LIFE&TIMES, New Strait Times, September 2007


Paradise found
A holiday in Bali became a career in tropical garden design for this Sydney expat

Text by Nick Galvin

here are probably not many out there familiar with the name Made Wijaya or Michael White. They refer to the same man. Right now, he’s busy preparing a pot of tea for his media guests and selecting reading materials for the ones who had arrived for the interview earlier than scheduled. The fact that his birth and his Balinese name share the same initials is pure coincidence, “It’s convenient. I do not have to throw away the embroidered napkins!” he said.
Undoubtedly, the well-heeled traveler would be familiar with the soothing, well thought-out gardens of Oberoi Bali, the Naples Botanic Garden in Florida, Novotel Nusa Dua in Bali or Hyatt Aryaduta in Jakarta. Their creator is none other than 53-year-old landscape designer, Made Wijaya.
Born an Australia, Made has long since adopted Bali as his home as well. In fact, he has been designing gardens for over 25 years and his first large scale work is evident in Bali’s Oberoi.

How did his interest begin? “My mother kept a house garden, and I have always lived in places surrounded by pretty gardens. I remember, when I was 15, my father gave me a camera and I immediately went to the municipal library and shot its garden! Other kids would have probably gone out to shoot girls in bikinis,” he laughed.

Thi dramatic entertainment zone was designed by Dean Herald of Rolling Stone Landscapes.
Indoor elements are added to his outdoor designs – note the outdoor chandeller above the table.

Made wears many hats as writer, landscape architect, photo journalist and columnist. One wonders which role is he first and foremost. “A writer. Writing excites me the most.” He has written numerous books on tropical gardens and architecture, writes regular columns for magazines and newspapers in Chennai, Bali, Jakarta and Bangkok, as well as run a website featuring his intriguing column (

He completed Modern Tropical Garden Design after five years. Why did it take so long? “I needed to do the places.” The book covered practical, beautiful examples of how modern designs can enhance tropical gardens.
In his book Made wrote that “a landscape architect has to put up with a lot to realize his dreams in the modern age”. Some of the challenges include working within budgets, working against the forces of Nature – and considering landscape architects as an afterthought!
Having designed more than 600 gardens around the globe to date, Made pondered on his favourites: “I suppose the ones created from scratch, not a do over. For instance, the Four Seasons Resort in Jimbaran, Bali.”

“I am taking aim at the modernists with Modern Tropical Garden Designs and challenging them.” An excerpt from the preface of the book said: “Hopefully this book will encourage designers to become more open to the possibilities of using nature to enhance the architecture and uplift the spirits.” The feelings were echoed by the late Roberto Burle Marx and Geoffrey Bawa, two modern-day greats in tropical landscape design.
What would he suggest for our suburban postage stamp-sizes gardens? “With a small space, have a big idea. One big idea. For example, have a big dramatic pot, or one big pond with koi. Don’t have too many things. If you are going to pave the garden, pave it all!

Karl Prinic’s lean and means landscape for the Bate, Bali. The whole mix create a sleek, edgy environment.

What about his own garden at home in Bali? “It is my muse. It is big and intense. I have five gardeners working on it.” What Made calls a garden, some of us might call a park! “It is 279 square meters in size.” See, what I mean?

So, he has a muse, he loves paved gardens, respects architecture and designs the enhance nature, possesses two names and writes voraciously. What does he do to relax? “Relax? That is not an option!” But he continued: “I played tennis a lot before, until my knees gave way. Now, I swim, but the thing is, it is not stimulating – swimming laps or running on a treadmill. When I played tennis, I exercise my mind as well my body. Still, I swim now to relax.”
What is next for him? “I am working on the second volume of Stranger in Paradise. It will be a compilation of 15 years’ worth of columns”. This “carrot-top”, as he was called as child back in Australia, because of his red hair and pale skin, is famous. He has achieved an enviable reputation. “Still, I’d like to one day do a radio show. I’ve never done it before. With Howard Stern, perhaps?” Now, what a riot that would be!

This Singapore garden features Tamil Nadu stone temple columns in a lotus pond.


AVAILABLE in major book stores for RM135, Made Wijaya’s latest coffee table book, Modern Tropical Garden design, not only makes for a great reference book of contemporary landscape architects, past and present, but also as an inspiration to create beautiful, modern tropical gardens of your own.
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