Your travel guide for Sri Lanka

Discover a realm where nature's serenity intertwines with artistic vision in the heart of Sri Lanka: the Brief Garden. Just a short distance from the town of Bentota, this haven offers an escape from the everyday, inviting visitors to step into a meticulously crafted world. Here, every stone, plant, and pathway has a purpose, reflecting the dedication and passion of its creator, Bevis Bawa. Journey with us as we delve into the layers, stories, and allure of this unique garden.

Overview of Brief Garden

Brief Garden spans an expansive five acres, a vast sanctuary that is both structured and wild. Initially a rubber plantation, the area underwent a transformation under the vision of Bevis Bawa to become a meticulously designed landscape.

As visitors explore the garden, they're greeted by a combination of dense greenery and methodically laid out sections. Pathways, both obvious and hidden, entice explorers to delve deeper into the grounds. Each corner presents a new scene, sometimes a clearing with intricate design patterns of shrubs and plants, and at other times dense canopies that provide cool shade.

Water features play a pivotal role in the garden's ambiance. The sound of water flowing in the background, coupled with the symphony of chirping birds, creates an atmosphere of tranquility.

The mix of natural beauty and deliberate artistic design makes the Brief Garden an intriguing space, holding visitors' interest at every step. The combination of green spaces, structured designs, and art installations allows for an immersive experience, making one feel both lost and found within nature.

History of Brief Garden

The story of Brief Garden begins in the early 20th century. Originally a rubber plantation, this piece of land saw a transformation that few could have envisioned.

Bevis Bawa, the force behind this transformation, was no ordinary individual. As the elder brother of renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, he had an innate sense of design and aesthetics. After inheriting the property in the 1920s, Bevis Bawa began the laborious process of converting it from a mere plantation into a meticulously designed garden.

Under his direction, what was once an area dominated by rubber trees slowly began to evolve. He introduced a variety of plants, both local and exotic. But it wasn't just about the plants; Bawa had a vision of creating spaces within the garden. Over the decades, with a lot of hard work, persistence, and a keen eye for design, different sections of the garden started taking shape.

It's worth noting that during this period, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was undergoing significant political and social changes. The island was moving towards independence from British colonial rule. Amidst this backdrop, the garden also saw influences from different cultures and styles, particularly the blend of Sri Lankan and European tastes.

In the years that followed, Brief Garden started attracting attention, not just locally but from overseas as well. Artists, writers, and designers frequented the place, drawing inspiration from its beauty. Some of these individuals, impressed and inspired by the ambiance, even contributed art pieces and sculptures to the garden, further enriching its legacy.

Today, the garden stands as a testament to Bevis Bawa's vision, dedication, and love for nature and art, capturing a significant period in Sri Lanka's history and evolution.

Architecture and Landscape

Bevis embarked on a transformative journey in 1929, reshaping a former rubber estate into a distinct architectural and horticultural masterpiece. The primary hallmark of this transformation was the strategic use of space, intertwining natural elements with built structures.

Pathways and Layout

The garden's design is distinguished by its pathways, each deliberately designed and densely planted. These pathways not only connect various sections of the garden but also lead visitors back to the central house. Each path offers discreet seating areas, providing intimate spots for reflection, emphasizing the garden's focus on creating personal experiences within a larger space.

Structures and Garden Rooms

The main bungalow, once Bevis's own residence, stands as an epitome of architectural integration with nature. Surrounded by what can be described as 'garden rooms', these spaces seamlessly blend the outdoors with the indoors. Each of these rooms exhibits a blend of local and colonial architectural styles, marked by open verandas, outdoor showers, and decorative urns.

Adjacent to the main bungalow are various sculptural elements, products of the collaboration between Bevis and Australian artist Donald Friend. From paving stones engraved with art to anthropomorphic vases and distinctive sculptures, these features echo a synthesis of natural and artistic design.

European Influences and Mass Planting

Drawing inspiration from expansive European designs, specific sections like the water terrace and the bin pol basin stand out. Here, the genius of Bevis's landscaping is evident. He introduced the concept of mass planting in these areas. For instance, the water terrace is surrounded by swaying bamboos, their leaves rustling in harmony with the water's movement. The bin pol basin, on the other hand, is a theater of Curculigo capitulatum, creating an amphitheater-like effect with its dense planting.

