Wrap up your winter blues in mothballs and lose yourself in the radiant colours of springtime in Sri Lanka’s fabulous garden destinations. Located almost on the equator, the island-nation is blessed with a great abundance of sunlight all year round and temperatures remain fairly constant. Little wonder it’s also known as the “land of eternal summer”.
Being in the tropics, Sri Lanka doesn’t summon up the typical demarcated line-up of the seasons. Even in the rainy seasons, showers happen mostly at night. In fact, it’s the Northeast monsoon and the Southwest monsoon which dictate the season change here.
There is no springtime in the tropics as such, but the time of the vernal equinox is said to herald the beginning of spring; that’s when the sun is believed to align with the earth. What’s pretty unique about Sri Lanka for nature lovers and garden buffs is that despite its tropical setting its great botanical spaces offer a window to its changing seasons; this is best witnessed when the great varieties of Sri Lanka’s flowers, begin to bloom in the spring ( March to May- spring time) and (August and September- the fall). That’s what also makes a tour of their springtime splendour all the more precious.
Driving around in Peradeniya, in the central district of Kandy, in mid-March you will be welcomed by great cascading trails of that lovely creeper known as the cat’s claw vine(Dolichandra unguis-cati), a big springtime draw in Sri Lanka, The exotic species distinctive for its vibrant sunny yellow blooms can grow up to 30 meters. You should also drive down to the lake to soak up the magic of the pink blooms from the trees drifting down to the waters.
The best time of year to see the range of orchids, roses and hydrangeas in bloom in Sri Lanka is in springtime. Wend, you way to the gorgeous expanses of the Royal Botanical Gardens in the suburban reaches of Peredeniya. Originating over 6 centuries back, it was just that–a garden meant for the exclusive pleasure of the Kandyan royals. Now the public can enjoy this fabulous green and floral setting which features over 4000 different species of plants in an area of 60 hectares. Unmissable here are its springtime blooms such as the roses. It also features a fab collection of orchids and the legendary Cannonball Tree, the fruit of which resembles a cannonball and has large open, waxy pink-white flowers. The best time to visit the Royal Botanical gardens from December to April.
No botanical tour is complete with a visit to the historic Water Gardens, Boulder Gardens, and the Terraced Gardens of Sigiriya. They have to be on your bucket for the historic setting of these gardens considered amongst the oldest landscaped grounds in the world.
Driving away from the tropical vistas of Kandy and Colombo to the more temperate climes of the misty highlands of Nuwara Eliya get set for a different botanical journey altogether in this region famous for its tea plantations. As you progress up the hills in the, you will spy hillsides awash with springtime wildflowers of many hues and shapes. Located at 1,890 m Nuwara Eliya is the highest city on the island. Its colonial setting is further enhanced by its English-style manor houses and cottages with their flower gardens of roses, pansies, snapdragons, daisies, buttercups, all nourished by the highland climes.
Hakgala Botanical Garden is on the Nuwara Eliya-Badulla main road. Hindu myth has it that it was the pleasure garden, Ashoka Vatika, where King Ravana hid Lord Rama‘ wife, Sita, after abducting her. There are over 10,000 species of flora planted here and during spring in Nuwara Eliya hundreds and thousands of visitors arrive to enjoy this spectacular treat. Come here to soak up the scents and sights of its fabulous rose garden and its famous orchids.
Head out to Victoria Park behind the famous Nuwara Eliya Golf Course, which dates back to 1891. The 28 acre park is beautiful between March-April when the collections of orchids and English roses become the high points of outdoor this highland landscape.
While we are all familiar with Sri Lanka’s world-renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa, not everyone is familiar with the work of his older brother, Bevis Bawa the landscape architect. While visiting coastal Bentota, you must visit his beautifully designed Brief Garden. You will love the tranquil beauty of this 20 acre setting which features over a hundred plant species.
While spring time is perfect for exploring Sri Lanka’s beautiful botanical spaces, why not team it up with other spring time pleasures? Surfing because of the consistent swells; it’s also less crowded; go on safari at Yala National Park, explore tea gardens, become a beach bum–and join locals to celebrate Sri Lankan New Year!