News from Edible Landscaping

Exciting New Design Commission from Cafédirect

I have a fabulous commission from Cafédirect to design and install an edible front garden as part of their Sow Your Own campaign. Cafédirect works with small-scale tea, coffee and cocoa farmers, so know better than
anyone how you can grow high quality, hand-cultivated crops that taste great, even in the smallest of plots. The prize winning garden is a small plot too, being approximately 4 by 6m, but with clever design it can still be very productive. So far we have discussed deep raised beds for a variety of veg, espalier fruit trees, herbs, soft fruit and flowers.

The Cafédirect competition winning front garden which will have an edible landscaping makeover.The Cafédirect competition winning front garden which will have an edible landscaping makeover.The Cafédirect competition winning front garden which will have an edible landscaping makeover.

Before pics of the front garden which will have the edible landscaping makeover.

The design has now been completed for Ruth & Neil's Edible Front Garden. Most of the lawn will disappear under espalier & step over fruit, soft fruit, edible flowers, unusual perennial veg, herbs, as well as a stylish timber raised bed full of veggies [mostly ones that kids like eating!] Ruth & Neil are sorting out the bit of hard landscaping on the right side which provides a path area between the garden and the drive. Once this is done, the fun will begin with beds being created, plants going in...can't wait!


Chapter Community Garden

I am really pleased to announce that the garden I designed with Canton Community Gardens Group for Chapter Arts Centre has been voted the winner in the Peoples Millions Big Lottery competition. Based on permaculture principles, the edible garden is a cornucopia of food plants ranging from fruit trees [open form and espalier], unusual soft fruit, salads, vegetables, herbs and flowers. It also incorporates a range of insect friendly plants like Winter Honeysuckle, Chimonanthos praecox and Osmanthus delavayi, for example. The award of just over £36,000 will enable the exciting and innovative garden design, to become a reality. Chapter Arts Centre, a leading cutting edge arts centre and home to the very best of art house cinema now has a garden that will reflect that ethos. The garden when completed will be a beautiful and inviting space. It will also be a low carbon garden, not only because it will be producing a tremendous amount of food but because the beds will be constructed out of recycled stone using a very striking stone called blue stone which was quarried a long time ago from the place which is now Cosmeston Lakes, a nature park in the Vale of Glamorgan and has since been used in other constructions. Stone is a fantastically durable material but quarrying for stone is a high energy and high carbon activity. Using recycled stone gives the best of both worlds, a low carbon but durable material. Once the construction has been completed the next exciting bit is of course the planting! Watch this space! Chapter Community Garden. A permaculture edible garden design for Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Wales

Chapter Community Garden. Edible permaculture garden at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Wales.Chapter Community Garden. Edible permaculture garden at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Wales.

Chapter Community Garden. Edible permaculture garden at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Wales.Chapter Community Garden. Edible permaculture garden at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Wales.Chapter Community Garden. Edible permaculture garden at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Wales.Chapter Community Garden. Edible permaculture garden at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Wales.

Whole School Permaculture Design

Covering over 8 acres, this whole school permaculture design, is the largest permaculture sustainable landscape design done in the UK. The design includes free range chickens in the school, unusual food plants which have been chosen for the productivity during term time, an annual vegetable area complete with polytunnel, horticultural teaching shelter and outdoor beds. Vegetables varieties also chosen for term time productivity. Play facilities which rely on the physical activity and draw heavily on the imagination of the pupils. Activities for the woodlands on the north side of the school. The expansive south facing roof to be solar panelled in its entirety so that the school can sell surplus electricity back to the national grid and make an income. All these and much much more.

The design for Edwardsville Primary School, in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales. has now been competed. The design, covering over 8 acres of land, is the largest permaculture, eco design done in the UK for a school . The eco-makeover of the 8 acre site isn't just about recycling and compost bins, it includes free range chickens, a mini market garden with polytunnel, an orchard, soft fruit and herbs.

Already recognised as an example of good green practice, Edwardsville Primary School, near Merthyr Tydfil, is on the brink of implementing one of the largest sustainable school landscape designs in the UK. A low maintenance mixed fruit and perennial  vegetable garden has already been planted and at it’s centre what looks like a house for hobbits is actually an eco-play shelter made from locally sourced materials including, cob (a traditional building material made of sub-soil and straw),  lime rendering and a living sedum roof. The cob playhouse was designed and built by Down To Earth. Down to Earth is a social enterprise specialising in Sustainability Education and Natural Building, based in the Gower Peninsula, Swansea.

