A Good Read


Author & Landscape Designer Michael Bates

Adam Robinson Design Sydney Landscape Designer A Good Read Author & Landscape Designer Michael Bates.jpg

What comes to mind while poring through The New Australian Garden book authored by Michael Bates and published by Murdoch Books is that, there is a real sense of a coming of age surrounding the Australian Landscape industry.  Twenty years ago we may have only had a handful of superstars in this industry, however today there is such a wealth of talent and that is truly inspiring.  Michael Bates is one of those superstars.  He is very much the quintessential, warm-hearted Aussie larrikin, always up for some witty banter and a good laugh and boy does he know his stuff when it comes to crafting a breathtaking garden.

Bates Landscape is Michael’s landscape construction and design company based in Sydney.  In his first book, The New Australian Garden , which I must say is a refreshingly enjoyable read, Michael features 18 amazing gardens which he has constructed, six of which he designed and two he owns himself.  He is obviously passionate about horticulture, designing and building beautiful outdoor spaces and continues to collaborate on high-end projects with several of Australia’s leading landscape architect and designers.

If you enjoy innovative, contemporary garden design, you will love this book with gorgeous images by renowned photographer, Jason Busch.

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Tell us a bit about yourself – what and where did you study originally and a bit about the journey that has led you to create such exquisite gardens that are showcased in your stunning new book?

I started my career as a Swain’s apprentice nurseryman.  I went to Hawksbury College, where I went in a nurseryman and came out a landscaper.  After that I went on to Ryde School of Horticulture to fill the gaps in my education, and then studied under Japanese master Masayoshi Uchiyama. 

I spent my 20’s in an education phase, working out which way is up.  Throughout my 30’s I was experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what was possible in landscaping.  My 40’s were all about consolidation and getting some real runs on the board and the 50’s for me is all about fun.  Collaborating with great people on great projects to create great outcomes.

Did you always want to be in the landscape industry? What drew you to this career?’

Yes, I did.  I liked the word ‘horticulture’ and I never wanted to work in an office.  And then I got lucky, when my natural talent intersected with my passion and unbelievable timing for opportunities in garden making.

Why did you want to author a book and what can readers expect to see in it?

I wanted to document my work and my experience, and create a folio to inspire and invigorate future clients.  Readers can expect to see a wide variety of garden ideas and executions that contemporary Australians are creating in their gardens and homes.

Can you give us a little insight into what makes you tick? What’s your creative process and why do you like doing what you do?

I think the starting process is all about ideas – the ideas are neither good nor bad, everything is to be considered from every quarter.  The second part of the process is refinement, where the quality ideas are selected and developed.  The third part of the process is drawing on our construction experience and metamorphosing fantasy into reality.

What inspires you?

Great homes and clients with great ideas.


In the book you talk about the new movement in Australian landscape design – can you explain a little about that movement and how has the landscape industry in Australia changed in the last 10 years?

In the last 30 years, the industry has gone from shorts to long pants – every year, we in the industry raise the bar with our application of technology, use of materials, fresh thinking and highly skilled craftsmanship.  And every year, I am surprised when we again raise it higher.

New Australian Gardens have several factors in common…

  • Architecture and landscape are seen as one.

  • There is a seamless transition between inside and outside.

  • Outdoor rooms go well beyond the barbecue area.

  • The garden is set in motion through kids, dogs, water, wind, light and flames.

  • There is a regard for the context and heritage of the site.

  • The garden features an abundant supply of plants from all over the world.

  • There is an acceptance of individual style, where anything goes.

What is a typical day for you?

It starts before dawn - feed the dog, get dressed, do my rounds of the four jobs we’re building on any one day, meet a new potential client, solve at least 20 design challenges, and find solutions to 10 construction issues.  Then I’ll have a nice lunch on the road, make 48 phone calls in the afternoon, then have a swim and come home for dinner.

To see more of Michael Bates work visit the Bates Landscape website or visit your favourite book store to purchase The New Australian Garden.