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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Peradeniya Gardens

Peradeniya botanical gardens is considered as one of the finest of it's kind in Asia. It is the largest of the three botanical gardens in the island. Situated in Peradeniya, just outside of Kandy, it has many different varieties of flora thanks to the Mediterranean climate of the area. All tourist visiting the hill country never forgets to make a stop at the gardens.

The 60 hectare garden is bounded on three sides by a loop in the Mahaweli River, the longest river in the country. The original park was created way back in 1371 as a queens pleasure garden. Later it was developed by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1778), as a place where royal visitors could be entertained. It was converted to a Botanical garden by the British in 1821, six years after the fall of Kandy. The garden became a testing ground for crop cultivation. Tea, Rubber, Coffee, Nutmeg and many more were first tested here before they were used for mass cultivation.

There are ten thousand plants and trees, including 4000 labeled species. A signboard at the entrance features a map with numbered circuits from 1-30, and corresponding markers are placed strategically along the route. There are extensive well-kept lawns, pavilions, an Octagon Conservatory, fernery, banks of Burmese, Chinese & Japanese bamboos & numerous flower borders with cannas, hibiscus, chrysanthemums, croton & colourful bougainvillaea. The Spice garden and the Orchid house has an outstanding collection of species.

At the center of the gardens there is an artificial lake with a variety of water plants including giant water lilies and papyrus reeds. Next to the lake a white domed rotunda commemorates George Gardener, who was the superintendent of the gardens during 1844-1849. He collected thousands of specimens during his four years of explorations in Brazil & was responsible for importing rubber as well as cinchona. Both of these imports have been blessings to the island; rubber becoming a prime export & bark of cinchona tree producing anti malaria drug quinine.

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