Will Salter’s artful blending of profession and passion has managed to lead him down the garden path of some of the country’s most prized private gardens. In a career spanning more than two decades as a photographer, Will’s cultivated a specialty in gardens, combining his roots in horticulture and landscaping with an expertise in photography. We sit down with Will as he shares some of his favourite gardens he’s ever captured and his own love (and talent) for creating native gardens…
NPP: What has drawn you to specialising in garden photography?
WS: I started my career landscaping and studying horticulture but transferred mid-way to photography. Over the following years, my craft took me on paid assignments to over 50 countries, where I honed my skills working as far and wide as Africa, Sri Lanka, India, all the way to Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and Papua New Guinea. Working for humanitarian organisations, newspapers, magazines and publishers such as News Limited and Lonely Planet. Eventually the pull of a happily married life with kids, and laying down my roots took hold. We moved to the Mornington Peninsula over 10 years ago, it was here that I reignited my love for horticulture. I created my own garden, and at the same time began to explore my own backyard and to sell my high- end landscape photographic images to those who share the love of nature and the Peninsula.
I started to photograph gardens for local designers and things grew from there. In 2019 I was fortunate to team up with Landscape design legend, Rick Eckersley and spent 12 months capturing his magnificent garden “Musk Cottage”, which culminated in an incredible book on this pivotal and inspirational masterpiece: “Rogue- Art of a Garden” Published by URO Publishing
NPP: Given the number of gardens you’ve visited and photographed, what makes for good garden design in your opinion?
WS: In my opinion a good garden design is the ability to create a space that flows, a place the client wants to be part of, that nurtures, is simple, practical and good for the soul. The designer’s job is to effectively combine in their own style the many elements that determine this, hard and soft landscape, colour palette, sightlines, plant layer and texture, shape and form.
NPP: You must have some favourites you’ve photographed? We’re dying to know whose gardens and why?
WS: There are three stand out gardens and it’s possibly no coincidence they feature Australian natives.
Rick Eckersley – Musk Cottage: The private garden of Rick Eckersley at Flinders. The garden has a kind of wild formality, it is ordered and structured without being boring. Having the opportunity to photograph it through the seasons revealed different parts of the garden in all their various forms, to find beauty even in the death and decay.
Fiona Brockhoff – Portsea Garden: Fiona’s creative ability to merge a garden into the existing landscape and compliment the architecture. Her gardens flow, there is always an element that draws you in for more, combined with the clever use of Australian natives and coastal plants in both colour, texture and form. You could point your camera in any direction in Fiona’s gardens a come out with a good image!
Nadette Cuming – Yalambie: I have visited Yalambie a number of times over the years and am always amazed at Nadette’s ability to transform parts of the garden. The large garden has various aesthetics and the way the light falls across this garden is beautiful. She has used a great color palette and sculptural forms to highlight certain areas.
NPP: What are some of the stand out ways you’ve seen landscape designers and amateur gardeners use Australian native plants?
WS: I love the renaissance of Australian natives, as they are my favourite plants. Previously it seems everyone thought that an Australian Native garden was un-kept, woody, unstructured tangled mess. Now I love the way designers are using these plants en masse, combing the amazing texture, form and colour that they bring. It is also the understanding that they belong, taking the learning’s from the traditional English garden, putting a twist on that, and applying it to our climate and landscape.
NPP: You must have picked up some wonderful tips and ideas to apply to your own garden?
WS: I have designed and built a number of gardens over the years, generally around 90% of the plants in my gardens are Natives. Being exposed to many amazing designers through photography, I always seem to pick up new ideas. For my current garden I have taken the en masse style of planting in waves that flow from one section to another. I have welded steel edging to define borders around a copse of Lemon Scented Gums, and planted understory among existing trees. Some of the plants I’m using are – Orthrosanthus Multiflorus, Austrastipa stipoides, Acacia Baileyana Purpurea, Anthropodium Matapouri Bay, Banksia Praemorsa, Acacia glaucoptera, Themeda ‘Big Blue’, Grevillea Moonlight, Banksia Marginata, Plectranthus Argentatus, Hakea Silicifolia, Rhagodia Spinescens.
NPP: What are your favourite Australian natives to both plant and grow yourself and to photograph?
WS: Too many!! Most of my favourites I’ve used in my own garden (above) and also Anigozathos Kangaroo Paw, Lomandra Seascape/Crackerjack, Grevillea Endlicheriana, Melaleuca, Gastrolobium Celsianum Swan River Pea, Hpocalymma Pink Myrtle, Homoranthus flavescens, Doryanthes excels Gymea Lily, Meeboldina ‘Fiddle Sticks’ to name a few………..
NPP: Your collaboration with Rick Eckersley to create the Rogue book explores the artistic side to garden design – what has that collaboration taught you?
WS: Photographically it taught me that often the created garden and the natural landscape are not that dissimilar, my approach to them is the same, composition, perspective and importantly light. It also taught me about masterful design, I couldn’t believe the results of a vision that was crafted from bare paddocks and over 250,000 tube stock plants! It was such a privilege to help bring a ten-year personal project of a pre-eminent Australian designer to life, it taught me that gardens are to be shared.