Flowers from Paradise

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

Palm Berries

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


I haven’t worked out how or why yet, but there’s also a simple lemony yellow flower on this shrub.  Is it a stage, or a different sex?

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.

Twin Anthuriums

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.

40 thoughts on “Flowers from Paradise

  1. they are stunning, and your eye for them shows them off to great advantage … from large to small, all gorgeous … i hope i see rows of flowering tabebuia if i ever manage to visit one day 🙂

  2. Ah I have been thinking of you – but am so busy I rarely have time to stop. But tonight I did – all those lovely flowers!
    And I find myself ina simialr position. My LAwley has become so expensive that the latest rent rise means I can’t stay here any longer. So, as soon as I’m finished the PhD, I will be trying to find somewhere to live and hopingI can take my garden – & my lovely cat!
    So, empathies…

  3. I think the jasmine appeals to me most of all – that scent, so distinctive and it takes me back to an old garden I had in London where there was a very well established scented summer Jasmine, delicious on warm summer evenings, it filled the air with heady perfume. So I’m surprised to read about unscented temple versions – live and learn eh?!

  4. Pingback: my e-journal: a cluster of ___ (guess what?), flowers and cupcakes | my sweetpainteddreams

  5. Although it’s true that every climate has its beautiful flowering plants, I think the tropics have a bit more than their fair share. Apparently, when they don’t have to worry about surviving frost, plants can put all of their efforts into blooming — and to spectacular results. That Pride of Burma is stunning! Thanks you so much for sharing these photos with us.

  6. Those are so beautiful! I can understand how much you’ll miss them. But unlike many of us, you’ve had the opportunity to experience them in person!

    • I’d have no trouble following you around for a while, EllaDee, though I might get distracted by things along the way. My mother, on the other hand … absolutely besotted by flowers and was known to fly half way across the world to see certain things flowering!

  7. Oh M! They are SO beautiful!”!!! I can only imagine how much you are going to miss that country….If its flowers are like that…What can we expect from its architecture, history, food.,people!?

    • Well yes, it certainly is a package deal, Ilargia! But so too Spain, my first foreign love (can you imagine, back in the early 70s, I seriously considered going there to live!) – everywhere really. 🙂

    • Of course – and I won’t mind one bit, really, because followers, from anywhere, are one of the great joys of my life! Still, I do think some tropical flowers are especially stunning … 🙂

  8. You will find anthuriums in Queensland, and jasmine, but not the others I’m afraid. Some of them are stunning. I hope there will be enough compensations for you.

  9. Just looking at the photos makes me feel the warmth and humidity – I think it’s because in cooler climates extravagant plants like these will only grow in greenhouses. They are so magificently flamboyant.

  10. Putting the photos of your favourite flowers in a post is a great way to show them to us and also they will always be there for you to look back on.

  11. Ah what a glorious variety of stunning blooms! I am surprised i don’t know half of them! Have never seen the Pride of Burma or the Kithul or that ‘unknown flowery shrub’.

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