brief Garden by Bevis Bawa

©Brief Garden


sri lanka

Bevis Bawa (1909 – 1992) was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He was a major of the Ceylon Light Infantry, a horticulturalist and a landscaper.

In 1929, while servig for the army, he started to work at the family rubber farm, known as Brief Estate. Ho took a small estate and transformed it into a garden. 

In 1949 the farm became his own, as he inherited it from his father. He moved to live there, when he finished his service for tha army. Since then the garden grew both in dimensions and popularity, hosting actors and artists. After his death, Brief Garden was run by Dooland De Silva, manager and landscpae designer himself.


Brief Garden

Bevis began the garden in 1929, when he moved to manage the family rubber estate. He cleared the cash crop tree, initially for his bungalow and subsequentely for the variety of  beautiful landscaped spaces connected by colourful and densely planted paths. In 1956 the Australian artist Donal Friend came to stay until 1962. During this time the now beautifully planted garden received an artistic boost, as the two creators worked well together. Bevis sculpted from Friend’s drawings. Throughout the garden this successful collaboration is evident in the paving stones; the anthropomorphic flower vases, a Bacchus Bird bath and various fantastical heads.  The garden was open to the public in 1969 by which time it was already famous. Vivien Leigh, Sir Laurence Olivier, Peter Finch and Queen Ingrid of Denmark had all visited, delighting in its’ curious eccentricity and expert planting. The garden rooms surrounding the bungalow are furnished with outdoor showers, sculptures, urns and iron work. In one such space lives the bat lily, or tacca chantieri.  Reminiscent of European grand design, two spaces  – the water terrace and the bin pol basin – are created by mass planting. Bevis was an expert plantsman ahead of his time. He pioneered the creation of outdoor spaces by using one species, densly planted. Bamboo frames the water terrace, with it’s dancing leaves; and the “bin pol basin” is a veritable amphitheatre of swaying plants in a gentle breeze. The plant is curculigo capitulatum, native to tropical Australia.

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