The eco-play shelter with sedum roof and small award winning permaculture garden.

The was the first of three outdoor buildings to be planned in the school grounds. In front of the cob playhouse is the award winning permaculture show garden which was exhibited at the RHS Spring Flower Show in Cardiff in 2009 [see below for details].

Down to Earth went on to build a timber frame horticultural classroom and later a polytunnel was attached to this for food growing to take place. The children now have weekly lessons in horticulture and organic food growing, which link into a number of subjects including maths, history, geology, biology, ecology and ESDGC [Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship].

Deputy Headteacher, Jonathan Rigby, is at the forefront of this new kind of  green education, “It’s about preparing the next generation to be more self reliant, children will learn the skills that many say will be needed in  a world where energy is in short supply and more food will be grown locally”, he says.

The design incorporates permaculture principles – a way of working with nature to create a super–productive landscape.  It’s been put together by consultant permaculture designer Michele Fitzsimmons who has been working closely with the school, “The design is a mixture of unusual food plants which can be foraged freely by the children, for example edible honeysuckle, conventional vegetable growing and flowering plants to increase the beauty of the playgrounds and provide food for insects,” she says.

The infants’ playground was enhanced with an array of fruit, soft fruit and herbaceous flowering plants, most designed to be  edible and all non toxic with a key feature of either fruit or flowers occurring in term time.

“As well as this I have also designed in playing opportunities which are centred on free imaginative play and move away from overly constructed and designed play – the idea being that free play is essential for children to learn social skills and also offers a complete break from the more constructed learning activities in the classroom.”

Infant’s playground design with tricycle maze, curved garden beds behind each table, ropes to haul themselves up the slope and a slide to come down again, materials to create dens with, a New Zealand compost bin in the playground and a water butt.

The school has an amazing expanse of woodland on its north side - activities for this area include geological surveys, minibeast hunts and outdoor school plays.

The woodlands to the north of Edwardsville Primary School, can be used for a variety of woodcraft activities including; school plays, imaginative dress up games, geological surveys, minibeast hunts, foraging, historical and archaeological studies, contemplative activities, quiet spaces for counselling and pastoral care.
Outcrops of rocks like this one will be great to teach the school children about the earth’s geological past.Close up of the stratification occurring in a rock formation in the woodlands of Edwardsville Primary School.
Theses rock formations are ideal for geological surveys and the wild raspberries will be great to teach the children about foraging for food in the wild.

Wild raspberries in the woodlands of Edwardsville Primary School will be great to teach the children about foraging for wild food and also be in keeping with the forest schools philosophy. woodlands to the north of Edwardsville Primary School

A free range chicken area is planned, so that children will be able to collect eggs and observe the animals’ natural behaviour.

School children can learn from direct experience what its like to look after farm animals with the planned free range chicken area. With the planned free range chicken area children will see how kitchen waste and cooked food can be recycled into eggs - creating a resource from a waste product. Children will learn how part of managing the free range chickens is to provide them with fresh ground which they can scratch and forage for a range of small insects. larvae, slugs, snails and worms on. Gathering eggs in the free range chicken area will be an important experience for the school children. Finding an egg in a nest box can be an exhilarating and even life changing experience for children who have been brought up with supermarket culture. School children learn alot about the human food chain by gathering eggs in the free range chicken area. The design for the free range chicken area in the nursery area of the school is designed for predator security, accessibility and chicken welfare.

Jonathan Rigby, Deputy Headteacher says, “Children should know how to grow food, how to harvest it and cook.Yes you can even give a chicken a cuddle from time to time! These are key skills and deserve to be part of the schools curriculum. Incorporating these ideas into the curriculum not only teaches the children key life skills, but also helps to tackle poor eating habits and potential obesity problems in later life. Outdoor learning in general can also help those children who are struggling with classroom learning to overcome their difficulties and help increase their self esteem and confidence.”

In addition to the food growing aspect of the project, there are also areas such as spring meadow and mixed native hedgerow which will increase the biodiversity of the school grounds. These areas too will tie into the school’s science curriculum, as well as creating a beautiful and restful environment for play.

