We propose to publish occasional excerpts from Valerie Lester's wonderful biography of Clarence Bicknell. This will serve to increase Clarence's presence and "searchability" on the internet, and will give exposure to the book. Because of my recent contacts with the Peradeniya Garden in Kandy, Sri Lanka, the first such excerpt is about Clarence's trip with Luigi Pollini there in early 1908.
"Like everyone arriving in Ceylon, he was immediately struck by the magnificence and omnipresence of palm trees, commenting to Burnat that the Cocos nucifera everywhere were truly superb. After a week spent in Colombo and along the east coast of the island, Clarence and Luigi took the train to Kandy. In the first part of the journey, they travelled past paddy-fields, banana groves, palm forests and acres of waterlilies and lotus before beginning the climb up terraced hills, followed by ridge after ridge into the hill country. At last, the train entered a narrow gorge before it reached the final pass, and then, after all the uphill chugging and puffing, it ran merrily down into Kandy. From the station, Clarence and Luigi ascended a steep 100 feet to the town, where they had their first view of its lake and the famous Queen’s Hotel nestled on its shore. He expressed his delight to Burnat: ‘How wonderful it is to see Convolvulus and Thunbergia everywhere, and an infinity of plants that I know only in our greenhouses, and then ferns and Nymphaea [water lilies] . . . After a week we hope to climb the Pic d’Adam, visit the high, cold [hill station] Newera Ellya [Nuwara Eliya] and after that the ruins of ancient cities.’
"The Peradeniya Garden is vast, and fulfilled Clarence’s dreams of tropical vegetation: acres of towering bamboos, palms and yet more palms, banyans, spices, cataracts of allamandass and bignonias flowing down from the tallest trees, and wisteria winding their way up. The scientist in Clarence appreciated the research facilities and the experimental station and its leaf insect breeding programme.viii The director (and author), J.C. Willis, made every facility available to visiting men of science, including the herbarium with its competent curators and the library of botanical books and periodicals."