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 1872 cover Martin catalogue

Martin nursery as it appeared in 1956

This image is a photograph of a framed photograph under glass of William Martin's nursery as it appeared in 1956. Martin Road is behind the former nursery, the main road is in front of it. Part of the former nursery is known today as the Fairfield Tavern Reserve.

1872-1873 Martin Catalogue

The 1872 Martin catalogue has been used as a guide by the Heritage Gardeners for planting fruit trees, flowers and other shrubs. The catalogue informs us what plants would have been available in Otago at about the time Alexander 'Sandy' Brown and his wife Margaret, travelled from Otago to live at the Halfway House. It's unclear what year they made that journey, however, it's possible that they may have brought cuttings or rooted plants with them from the province. Scroll down for a plant list.

William Martin (1823-1905) 

William Martin was born on 22 October, 1823 at Lesmahagow in Lanarkshire. He served time as a gardener with his Uncle at Corstorphine near Edinburgh, then worked at the Botanic Gardens at Edinburgh, and attended classes (including botany and Latin) at Edinburgh University. For it time he was foreman at Chilwell Hall, England. On 23 November 1847, as part of the Otago Scheme, he emigrated from Scotland aboard the Phillip Laing, arriving in Port Chalmers in Otago, New Zealand, on 15 April 1848.

The Toitu Otago Settlers Museum online biography informs that he had brought with him, a collection of seeds that he put to good use after arrival.

“He leased and cleared land around Dunedin, growing vegetables and other plants from his store of seeds. Within a short time he was able to buy 186 acres of land just beyond the Green Island bush. He planted out 10 acres as a nursery, naming it ‘Fairfield’, and leased the rest for farming. In 1850 he imported fruit trees and conifers from America. This was the first importation of exotic tree species to Otago. They were popular additions to many early gardens. He was also a member of the first Otago Horticultural Society committee in 1851. By 1872 when he issued his first catalogue, Martin’s nursery had over 600 different kinds of plants available for sale."

The Otago Daily Times, in 1905, observed that “numerous friends who visited him were sure of a warm welcome and an interesting ramble through his extensive gardens and greenhouses.”

These friends included notable botanists such as the Scottish physician, Dr William Lauder Lindsay (1820-1889) who stayed at Fairfield in 1861,  Sven Berggren (1837-1917) an eminent Swedish botanist, explorer and university professor, who stayed at Fairfield in 1875 and botanist Thomas Frederic Cheeseman (1845-1923).

Fairfield was the pioneer nursery of Otago and in its heyday contained one of the largest and most eclectic private collections of plants in Australasia. The New Zealand Journal of Botany (1976) says that for a time it was more widely known and respected than the Dunedin Botanic Gardens.

William Martin bred New Zealand's first registered hybrid rhododendron, Marquis of Lothian, in about 1880. It is considered attractive for its mid-pink flowers and its smooth beige bark. By crossing Veronica lavandiana and hulkeana he produced “a very beautiful profuse-leaved and flowering variety” of Veronica, which he named V. Fairfieldi.

William Martin married twice and had several children. His grandson William Martin (1883-1975) was born at Fairfield, and became one of New Zealand’s respected field botanists, receiving the Loder Cup.

William Martin died at Fairfield on 26 November 1905 and is buried in the Green Island cemetery. Today, Martin Road at Green Island denotes the location of the former famous nursery. The suburb Fairfield is derived from his Fairfield Nursery and the Fairfield Tavern Reserve includes part of his original nursery.

Toitu Otago Settlers Museum and the National Library of New Zealand have his original catalogues in their collection. Scroll down for a list of herbaceous plants from his 1872-1873 catalogue. 

New Zealand Journal of Botany, 1976, Vol. 14: 367-374.
The Garden: An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Gardening in All Its Branches, June 24 1893, Volume 43: 520.
The Otago Daily Times, Obituary, 27 November 1905, p10.
The Otago Daily Times, Rhodies of repute, 20 September 2014.
The Otago and Southland Early Settlers database, Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.
Special thanks to Emma Knowles, archivist at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum

Herbaceous Plants, Bulbs, &c.

The plant list below is an extract from the William Martin 1872-1873 catalogue. At times the plant list may have a name or comment beside it in brackets. This is how it is published in the catalogue. Where known, we have added commonly known names for the plant at the bottom of a listing.