There are also plans to create community allotments from an unused part the school grounds. This will help to involve the wider community and spread the message that local food growing is important.

The new junior playground will encompass a play area for free play and ball games, a cob horticultural teaching space, a school polytunnel for growing term time veg, outdoor veg beds, a spring and early summer meadow on all grassed areas, a mixed native hedge surrounding the entire area, a New Zealand compost bin area for school composting, a cob play shelter and an award winning RHS school permaculture garden.

This design for the new junior playground will encompass a play area for free play and ball games, a cob horticultural teaching space, a school polytunnel for growing term time veg, outdoor veg beds, a spring and early summer meadow on all grassed areas, a mixed native hedge surrounding the entire area, a New Zealand compost bin area for school composting, a cob play shelter and an award winning RHS school permaculture garden.

Over the past five years, the school has gained help from volunteers, and over £100000 in grants, from funders such as the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, the Department for International Development’s Development Awareness Fund, and Science Shops Wales. The funding has paid for the outdoor learning classrooms, environmental and development awareness projects, the permaculture design and a school gardener.
Edwardsville Primary School, in southern valley of the Merthyr Tydfil borough, will be launching the new permaculture design on the 3rd February, 3.45pm, when permaculture designer, Michele Fitzsimmons, presents her design to an open forum of parents, public and press.

For more information and links about this story please click on the following links:

South Wales Echo - "Children Dig Eco Lessons at School"

South Wales Echo - "Children Dig Eco Lessons at School" - online article

BBC NEWS - "School Opens Outdoor Classroom"

Award Winning Permaculture Garden at the RHS Show

Royal Horticultural Show garden design (RHS Garden Design) for Cardiff show, permaculture designThe very first RHS permaculture show garden, was exhibited at the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Spring Flower Show Cardiff, in April 17 - 19 2009. Its a bit like the Chelsea Flower Show but on a smaller scale. The RHS award winning garden showed how it is possible to have a sustainable urban garden fit for life in the 21st century. It included an edible garden of perennial and annual, edible ornamental food plants, free range chicken tractor, a beehive, a wood store with an edible green roof, a compost bin, a wildlife pond, water butts and a narrow solar powered greenhouse with a heatsink (complete with seasonal veg) especially designed for small gardens which has a sliding door on both sides.
The first permaculture garden to be exhibited at an RHS flower show. The garden by permaculture designer Michele Fitzsimmons skilfully combines productivity with beauty.Over 17,000 people visited the RHS show giving great exposure to this garden and permaculture in general.The pekin bantams in their free range chicken arc were of particular appeal to the public, especially children.This bed shows edible perennial soft fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers. Shown here: rhubarb, pansies, purple sprouting broccoli, land cress, sweet cecily, juneberry and elaeagnus.Triangular compost bin made put of pallet wood surrounded by comfrey which is a great compost activator. Golden Bamboo, Phyllostachys Aurea, in the background - this produces edible shoots in spring and makes a great living fence or screen.This dwarf apple tree was provided by Frank Matthews Trees for Life Nursery which is a leading fruit nursery who supply wholesale fruit trees of superb quality to the trade.Function and form combine beautifully in this permaculture garden created for the RHS flower show. Foregrounded here is an espalier apple tree while in the background is a solar powered greenhouse.Features like this woodstore with a green roof full of edible plants like chives and oregano and where the roof slopes off to a corner in order that the oak water butt gets filled are the essence of a permaculture approach to design where everything is integrated and multifunctions are created by clever juxtaposition.Edible pond plants like duck potato, sagittaria latifolia and sweet flag, acorus calamus,  are the perfect combination of beauty and usefulness.Superb mosaics were created by Sara Bentley, mosaic artist and jeweller. Here the combination of mosaic bird bath and edible flowers like pansies, pinks and campanula is stunning.Golden or buffalo currant give a fantastic display of bright yellow flowers in April. It is set amongst the surrounding edible plants: day lily, hemerocallis, rosemary, rosmarinus officinalis, cowslips, primulis vulgaris and pansies. The background edible shrubs are amelanchier and elaeagnus.A vast array of edible perennial plants arranged for both aesthetic appeal and easy access.

