Saturday, 25 February 2012

Brief Garden

These statue-topped gateposts mark the entrance to one of the loveliest private gardens in Sri Lanka, Bevis Bawa's Brief Garden, situated about 10 kilometres inland from Bentota on Sri Lanka's west coast. 

Here is the journalist, travel writer and nephew of W. Somerset Maugham, Robin Maugham's description:

'Brief Garden is a Paradise; it is a Shangri-la, a glimpse of Nirvana--call it what you will after you have been to see it. The harmony of the Brief Garden is unexpected because, as Bevis Bawa explains it, it consists of a collection of several small gardens--thought out by him in various moods and at various times during its growth over the last forty years. The result is a climax of loveliness, a proclamation that nature can triumph over the hideous inventions of mankind.

'In the leafy trees and shrubs the wild birds call and sing. Flowers glitter in the sunshine. Gracefully-shaped vistas reach out to the horizon. Tranquility pervades the green terraces. Peace covers the house with a soft cloak. Peace fall over the lawns like a blessing. Peace is everywhere. For this place is a Paradise, made by the sensibility of one man, created by his patience and his love.'

The man behind Brief Garden, Bevis Bawa, began landscaping the 5 acre garden his father had purchased following a successful legal brief, in 1929 and continued until his death in 1992. From all accounts, he was an amazing character - artist, wit, raconteur and garden designer. For sixty years his home attracted the rich and famous, including Lawrence Olivier,Vivian Leigh, and King Edward VIII, and was a haven for artists from around the world, such as Australia's Donald Friend, who came for six days and ended up staying six years. And who could blame him!

As I mentioned in an earlier post on Helga's Folly in Candy, I first visited Sri Lanka in 2004, the year of the terrible tsunami, and I finally had the opportunity to return last year. My first visit was prior to my conversion to digital photography, but this trip in 2011 marked the end of the road for my digital camera, which had served me faithfully in the intervening five or six years. So, with apologies for the photo quality (it was clearly on its last legs), here are some of the images I brought back from my return visit to Sri Lanka and Brief Garden.

These beautiful newlyweds kindly consented to being photographed.

Torch ginger

The Moon Gate - a traditional architectural element in Chinese gardens

'In the land where the jaggery grow...Bawa of Brief'

There are so many fabulous ideas to be gleaned from a visit to Brief Garden: the curved steps and garden seats, the plantings, the sweeping terraces, the garden rooms, the perfect placement of garden statues and urns, and the vistas from every room of the beautiful residence.

Perhaps one of the factors that spurred Bevis on when creating his Shangri La was the spirit of sibling rivalry, because not far from Brief Garden and Bentota lies another stunning garden called Lunuganga, the home and garden of his brother, esteemed architect, Geoffrey Bawa. I look forward to sharing my images of that with you soon.


  1. What a wonderful garden. I would love some of the elements from it in my garden, especially the table and chairs under the shady pergola. isn't it amazing how great gardens just seem to get better with age.

    1. I agree 100% Ros. I love the mature plants and the way the moss and lichens have established themselves on the brickwork, and on the sculptures and urns. Plus there were lots of beautiful shady places to sit, but none lovelier than under the pergola with a pot of tea on hand.

  2. Lovely garden with many statues! Full of arts too!

    1. Hi Malar, yes I think that Bevis Bawa made many of the pieces throughout the garden himself.

  3. I would love to teleport myself to this garden if it was possible....spectacular.
    Thank you for stopping by my blog with your kind words. Our pets are so very much a part of our families....hope you don't have to be away from yours for very long.



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