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.
Auriculus (stage and others)
Armeria, vugaris and alba
Thrift, Ladies cushion, Sea pink
Alpine rock cress
Dracula’s flower, dragon arum, black arum, snake lily, stink lily
Bellis (daisy 3 varieties)
Lady's purse, slipper flower and pocketbook flower, or slipperwort
Convalaria majalis (lily of valley)
Convalaria multiflora (Solomon’s seal)
Day flower, Blue spider wort
Pig's Ear or Round-leafed Navel-wort.
Winter flowering cyclamen
Ivy-leaved cyclamen or sowbread
Delphinium chinense Formosa
Chinese Delphinium, Siberian Larkspur
Dianthus (pink and carnation)
Digitilis, Ivery’s spotted
Farfugium? Leopard Plant
The snowdrop or common snowdrop
Galdiolus in variety
Hyacinths in variety
Pygmy iris, dwarf iris
Iris Forentina, &c.
Historic bearded iris
Snowdrop in NZ. Summer snowflake or Loddon lily in UK.
Golden rayed lily of Japan or the goldband lily
Lilium lancefolium album
White tiger lily
Lilium lancefolium Rubrum
Red tiger lily
Common musk, monkey flower
Forget-me-not. Water forget-me-not
Myosotidium nobilis – Chatham Island Forget-me-not
Narcissus campernelle – double yellow daffodil
Narcissus double white
Bowie's Wood Sorrel, Red-flowering Oxalis
Peonia double white
Phalaris (Gardeners’ garters)
Ribbon grass, reed canary grass
Phormiun tenax (varieties)
Primula double purple
Ranunculus acris fl. plena (varieties)
Heartleaf bergenia, Siberian tea.
Yellow Mountain Saxifrage, Yellow Saxifrage
Sedum carnea (variegate)
Sedum reflexa (links of love)
Common Houseleek, Hens and Chicks
Spiraea ulmaria (varieties)
Red hot poker
Red hot poker
Many varieties, early, single, and double