The Straits Times, 11 September 1999


ACE of the SPACE
Renowned landscape architect Made Wijaya taught himself how to make his garden. Now, his new book shows you what sort of green fingers he has

Texts by Elizabeth Gwee


Garden are about theatre, says Made Wijaya

Landscape architect Michael White, better known by his Balinese name, Made Wijaya , has spent the last 20 years dressing up around 500 gardens in the tropics.
These include such high profile projects as the alluring terraced land-and stonescapes of the Bali Four Seasons Resort in Jimbaran and British pop star David Bowie’s former Mustique island getaway in the Caribbean.
So, it comes as a surprise when one learns that his craft was entirely self-taught.
“I’ve had no formal training in gardening. I learnt through mistakes, by intuition and by observing the Balinese,” says the 46 years old Australia, who has been based in Indonesia since 1973.
Wijaya, a former hippy, dropped out of art school in Australia and sailed to Indonesia at the was no dingly to take him to land, he jumped off the ship and swam ashore.
He moved in with a Brahmin family in Kepaon, took the name Made Wijaya, and started studying Balinese classical dance. In between that and learning the Balinese Hindu faith, he coached tennis at the Bali Hyatt, taught English and guided travelers such as documentary-maker David Attenborough and fashion designer Hardy Amies around the island.
But in order to keep his permit to remain on the island, he became a gardener at a private residence in Sanur.
The owner was so impressed with his gardening skills that he was asked to landscape the entire place. One project led to another and eventually, to his first major job – the gardens of the Bali Hyatt in Sanur.

Which is why it is now pay-back time of sorts for him.
“I’ve been lucky. Everything was taught to me, so I want to pass on what I’ve learnt. I’m being rather generous, which is rare for an artist actually!” he says.
The result is a coffee table book, Tropical Garden Design
It features most of Wijaya’s work over the last 27 years and gardens that have been a source of inspiration for him. These have been captured in breathtaking photographs by the author, as well as well-known photographs like Tim Street porter and Luca Invernizzi Tettoni.

The lap of tropical luxury at this formal Bali-style pool and pavilion in Singapore house. It was designed by landscape architect Made Wijaya

A full-scale reproduction of Jayavarman VII, which is the centrepiece of the Phnom penh National Museum, was done for the garden of a Singapore house

A compang or raised platform of stone at Villa Bebek in Bali. Wijaya bought a gaggle of anthropomorphic 'guadian' statues to 'people' it.

The book is divided into eight chapters, including sections on Balinese Gardens and Swimming Pools.
Gardens featured include resort hotels like the Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay, the author’s house in Bali, called Villa Bebek as well as private residences in Singapore, where he also has an office and a home.
Also included in the book are tips on what sort of plants to choose when planning a garden, what colors of foliage go well together, types of garden lighting, garden furniture and what kinds of stone coverings to choose when paving a garden.
Wijaya planned initially to publish a series of how-to magazines on gardening. But he decided instead to compile all his ideas into a book, co-published by Editions Didier Millet and his publishing company, Wijaya Words.
“I like to think of it as a celebration of more than 20 years of perfecting the art of tropical garden design,” He says.
He thinks of his gardens as theatrical because “a garden, no matter how simple, should make the spirits soar.”|
Much of his inspiration comes from British country gardens, which he describes as “so gorgeous, so wonderful and so dreamy.”
In fact, he describes his style as “the lovely romantic natural English sort of garden.” But because it became fashionable among a lot of designers in Indonesia, it has been interpreted as Balinese.
What the bachelor hopes now is that his book will be a source of inspiration for anyone who has an interest in gardening.
“I want to convince people to be gardeners. In Singapore, people want no-maintenance gardens. But people have to be gardeners to really appreciate the beauty of Nature,” he says
“God is the best gardener, but one can try and emulate him by using simple plants and foliage to achieve an artful naturalness.”

A toilet like none other, for this Majapahit powder room is set amid a lotus pond in a Singapore garden. It was designed by Wijaya

A Jepun pedestal fountain amid carved Balinese soapstone panels at Wijaya's Villa Bebek.
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