Gardening in Sri Lanka
Phil McCann is a writer living and gardening in
Colombo, Sri Lanka. His new garden is presenting some
wonderful opportunities and experiences.
Hot, humid and a horticultural heaven - that's our garden
in Colombo, the noisy cauldron of car horns and screeching
brakes, capital of Sri Lanka. Plants I formerly thought
of as delicate little numbers, specimens needing a wheelbarrow
of TLC and a shed full of mollycoddle, grow wild out
here. Hibiscus are ripped out of borders before they
get too big, lantana is considered a weed, and bougainvillea,
the doyenne of many a garden in the Mediterranean and
conservatories in the northern reaches of Europe, cascade
from every balcony.
The near constant temperature throughout the year, and
two rainy monsoon months enable exotic plants to grow
with an enthusiasm and vitality I have never before
encountered (conveniently forgetting the Leylandii hedge
planted by a neighbour in the UK). Plants here do not
know the meaning of cold winter nights and short day
lengths. Seasons are more or less a distant memory for
me, although our temple tree (Frangipani, Plumeria obtusa)
did have its own autumn in May when most of its leaves
dropped off, soon to be replaced a week later by fresh
growth and more fragrant blooms.
We took over a garden
consisting of a rectangle of lawn, 10m x 6m, surrounded
by stark white walls. Everyone in the know says that
when you take over a new garden all the hard landscaping,
that's the paving, fencing and lugging stuff around
part, should be complete before you indulge in planting.
Come off it - how could I resist the plants available
here? We needed plants to create an immediate feeling
of peace and calm in a turbulent city. Only plants can
do this and we have become regular visitors to the fortnightly
plant market held in Victoria Park. There, haggling
is a game and the prizes are amazing number of different
palms, jasmine filling the air with sweet perfume, orchids
that take your breath away and roses.
Yes, roses are big in Sri Lanka, and just as I drool
over the waxy flowers of hoya, the fragile looking leaves
of caladium and the bold red blooms of Ixora, local
gardeners swarm over hybrid teas, floribunda and standards.
Seeing marigold in full exuberant bloom during January
and February is strangely uplifting.
It is going to be great fun filling the garden with
plants, pots and
eventually, yes, I will get round to the hard work part
of gardening. I'll wait until it cools down a little
with premission from Greenfingers.com