep sense of appreciation in visitors towards nature. Within the premises of the Gardens lies the opportunity to discover the wondrous diversity between species that originate from all over the world. Above all, the Royal Botanic Gardens is a place to merely experience the peaceful, rejuvenating presence of nature even within the heart of a bustling city.


Functions
During the time of the British, the key function of the Gardens was to conduct research into and introduce economic crops such as cinnamon, coffee and rubber. Currently, the Gardens' functions include authenticating and conserving plants, managing and developing the National Herbarium, providing educational opportunities to the public as well as promoting domestic floriculture and horticulture.

History
The area where the Royal Botanic Gardens of Peradeniya stands today was first used in 1371 as a royal pleasure garden by King Wickramabahu III. In 1780 King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe, the last native king to rule Sri Lanka, declared the area as a Royal Garden. Notably, the word ‘Royal' in the present day name of the Gardens alludes to Sri Lanka's native royalty. Six years after the Kandyan Kingdom fell into the hands of the British, the Royal Botanic Gardens was established in 1821. As tributes to two prominent superintendents of the Gardens - George Gardner and Dr. Thwaites - monuments have been erected in the premises, which can still be seen today.


The Royal Botanic Gardens is open all year round from 7.30am to 5pm daily. The on-site cafe and restaurant is open between 10am and 5pm.

  • image01
    image01

    A thick growth of trees and vines make a shady alcove of this walkway

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The lake shaped like the Island of Sri Lanka is surrounded by plantlife

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    One of the colourful specimens from the Orchid House

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Mahakuratiya, possibly the only tree of its kind on earth, as the tree is rarely found in the wild

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The flourishing new Java Fig Tree

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The view inside the conservatory shaped like a two-tiered cake

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    A Tickells Blue Flycatcher poses for our camera

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    A row of Giant Java Almond Trees make a striking impression with their immense proportions

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    School-children enjoy a walk along the Suspension Bridge

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Gardners Monument honours an illustrious supirintendent – George Gardner

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The Gardens are a haven for several bird species including the Asian Paradise Flycatcher

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The Tamarind Tree planted by Sri Lankas first Prime Minister, D. S. Senanayake, to commemorate National Independence

    Prev Next