Secret Gardens - Sydney Landscape Architects
Matthew Cantwell

Meet Matthew Cantwell

Sep 15, 2016

Today, we introduce Matthew Cantwell, founder and Director of Secret Gardens who was interviewed by TOC.


Describe who Matthew Cantwell is?

First and foremost I am the father of three kids, 10 yr old twins, (boy/girl) and a 11 yr old boy. Then a husband to Rochelle, who happens to be our General Manager. By day, I am the Managing Director of Secret Gardens. We are 22 years old now (Secret Gardens that is); business is thriving and what I love most is that I enjoy a great life/work balance.


How did it all begin?

My dad was a builder so I have been working on residential sites since I was 7. I left school, with no idea of what to do and stumbled into landscaping by chance. I worked for a few landscaping companies whilst gaining my qualifications and gained some great experience on a broad scale of residential landscape projects. Not long after graduating I knew that I wanted to pursue garden design and complement my many years of construction knowledge.

Matthew Cantwell


Why garden design?

I have always been passionate about plants and it is still the element of a garden design that excites me the most. I love designing something that is going to grow; something that you can then manipulate over the years. When I am gone, the gardens I have designed will one by one be torn down to make way for new ones eventually. But hopefully there will be countless grand old trees up and down the east coast that I was responsible for. That will be my legacy.


What’s your design aesthetic?

It’s all about the client. The plot of land, the style of architecture and of course the client vary dramatically. I would not be interested in taking the same look from one job to the next and try to squeeze a particular look in to every shape. It works for some but it wouldn’t maintain my interest. I have designed many gardens and I have enjoyed them all. Many are not what I would choose personally, but it’s not about me. Eclectic best describes it. If you look at our portfolio of work we are really proud that it is so varied.


What do you enjoy most about your work?

Relationships. I enjoy meeting new clients and solving their challenges. As I have matured I am much more relaxed and confident, so it is easy to enjoy. And I love working with my team. Every day in our office is fun, I never not want to go to work. We also have fantastic suppliers and sub-contractors who are passionate about what they can offer us. Of course, business throws up challenges from time to time, but mostly it doesn’t feel like work.

Coogee landscape architectureWhat is your greatest professional achievement?
Probably winning the Allan Correy Award for my own garden. I was very hesitant in entering this garden. I was very passionate about this job and my family gets so much enjoyment out of it. I’m not sure I could have coped if it wasn’t up to the task of taking out the top AILDM award last year.




Who inspires you? 
My wife Rochelle. She has such a positive attitude. She never stops looking ahead and we work well together to break new ground in the industry. Most importantly she also has an even stronger focus on a good balance and has made me see the importance of being as involved with my kids as I am.


Greatest piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

My dad was a builder, he never said much, but three things still stick in my mind.

If it smells bad, it probably is.
If there is a call you don’t want to make, make it.
And never go into a partnership.


Describe your philosophy in life….

You only live once……that is a handy line when pitching to clients.


What’s next?

We relocated to a new headquarters last year. The next 18 months to 2 years will be spent continuing to grow the business and keep on enjoying what we do now.


5 responses to “Meet Matthew Cantwell”

  1. Saja says:

    What do you think about the most important issues facing landscape designs today and where did u get ur training from

    • rochelle says:

      Saja I received my training at Ryde Tafe many, many years ago. There are a lot of issues facing landscape design today. We try and encourage clients to focus on the soft elements of their gardens and ensuring a healthy budget for larger plant stock. The rising costs of construction can sometimes make this difficult when you are trying to do a lot in a client’s budget. But overall it is a great job to have. We get to transform clients gardens and in the process provide them a whole new space to enjoy when they are at home. It is pretty rewarding.

  2. Emnma says:

    I am in love with your blog – that is all.

  3. Ceiling Fans says:

    It’s really great to know about Matthew Cantwell and his good job.

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