The Australian Gardener, October/November 1999

Made in Paradise


Photography by Paul Urquhart

If you take a dash of Henri Rousseau's naive jungle, a dollop of good English garden order and a generous cup of Eastern sensibility, you have the living Garden of Eden that is Villa Bebek. It is a garden that takes us on a seat-of-the-pants journey, which lifts the soul and delights the eye. Few private gardens attract as much attention.
Villa Bebek is the home of Australian-born landscape architect Michael White, better known by his adopted Balinese name Made (pronounced Mar-day) Wijaya. Located in the up-market resort of Sanur in south eastern Bali, Villa Bebek is a residential compound built in the Balinese tradition. A series of pavilions connected by courtyards, the garden is a drama in two acts fusing modern and traditional elements. A spare Javanese aesthetic influences one, while the other plays out a more decorative Balinese-cum-western feel.
What we now know as 'the Balinese garden' is a confection, mixed and blended within this very studio and work compound. It is a remarkable amalgam of influences mostly developed by Made Wijaya. His input has been overwhelming.
Made Wijaya looms as a latter day Major Lawrence Johnston, the creator of Hidcote Manor, which is perhaps the most influential English garden of the twentieth century. Just as Major Johnston revolutionized the English style by fusing elements of the formal and naturalistic traditions, Made has changed the face of tropical gardening. Where Johnston took the structure of Italian Renaissance and inserted within its geometry the 'informal (sie) abandon' of the traditional English cottage garden, Made describes his style as 'an ordered jungle'. His conversation is peppered with phrases hinting that the language is still not rich enough to describe the intricacies of design. 'Romantic courtyard cosy-encrusted coral reef look' and 'warm-an-juicy' are two favourite expressions.

Interesting to describe as Villa Bebek is, the story of how evolved is more intriguing. Made's Balinese garden is, in the first place, a traditional spare and ascetic temple garden. Architecture provides ornamentation in the form of intricately carved pavilions. Made describes these gardens as 'decorative romantic, poetic courtyards'.
In the 18th century, Bali's competing rajahs sought to develop the best palace gardens within a formal European framework of reflecting ponds, fountains and ornate pavilions. The influence of the floating pavilions, like the famed Water Palace at Klungkung, adds another dimension. Lastly, there is Made's English input, which owes a great deal to the gardens of Kew, Hidcote and Sissinghurst.
For many, visiting foreign gardens is a seminal creative experience. In 1979 Made visited England and was beguiled by the ordered naturalism of English country gardens and the sweeping perennial plantings at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Made blended his experience of tropical plants with these new experiences and coined the term 'tropical Cotswolds' to describe the new style which he established at the Bali Hyatt in 1979. It is a blend of the perennial border style of England using blocks of foliage plants for colour and variety instead of flowers. One corner is called the ' White Garden – After Vita', acknowledging Made's debt to the white plantings of Vita Sackville-West. Overall, the 'tropical Cotswold' look is more ornate than that of the traditional Balinese garden. His own garden is an experimental garden and part of the evolution of this new style.

In Villa Bebek Made says he has tried to create an original look that blends the different styles of Indonesia. It combines megalithic art pieces and antique decorative doors with varied plantings. One half is the 'romantic courtyard cosy' while the other is more ascetic and less exuberantly planted. Tucked away discreetly are more courtyards, tributes to Yves St. Laurent's Moroccan garden Majorelle, with its tell-tale blue walls.
"This garden is always under development, like any sort of artist's home," Made explains. "It is a studio that's throwing ideas out to be wedded and used if needed".
The garden is the fact like an open-air studio with the gardener and designer "doing battle with the deep and decorative elements" that go towards completing the line or drape of the garden. Viewed from inside, the gardens appear as Japanese courtyards with shafts of light and shadow to enliven the composition. Visual poetry, strong composition and lighting are key elements in all Made's designs.

"The garden is made up of a series of theme courts of experimental ideas. All of these looks are tested here as I try to piece together the elements as a couturier will in his atelier," he says.
"Water is everywhere, in homage to the Balinese floating pavilion," Made points out. "And all the pavilions have water gardens which act as a passive cooling system for the sitting and dining areas."

Many of the design elements have found their way into other important Balinese gardens designed by Made Wijaya. Unlike Europe or North America, Bali has no great private gardens built on personal fortunes. But hotel chains have filled him void. Made's gardens at the Bali Hyatt started the trend and have been followed by others of his creation at the Bali Oberoi, the Four Seasons at Jimbaran Bay and Amandari at Sayan. Visitors to Bali are free to wander around these gardens almost as they would a large public garden. None, though, as warm and cosy as his own his own piece of paradise.
You can hear Made Wijaya speak about tropical gardens at a public lecture in Sydney at 12 noon October 18, 1999 at the Art Gallery Theatre, Art Gallery Road. Sponsored by the friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Horticultural Media Association. Entry: $12. Made Wijaya’s Tropical Garden Design, published by Thames and Hudson, will be released in October.

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