William Martin was born at his grandmother's house in Reid Street, Rutherglen on 25th. June, 1953. His family moved to Spittal, before emigrating to Australia in late 1965. 'My father had many siblings,' William told us, 'and they lived all over Rutherglen. There are lots of relatives, most of whom I have never met!'
'My garden passion started as a lad in the backyard of 68 Spittal Road. I found a bulb, planted it in some vacant plot, and was bowled over when it actually put up a flower! A crocus! The seed, as it were, was sown!
Left, William Martin, photographed in Wigandia, the garden he created in Victoria, Australia
Image credit: Simon Griffith
In Australia, William began working as a joiner/carpenter before deciding on garden design as a career.
In his approach to garden design, William advocated moving away from the traditional "Northern Hemisphere" style prevalent in Australia, favouring an approach which more closely reflected the Australian character, building on the legacy of early Australian gardeners who appreciated a greater range of climatically-suitable plants from around the world. Gardening, William argued, had failed to follow all the other arts in Australia in achieving a national identity.
He began work on his award-winning garden Wigandia at Noorat in south west Victoria in 1989. Consciously avoiding what he referred to as the "pampered woody European legacy", he laid the garden out to be in sympathy with the surrounding somewhat arid, volcanic landscape at nearby Mount Noorat. The emphasis was to be on form and texture, rather than on the colour of flowers.
"I often think plants are far more attractive on the way out than in life. Given our climate, too much emphasis is placed on the plump and green look, and we turn our back on the great beauty of plants in their decline. You know a tree that gives autumn foliage is in decline. It's dying for that season. It's stressed out and ready for its rest in winter." William Martin
Featuring plants, not exclusively native to Australia, requiring minimal irrigation, William's work at Wigandia came to be viewed as art, as much as a garden. William himself described the garden as 'a series of sketches but also a single canvas.'
Corrugated iron is a frequent feature at Wigandia, reflecting its regular use as a construction material in rural Australia. Emulating the garden's surroundings, its paths comprise crushed red volcanic rock sourced from local scoria pits.
Right, some of the dazzling variety of plants at Wigandia.
Image credit: Trish Dixon
"I actually don't believe in gardening much. I believe in the art of not gardening. I would rather use the time that is generally used on all those boring things like weeding and pruning and digging, to actually observe, and for more time for creative things in the garden. I think the garden is all the better for it." William Martin
Above, photograph of William Martin taken c. 2004 by his brother Philip for a magazine article.
In a major tribute to William'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."
William is no longer actively involved in garden design but has left a lasting legacy in the form of his garden, Wigandia.
With many thanks to William Martin
© 2022 by Rutherglen Heritage Society.
Really enjoyed this.
Send to the Beechgrove Garden team and Grow 73 and local schools.
Gardening is so on trend right now.
Fantastic article! Not all famous Ru'glonians lived in the last century/centuries.
An interesting article, Rutherglen has a fair share of famous citizens,
Wigandia - A Garden of the Sun: an article by US garden designer James Golden following his visit to Wigandia in 2014. Contains many photographs of the garden.
Gardening Australia Factsheet: information about Wigandia from an ABC television programme broadcast in 2006 which featured the garden. Some quotes featured in our article are taken from the interview with William Martin transcribed in the factsheet.
Karl Gercens' Flikr page: featuring many excellent photographs of the layout and plants at Wigandia. You may need a Flikr account to view this page.
peoplepill.com: biographical website entry for William Martin