Part of saying goodbye and letting go of my life here in Sri Lanka will be adjusting my eyes to the more mundane – or better known – flowers of the temperate zones. Before I do that, let me revel for a little in just a few of the plants that have given me such joy over the last few years.
Amherstia nobilis – Pride of Burma. I planted a sapling in my garden at Kotte and before I left it delighted me with its’ first flowers. I’ve seen it flowering on several visits over the years, but never better than the avenue I saw in Kandy just a few months ago – or the magnificent specimen I saw in front of one of the colleges at the university, at Peradeniya.
The flowers on my clumping kithul always gave me a lift – such a sweet candy-striper pink, so cheerful and so strange – like a vegetable version of coral.
and not to ignore ripe palm berries, always so colourful
or any one of the several varieties of sweet little creeping plants with their tiny red, pink or yellow trumpets that brighten up any shady corner
or this dishy little pink flower that quickly turns into a fruit, on an unknown shrub that thrives in the swampy verges of the lakes around parliament
Another favourite flowering tree, the South American Tabebuia – is well represented here by the pink variety (there’s a whole avenue along both sides of the Kandy road, around Ambepusa), but I’ve never seen this one before – huge multi-hued heads which I think must be rosealba, though I’ve never seen a photograph of it like this.
Always Anthuriums – red, pink, tangerine, white, green, amethyst and even an ox-blood red/black! This neat, smallish variety, with its violet-tinged spadix is always a favourite.
Many varieties of heavily scented white jasmines abound, and are a must for garlands – particularly those for the hair! The longer lasting, but scentless temple flowers are grown in every garden and along the roadsides, to be plucked daily for offerings and special occasion decorative strands, while some gardeners thrill to produce the sweet-scented night-flowering cactus here in the tropics.
And lastly, our banner flower – from the Asoka Tree – Saraca indica. I first came across this stunner growing in the garden of an old walaawa in a one-cart town out near Lunugala many years ago. Knowing only that it was (like the Amherstia) a rare rainforest tree, I’ve never had the opportunity to see it up close until I saw it flowering at Bevis Bawa’s gorgeous garden – “Brief” – just a while ago. Although it is a relatively small tree in its rainforest habitat (and will be at Brief, where it is planted in similar conditions), you must imagine a mature specimen over twenty feet tall, just covered with these pompoms of tightly packed coral coloured flowers.