During the latter part of our travels around Sri Lanka in January we visited Geoffrey Bawa’s garden ‘Lunuganga’ in Bentota. Mr Bawa was an (mostly) English educated Sri Lankan architect – the most famous architect in Sri Lanka, who died in 2003.
Geoffrey Bawa House Interior
Born into a priviliged family in 1919 he didn’t really do very much according to my research & also according to the guide who showed us round his garden. It would appear he spent most of his life dilly-dallying around studying various subjects, traveling & planning to buy various villas in Europe. He eventually settled back in Sri Lanka & bought an abandoned rubber estate with a view to creating an Italianate tropical garden. His ideas never came to fruition due to lack of technical expertise – who would’ve known?
Geoffrey Bawa House Interior
Eventually a magnificent garden was built and since Mr Bawa’s death a group of people manage the gardens & the estate through a trust. It’s open to the general public every day & the entrance price includes a guided tour.
Breadfuit, an exotic but inedible thing
Lunuganga estate & garden covers fifteen acres and sits on the bank of the Dedduwa Lake. It was an abandoned jungle wilderness when Mr Bawa purchased the place but he soon set about building small houses surrounded by landscaped gardens. Rubber trees were cleared & vast swathes of lawn were installed. Stagnant ponds were drained & reshaped to grow beautiful pond lilies. The slight gradient of Lunuganga afforded Mr Bawa the opportunity to create terraces in the gardens, each one having its own distinct style.
View of the lake from The Red Terrace
The Red Terrace pictured here allowed a partial view down to the lake from one of the houses that now act as holiday lets.
The Red Terrace
One of the holiday lets
The Yellow Terrace
I had a strange feeling I’d seen all this before. Which of course I had…the garden has been styled on an English Landscape-I wonder which gardens had influenced him whilst he was studying in England before he finally settled back in Sri Lanka? Stowe maybe? Various pieces of garden paraphernalia were carefully placed around the garden to draw the eye to some view of this or that. In particular, I counted 18 magnificent antique chinese pots, very large & round shaped yet empty; the pots were beautiful enough to stand alone to be admired-no foliage required.
One of the ancient Chinese vases
Our brief tour (alas we weren’t allowed to wander without the guide on account of the holiday lets) was supplemented with wildlife. A water monitor popped from under one of the pond bridges & scores of monkeys hacked through the trees on one of their daily forages. The morning was supposed to end with tea, which we had ordered in advance but like so many things in Sri Lanka, that was all a bit too difficult. Next time maybe…
A frangipane man
Shiny brown leaf
TTFN do drop me a line with any garden design queries firstname.lastname@example.org