Central House and Sculptural Elements

The central house, in addition to being an architectural marvel, also serves as a gallery. Its walls and courtyards display a range of artwork and sculptures, some of which are of an erotic nature. The very structure of the house, with its high ceilings, open verandas, and broad archways, showcases a blend of traditional Sri Lankan architecture with colonial influences.

Flora and Fauna

The Brief Garden serves as a vibrant testament to Sri Lanka's varied plant life. Within its bounds, one can find an array of native trees, shrubs, and flowering plants, all meticulously selected to augment the garden's design and atmosphere. A standout among these plants is the rare bat lily (Tacca chantieri), a testament to Bevis Bawa's exceptional horticultural insight.

Of particular note is the Frangipani tree at the garden's entrance. Believed to be the first tree planted by Bevis Bawa, this tree holds a special place in the garden's history. Its fragrant blossoms and distinctive appearance have made it a focal point, and many believe that much of the garden's design radiates from this singular tree.

Beyond its rich plant life, the garden is a sanctuary for various bird species. Their melodic calls often fill the air, providing a calming ambiance. Vibrant butterflies also frequent the garden, their colors contrasting beautifully with the greenery. Additionally, the garden's water features attract a diverse range of amphibians and aquatic life.

Location and How to Get There

Brief Garden is located in Beruwala, in the Western Province. To reach there, one can take a train or bus to Bentota and then hire a taxi or tuk-tuk. Signboards guide visitors from the main road to the garden.

Best Time to Visit

The garden is open throughout the year. However, the best time for a visit is from November to April. During these months, the weather is dry, making it ideal for exploring the outdoors.

Entrance Fees

  • Foreign Visitors: US$ 10 per person (or its equivalent as per the day's exchange rate).
  • Sri Lankans: LKR 2,000 per person.

The admission fee allows visitors to explore both Bevis Bawa's home and the surrounding garden, complete with a guided tour of the bungalow.

Dining Options at Brief Garden

  1. High Tea: Available for an additional LKR 3,000 per person, inclusive of the entrance fee.
  2. Lunch: For those looking to enjoy a midday meal, there's an option for an additional LKR 4,500 per person, inclusive of the entrance ticket.
  3. Dinner: Evening visitors can opt for dinner at an extra cost of LKR 6,500 per person, inclusive of the admission fee.

Each dining experience is set at the garden's top terrace, offering guests a chance to indulge in a blend of Sri Lankan culinary delights amidst the serene backdrop of "Brief".

Tips and Advice

  • Footwear: Wear comfortable walking shoes to navigate the garden's pathways with ease.
  • Guided Tour: Make the most of the included guided tour for insightful details about the garden and its history.
  • Weather: Carry an umbrella or raincoat, as the area often experiences sudden rain showers.
  • Photography: Remember to ask for permission before capturing photographs inside the bungalow.
  • Children: Supervise younger visitors to ensure their safety and preserve the tranquility of the garden.
  • Dining: If interested in the dining options, book in advance to ensure availability.
  • Transportation: Plan your return transport ahead, especially if staying till evening, as local transport can be sparse.
  • Conservation: Respect the garden's environment by not littering and staying on designated paths.

Nearby Attractions

  1. Bentota Beach: A serene coastal stretch in Sri Lanka, Bentota Beach is perfect for relaxation and water activities. Its golden sands and clear waters make it a favorite among both locals and tourists.
  2. Kande Vihare Temple: Located in Aluthgama, this revered temple is known for its impressive architecture and spiritual significance. Visitors are often captivated by its intricate designs and peaceful ambiance.
  3. Lunuganga: This was the residence of the renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa. It offers insights into his life, works, and the evolution of modern Sri Lankan architecture.

Brief Garden provides a harmonious blend of nature, art, and history. It stands as a reflection of Sri Lanka's rich cultural heritage. A visit to this garden promises a peaceful and enlightening experience. Whether a nature lover, history buff, or art enthusiast, it has something to offer everyone.

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