Acanthus Mollis

Achillia milifolia

Agava Americana
Century plant

Agapanthus umbrellatus

Alyssum saxtile
Golden allysum

Anenome (varieties)

Anomatheca cruenta
Freesia laxa

Aquilega (varieties)

Alstromeria pelegrina

Auriculus (stage and others)

Armeria, vugaris and alba
Thrift, Ladies cushion, Sea pink

Arabis alpine
Alpine rock cress

Arum dracunculus
Dracula’s flower, dragon arum, black arum, snake lily, stink lily

Bellis (daisy 3 varieties)
Calceoaria (varieties)
Lady's purse, slipper flower and pocketbook flower, or slipperwort

Campanula (species)
Bell flower

Convalaria majalis (lily of valley)

Convalaria multiflora (Solomon’s seal)

Comelina coelestis
Day flower, Blue spider wort

Cotyledon orbiculata
Pig's Ear or Round-leafed Navel-wort.

Chelone barbata

Chrysanthemus (varieties)

Cyclamen coum
Winter flowering cyclamen

Clyclamen hederefolium
Ivy-leaved cyclamen or sowbread

Delphinium chinense Formosa
Chinese Delphinium, Siberian Larkspur

Dianthus (pink and carnation)

Dielytra spectabilis
Bleeding Heart

Digitilis, Ivery’s spotted
Spotted foxglove

Fargium grande
Farfugium? Leopard Plant


Galanthus nivalis
The snowdrop or common snowdrop

Geum atrosanguineum

Galdiolus in variety

Hyacinths in variety

Iris pumila
Pygmy iris, dwarf iris

Iris pavonia
Peacock iris

Iris Susiana
Mourning iris

Iris Forentina, &c.
Historic bearded iris

Lutus corniculatus
Birdsfoot Trefoil

Leucoium aestivum
Snowdrop in NZ. Summer snowflake or Loddon lily in UK.

Lilium auratum
Golden rayed lily of Japan or the goldband lily

Lilium candidum
Madonna lily

Lilium lancefolium album
White tiger lily

Lilium lancefolium Rubrum
Red tiger lily

Lilium longiflorum
Christmas lily

Lilium tigrinium
Tiger lily

Lobelia fulgens
Cardinal flower

Lupinus (varieties)

Lychnis chalcedonica
Maltese Cross 

Mimulus moschatus
Common musk, monkey flower

Morina longiflora

Musacaria botroides
Grape hyacinth

Myosotus palustris
Forget-me-not. Water forget-me-not

Mysosotideum nobilis
Myosotidium nobilis – Chatham Island Forget-me-not

Misembryanthemum (varieties)
Icicle plant

Narcissus Jonquilla

Narcissus double

Narcissus Campernelli
Narcissus campernelle – double yellow daffodil 

Narcissus incomparabilis
Non-such daffodil

Narcissus daffodil

Narcissus double white

Oeonthera aucalus
Evening primrose

Oxalis Bowei
Bowie's Wood Sorrel, Red-flowering Oxalis

 Ornithogalum sp.

Peonia double white
Peonia crimson
Peonia pink

Papaver, Orientale
Oriental Poppy

Penstemon (varieties)

Phlox (varieties)

Phygelis capensis
Cape Fushia

Phalaris (Gardeners’ garters)
Ribbon grass, reed canary grass

Phormiun tenax (varieties)

Polemonium coeruleum
Jacobs ladder

Primula vulgaris
Primula double purple
Primula yellow
Primula lilac
Primula white
Primula veris

Ranunculus acris fl. plena (varieties)
Meadow buttercup

Salvia patens
Gentian sage

Saxafraga crassifolia
Heartleaf bergenia, Siberian tea.

Saxafraga umbrosa
London pride

Sedum azoides
Yellow Mountain Saxifrage, Yellow Saxifrage

Sedum carnea (variegate)

Sedum oppositifolia
Purple Saxifrage

Sedum reflexa (links of love)

Sedum sieboldti
October Daphne

Sempervivium tectorum
Common Houseleek, Hens and Chicks

Scilla Italica
Italian squill

Scilla Siberica
Siberian squill

Scilla maritima

Spiraea filipendula

Spiraea ulmaria (varieties)

Tigridia conchiflora

Tritoma media
Red hot poker

Tritoma uvaria
Red hot poker

Tulipa Florentina
Many varieties, early, single, and double

Vallota purpurea
Scarborough Lily

Viola (varieties)

Watsonia rosea