Will Fletcher

Interview Recording


Interview Transcript

Interview Transcript Will Fletcher 28-Mar-2023 by Jean Elder



Will Fletcher arrived in Tasmania in 1976 at the age of 22 after spending several years studying Natural Resources at the University of New England at Armidale.  His childhood had been spent with his family on a missionary station at Ernabella [Pukatja] in South Australia, and from the age of 12 on a farm near Canowindra, NSW.  He enjoyed the rural landscape and farm life but decided not to take up farming.

Tasmania was intended to be a temporary stop over before embarking on overseas travel.  Here he took up bushwalking and was enthralled by the natural vistas of the island. A short stint working at Bill Allan’s nursery in Launceston, which specialised in exotic plants, followed before Will ventured into his own landscaping business, initially in Launceston, later in Hobart.

During this period Will’s path intersected with Neale Farrell who ran a recently established native plant nursery at Underwood, also growing bonsai, and where Will sourced many of his plants. Will was motivated to return to studies in Horticulture at TAFE in Launceston and Hobart, and later Environmental Design at UTAS Hobart.

A ‘lightbulb’ moment whilst attending an indigenous plants seminar in Hobart in 1988 confirmed his belief in the value of using Tasmanian native plants in local gardens and led to the establishment of his first nursery, Plants of Tasmania, at Ridgeway in 1990.  Following the sale of this nursery he established Island Bonsai in 2010, also located in Ridgeway. In this specialist nursery Will’s interests blended the Japanese bonsai principles of horticulture, aesthetics, and philosophy into a commercial proposition.  During this time he transformed over 700 Tasmanian native plants into bonsai.

Will has been based in southern Tasmania since 1978, immersing himself in the horticultural industry and engaging with various community groups as a teacher, speaker, and committee member, over almost 40 years.  In this interview Will recalls the work involved in running a nursery starting with site landscaping, building, collecting specimens, propagating, staffing, customers – and a little-known group of like-minded native plant nurserymen known as SNAIL.

He proudly retains his first attempt at bonsai, a Nothofagus cunninghamii and his craft is represented in the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia at the National Arboretum in Canberra by a Tasmanian woolly tea tree Leptospermum lanigerum.