William Martin (garden designer)

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William Martin (Born Rutherglen Scotland 25 June 1953) was a plantsman[1] and garden designer (or "Spatial Dramatist"[2]). His garden Wigandia in south west Victoria, at Noorat was twice voted Australia's best garden.[3][4] Martin had no formal art training.[5]


Martin was an outspoken advocate for a new approach to gardening in Australia. He eschewed approaches to gardening in Australia that emphasised rigorous preparation of soil and selection of plants based on traditions. Climactic suitability was taken for granted as a necessary prerequisite for inclusion. Writing in Australian magazine Your Garden, Martin has written: "Choose the right plant types for your given growing conditions and area and the rest will fall into place".[6] Elsewhere, Martin is described as "independent of mind, individual in style".[7] He has argued that most Australian gardening is still in a "Northern Hemisphere style" and therefore does not truly reflect Australian identity.[8] However, this does not by any means suggest a focus on endemic Australian plants. In another idiosyncratic reference he has been recorded as stating "Practice gongoozling, or gazing, rather than gardening too much."[9]


Martin's references to influential gardens include the one created by Derek Jarman at Dungeness and Ian Hamilton Finlay's Little Sparta.[4] In a blog entry Martin has himself cited an early Australian painting by John Glover as 'lurking in his sub-conscious'[10] as a primary source.


Martin began work on Wigandia, named after the Wigandia caracasana,[11] in 1989.[12] Martin's perspective as an artist can be said to be in a constant state of flux. Early written work on Wigandia frequently highlight his objection to the "pampered woody European legacy" that has informed the Australian garden in the past.[13] However, with the establishment of Wigandia as a working model of what can be achieved with minimal irrigation, Martin's attention has shown signs of shifting focus to the development of an understanding of his garden as art. Media attention may have 'focused' on the 'dry'[14] aspect of this garden for its own purposes, considering the prolonged drought of Eastern Australia at the time.

The four hectare property that encompassed Wigandia, has been said to have begun life as 'nothing but a horse paddock, heavily grazed and aching with weeds'.[15] Martin has variously described his garden as 'a series of sketches, but (also) a single canvas' [15] and elsewhere, 'a single canvas with every area interlinked'.[16] He has also attested to his interest in geographic references by stating that a primary concern was to 'ensure the garden harmonises with the surrounding landscape of Mount Noorat'.[17] It could be argued this forms a key foundation in the colour selection at Wigandia where the paths and interspaces feature crushed red volcanic scoria sourced from southwest Victoria.[18] In a gesture to cultural references, the frequent use of corrugated iron, a key feature of construction in rural Australia, is used in the garden as a barrier material for fencing and other installations.[19]

Martin has been described as an artist who "explores the complex relationships between landscape, environment, culture and society."[20] To the extent that such a statement can be said to be anything other than general in nature, it applies to Martin in respect to his elevation of garden design to the realm of art (as differentiated from design); a concept virtually unheard of in the Australian context and still in embryonic form internationally.


After a visit in 2014 the noted American designer James Golden observed the place of Martin's work in the international lexicon of garden art when he wrote: "Few gardens I’ve ever visited so completely reflect the spirit of their place–and this place is extraordinary." [21]

Martin's own stature on the global stage has been reflected in his interpretation of his relationship with Golden reported in a New York Times article pointing to a belief they both share of “gardens as places for the mind instead of places for shovel and spade.” [22]

In a major tribute to Martin's influence on garden design the noted Australian gardening writer Michael McCoy has stated, "Once you’ve seen Wigandia – as many did when it was all over the garden media a decade or so ago – you never quite garden the same again."[23]

Public Works[edit]

Martin's commissioned works are invariably in private spaces which preclude access. Some noteworthy exceptions exist. In 2011/12 Martin worked on the garden adjoining the courthouse and local council buildings in Camperdown, Victoria, Australia working with landscape company Red Rocket. [24] In a rare public comment on his work Martin described the work as having been inspired by: "...the genius of the space...[and] I wanted to capture some of that wildness…that wonder of being in a type of Gondwana land.” [25]

Current Status[edit]

Martin's Wigandia is not open to the public.

By 2017 Martin was thought to have abandoned the garden and moved to live in Thailand.[26]


  1. ^ "Australian Open Garden Scheme". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 14 October 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  2. ^ "The Gondwana we never had". Williammartinswigandiaagardenofthesun.blogspot.com. 6 July 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  3. ^ The Garden, January 2005, pp. 36-41
  4. ^ a b Gardens to Visit (14 February 2004). "Beware of the bogeyman". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  5. ^ "Artist William Martin". Saatchionline.com. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  6. ^ Your Garden, Summer 2006, p. 135
  7. ^ Your Garden, March 2000, p. 38
  8. ^ "Gardening Australia - Fact Sheet: Wigandia". Abc.net.au. 26 August 2006. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  9. ^ http://www.harlandhandgarden.com/Martin.htm
  10. ^ http://williammartinswigandiaagardenofthesun.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/my-greatest-influence.html
  11. ^ "Burke's Backyard > Fact Sheets > Wigandia Garden". Burkesbackyard.com.au. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  12. ^ The Garden, January 2005, p. 38
  13. ^ Guest, Sarah (2001), Gardens in Australia, New Holland Publishers, p. 100
  14. ^ "When Jamie Durie Met Oprah". Au.lifestyle.yahoo.com. 25 January 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  15. ^ a b Lamb, E., 'Award winning', The Warrnambool Standard Magazine, 2 November 2002, p. 3
  16. ^ 'Under the volcano', Gardens Illustrated
  17. ^ 'Under the volcano',Gardens Illustrated
  18. ^ "Gardening Australia - Transcript - Episode 28". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 August 2006. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  19. ^ Harpur, J., 2005, Gardens in perspective, The Octopus Publishing Group, p. 72
  20. ^ Nottle, T., 1996, 'Gardens of the Sun,' Kangaroo Press, Australia
  21. ^ http://federaltwist.com/wigandia/
  22. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/17/garden/the-good-for-nothing-garden.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all&
  23. ^ http://gardendrum.com/2014/03/10/garden-design-from-the-outside-in
  24. ^ http://www.standard.net.au/story/796923/garden-designers-camperdown-project-a-welcome-change-of-pace/
  25. ^ http://www.camperdownchronicle.com.au/2012/01/gondwana-dreaming/
  26. ^ https://www.instagram.com/p/BSD7PyEl8m8/

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