The permaculture edible garden was made possible through the substantial financial support of Science Shops Wales, the generous financial help from Caesars Arms Restaurant and Farm Shop, a small grant from The Wakeham Trust and a myriad of small private donations from individual donors.

The permaculture edible garden has now been transferred to Edwardsville Primary School, Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales, winners of the Eco Schools Award for 2008, where it is flourishing.

The Permaculture Association (Britain) endorsed our project and helped by publicising the garden in Permaculture Works and supporting us when we needed to raise money using their charitable status. Please email me if you would like more info.

For more information and links about this story please click on the following links:

Wales Online - Home and Garden

South Wales Echo - "Good Enough to Eat"

Edible Landscaping in the News

For stories of Edible Landscaping in the papers & online click on these links here:

South Wales Echo - "Dig for Dinner"

South Wales Echo - "Back to Your Roots"

Western Mail - "Food Costs Driving 'Edible Landscaping'"

Tropical Permaculture Garden in Wales

Garden at Manor House Wildlife ParkA section of the walled garden before any work has started at Manor House Wildlife Park (Anna Ryder Richardson's and Colin MacDougal's Zoo) which incudes the Meercat enclosure.
I am involved in an exciting project, redesigning a walled garden at Manor House Wildlife Park. The Park has recently been bought by Anna Ryder Richardson and her husband Colin MacDougall. Their plan is to turn it into a green zoo with animal welfare and sustainability being right at the top of the agenda.

This 'zoo' garden will include a plethora of fruit trees, soft fruit and edible herbaceous perennials, including an unusual array of hardy exotics. The garden includes a tropical house which will be filled with amazing fruits including Bananas, Pineapple Guava (Feijoa) and Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) to name a few. Watch this space for the completed design and photos of the implementation in progress.

An Urban Permaculture Garden

A challenging shady garden in inner city Cardiff to be transformed into an edible landscapeThe new design commission to transform a small and mostly shady garden into an edible and productive garden is going well. The garden has now been planted put with a huge array of perennial edible plants including: Tiger Lily [Lilium lancifolium], Chinese Artichoke [Stachys affinis], Day lily [ Hemerocallis] plus a couple of compact Hazel nuts, soft fruit including an unusual shade tolerant soft fruit Schisandra chinensis as well as lots of shade tolerant edibles like: 3 Cornered Leek [Allium triquetrum], Sweet Violet [Viola odorata], Perpetual Spinach [Beta vulgaris cicla] , Rhubarb [Rheum x cultorum], Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum), Lemon Balm [Melissa officinalis] all will work as shade tolerant understorey plants. In sunny spots along the side wall, tomatoes, basil, peppers and various salad plants have been planted.

Permaculture Garden Tours

figs with fennel in a permaculture gardenThere are now opportunities to partake in a guided tour of my edible garden. The tour consists of a leisurely but informed walk around my garden. I will Introduce you to a variety of unusual edible plants including many ornamental edibles. There will be an opportunity to taste the various plants in my garden and discuss the methods I have used to create a permaculture garden. The tours lasts one hour and are conducted throughout the year. The tour costs £10 per participant and will run with a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 10 participants. Please let me know via email if you would like to join in on a tour of my garden.

Wwoofers welcome

Japanese Wwoofer Shiori, making blackberry jam from the berries she had pickedWwoofers welcome
I regularly have Wwoofers staying and have been registered as a host with Wwoof UK [] for several years. A permaculture garden has a lot to offer Wwoofers because of the huge variety of things to do and to learn. My Wwoofers always sign my Wwoof UK book before they leave. Here are some of their comments: "It was a lovely place to stay with a big garden, learnt a lot about herbs, trees and soil". "Very positive friendly, family environment. Good experience of permaculture" . "Thank you for nine interesting days, with a really nice walk in the beautiful Brecon Beacons". "MWwoofers in the garden preparing an area for a sheet mulch - a no dig technique.ichele, thanks so much

for such a lovely time and all the knowledge that you shared with me. This has been, by far, the best Wwoof experience I have had and I hope someday to return." "Thanks for everything. I had a great educational time - superb food. Ta." So if you want to experience Wwoofing in the UK and Wwoofing in Wales in particular please click here and I'll get back to you.