Hakgala Botanical Gardens
Hakgala Botanical Gardens were founded in 1860 by the eminent British botanist Dr GHK Thwaites, who was superintendent of the more famous gardens at Peradeniya, near Kandy.
In 1860-1880 Hakgala was the site for experiments with cinchona, whose bark yielded quinine, widely used at that time as a remedy for malaria. This may have been the reason for the popularity of gin and tonic in these parts – quinine being the main ingredient of tonic water.
The climate of the Hakgala area, whose mean temperature is around 16ºC, is perfect for temperate-zone plants, both ornamental and useful. These include conifers and cedars from Australia, Bermuda and Japan, and cypresses from the Himalayas, China and as far as Persia, Mexico and California. New Caledonia gave Hakgala a special variety of pine, and there are specimens of this genus from the Canary Islands as well.
An English oak, introduced around 1890, commemorates the “hearts of oak” of Britain’s vaunted sea power. There is also an excellent specimen of the camphor tree, whose habitat is usually in regions above 12,000 m elevation. In the Rose Garden, you can experience the sights and scents of these glorious blooms in their infinite variety. From here it is a short stroll to the exotic sophistication of the Orchid House. A special attraction here is the variety of mountain orchids, many of them endemic to Sri Lanka.
The fern’s delicate fronds conjure up visions of misty grottoes, lichen-covered stones and meandering streams. The secluded fernery at Hakgala lies in the shade of the Hakgala Rock, which is shaped like the jawbone of an elephant, from which it gets its name. Sri Lanka’s ferns are well represented here, as are those of Australia and New Zealand.
The languid low-country lotus and water lily also float in serene loveliness, emerging from a background of floating leaves to evoke the calm of saffron-robed monks, white-clad devotees and flickering oil lamps.