Elle Decoration, Hong Kong, April 1996

Made in Bali
Australian Bali-phile Made Wijaya is making garden history in one of the most luscious environments on earth. By Sophie Benge, styling Jane Edwards.

Photography by Andrew Wood

"I feel I am fighting a one-man battle against the Hawaiian insurgence," says Michael White, a.k.a. Made Wijaya. This is not part of a campaign against political rebels, but rather pastoral lobbying from a professional in the landscape gardening business. Wijaya is having a problem with the various looks – including Hawaiian, Balinese, Baroque, funeral par lour and the spacious and stylish – that are spreading across the Asian garden-scape. His own creations have a carefully careless rambling style, which has earned him fame in Asia (especially in Bali where he lives) over the last twenty years. Wijaya hopes that his gardens are completely original, "like a couturier's work"' and explains that he sees his own look as "Tropical Cotswolde". Encyclopedic lingo trips from the lips of this raconteur whose way with words is as romantic and exotic as his work. His garden at the Bali Hyatt, the Four Seasons Resort Bali in Jimbaran, the Amandari resort in Ubud and the Oberoi hotel, plus David Bowie's house in Mustique, have earned Wijaya his reputation as creator of a beautiful, "ordered jungle" aesthetic.

Wijaya is an artist, his work a kinetic sculpture, and the burgeoning growth of his tropical gardens means he doesn't have to wait ten years to garner a reputation. But this growth factor also means constant care in preventing the poetic abundance from erring on the side of the unkempt. It takes "micro-millimetre fine tuning" to ensure the waxy fronds and lily pads look super-stylish all year round. With 40 major gardens on the books each year, Wijaya has built up his 350 strong commando squad of Balinese green berets to man the trenches, making up a contracting outfit which understands the Wijaya way of gardening. In a region where courtyard living is de rigeur and gardening is less about filling planter boxes and more about interior design, Wijaya also be called a landscape architect. The largest part of his work is what is known as the hardscape-the broad brush strokes for the scheme, the walls, ponds, edge, bridges and statuary. This is followed by the softscape, the filling in of plants. So successful has been this style that Wijaya has brought out the Wijaya Classics range of garden artworks and lights in his own distinctive look.

In Bali, Wijaya is a character whom people love to hate. He happened upon the island while bunking out of university in Australia in 1973 and has run the gamut of professions from tennis coach and dancer to newspaper columnist. Perhaps it is because of his incisive mind that he needs a bit more than the gentle rhythm of the island and the planting of palms to keep him satisfied. He flushes this out with his self-confessed alter ego Mia Porsche. At Villa Bebek, his courtyard-style house and office, dotted with ponds and pathways and creeping plants, he has two desks – one for garden work and one for Mia Porsche and her personal vendettas. It is brimming with rude faxes and cheeky sketches that vent his/her playful grievances. He/she is currently crusading against a nearby hotel's general manager with a"Napoleon Complex", that sponsored a recent glossy Balinese gardens book featuring many Wijaya gardens without a single mention of the creator. In the on-going high-wire act between Wijaya and GMs, this keeps him/her currently titillated.
But Made the maverick, complete this his bag of idiosyncrasies, has given Bali beautiful gardens which have succeeded in adding a certain grace to the island. In a place as natural harmonic as Bali, that is a feat indeed.

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