Monday, May 25, 2009

Permablitz: creating edible paradise on urban concrete, party-style

The old garden gate
The Permablitz network
When you join the other 800 or so people in the Melbourne Permablitz network, you get to be a kid again. Someone puts their hand up for a garden makeover, some new designers spend a few weeks working it all out, then a mob of us descend on someones garden, leaving it transformed. In this case, concrete courtyard of an inner-city rental.

Cecilia can't resist arranging everyone's colorful lunchtime contributions.
Behind, the after-lunch bath is being drawn. Loam, not foam

Here two of the three Designers hold a conference: Mara, flexing her new PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate) , and Tania, a Permie and graphic designer who discovered she lived next door to Michael's garden.

Here's you host, Michael B Green
Michael B Green is the host of This Mid-may Carlton blitz. To prepare for the day, Michael wacked together these raised bed frames, made from salvaged floorboards from the other neighbour's house, and a close relation to the table we are eating off, also Michael's work. Michael writes for The Age, on themes such as resourceful reclaming, caring for things, and caring for people, and practices what he prints. (see michael's articles here)

Tania the designer/neighbour contemplates the communal lunch (playing teasets)

Making work a party
One dish for humans, the other for the garden. I had to leave early, so can't say how the Gnocci tasted, or how the permablitz turned out. I'll go visit and take some 'after' photos. Around lunchtime. Maybe I'll get lucky.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gothic balcony gardening photo shoot - looking for edible black plants

Rehearsing costume and light, ready for a Gothic Garden stage set to be assembled

What, I wondered, did young Urbanized Goths do in the day? Maybe what they need is a spot of Gothic balcony Permaculture to perk them up - black roses for turning into fragrant Jam, black snake beans to rip into, glossy eggplants, and then a good swathe of menacing thorny roses, blood red, clambering over the balustrades to keep out marauding possums.

Drawing in black just doesn't work for me. No worries, making a photo would be even more fun, I will meet creative people, and we might be able to have a Gothic feast afterwards.

Can you help me? Here is my beg, borrow, trade or buy wish list:
Black or purple Fruiting plants, full size, dug up:
black beans,
Potted Avocado,
black-stemmed taro,
purple asparagus
blackberries (any left?)
Black, Dark red, dark purple flowering plants
Red flowering roses, thorny preferred.

Pots, to cover in shiny black plastic, and tied with white ribbon

Black pebbles (or somebody to buy them off me after the shoot, cheap)
or Lots of Dark fallen leaves, to cover the bricks,
or - your other good, mysterious idea
From the Gothic Gardening Website

Wrought iron gates, magnificent, to hide the reality of the walls
Black Umbrellas, to hide the rock edging, to give a bat-like menacing feel, or to hang like storm clouds above, for a nice touch of oppression.
Melbourne GPO awash in Umbrellas, by jikon
Other amazing umbrella art on diggphotos

If I'm lucky, a sea monster-like black air conditioning pipe might writhe though the lot.

Artistic and efficient volunteers to help get it all together would be angels (black).

For all your black gardening ideas and advice, there is a substantial and beautiful Gothic Gardening website to direct and inspire you with plant names and uses. If there is enough vivid green, and splashes of white and crimson, it could look captivating. Here is a list of black plants,
but I myself wouldn't like black leaves - too much like bin liners. Fruit is fine, because its glossy. Green emenates life.
Thank-you Amor e Locura for lending me the gorgeous gates

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Edible office garden - Map coffee break time

A few minutes walk from Crown Casino, I came across this Very Edible Garden in an unlikely place - corporate headquarters of Map Coffee, backstreets of South Melbourne

Rhubarb lines the boardroom

Redlegged Silverbeet

The Toolshed
If it were my garden (wish!), I would make this Rustic tableaux the entire color scheme: Madonna blue and cardinal red, with green, in cottage-style fragrant flowers to encourage and delighting the edibles. I'd have rich red roses climbing the cyclone wire, and blue daisies & blue forget-me-knots for the bees. Oh, and honey for the coffee. What other mid blue flowers are there? Delphiniums, borage for salads. Bluebells.

They cook up the produce for shared lunches each week in their snazzy Milan-looking kitchen

With a garden like this, you don't need to read their mission statement to know this is the kind of company you'd like to work with, belong to.

Even the car park is delicious. The rusty-red crates are filled with rich soil, mulched and automatically watered, from a massive tank covered in passion fruit vines.

Go Map Coffee!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Totally shady balcony garden? Create an edible fairy haunt with mushrooms

'There is ALWAYS a solution' is a way of thinking that will make your life colorful and different to everyone else's.

Cecilia's Urban Melbourne mushrooms,
May 2009

I'm learning I can have easy answers + blame and excuses ("He rejected me", "its too much bother", "the pests got it"), or I can have Amazingness (What was missing? How can I make it worth it? How can I make troubles go elsewhere?)

Something I'm longing to see is somebody making fairyland on a shady balcony, flying over excuses in a single bound. More likely 2 or 3 or more bounds, but its just not impossible, I know.

These days I'm amazing myself with home-grown mushrooms. They are heavy, pink, and unimaginably sweet and delicious. Nobody tells you this. And its so much fun to watch them pop up. Mushrooms are edible pets.

Cecilia's wooden Tokyo mushrooms,
purchased, not grown.

I'm imagining an edible shade balcony forested with rough-barked tree stumps, nicely 'bottomed' (carved) to give a comfortable seat, and a stack of thin cushions nearby. Probably burgandy spotted in cream, for the toadstool effect. They might form a ring around a central wooden 'table' for reading the paper, or studying spells. You could have a fountain and pond setup that catches rainwater, and murmers prettily, neutralizing urban noises, taking you away. A frog refuge? No cats on balconies. Or you might go out there each morning, with fresh water to rinse your alfala sprouts, pouring the nutrient-rich old water on your mushroom patch, and doing a harvest for your lunchtime sandwich. Sprouts grow in the shade, no problems, no pests, nothing to excuses to excuse, Except for "I didn't make a daily rinse routine".

Instructions on Growing your own
1. Buy a mushroom growing kit

2. Take off the lid, spread the extra mulch over the whitish fungi roots.

3. Dampen with water

4. Put somewhere darkish

5. Keep damp, wait a week or two start eating.

Keep your mushrooms company with forest-floor plants that have evolved to get by with very little light. The dapples are just a strategy to save on chlorophyll, but have the added bonus of seeming to 'generate' sunbeams and brightness.

Be the first in the world to create a 'no problem' shade garden, and amaze and inspire us all. Just remember to send me the photo, and make my day.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Balinese Restaurant Street-Garden condemed, destroyed: the tale of Warung Agus

The 17 year old potplant garden at Warung Agus was one of the inspiration for this blog, and my balcony-gardening work.
There on the concrete of Inner-city West Melbourne were huge tropical trees. There were tiny little shrine-like niches with flickering tea-candles, sometimes single flowers placed reverently in vases, tucked in a grotto in the greenery.

Reverence for... what?
The miracle that jungles can be coaxed to flourish on concrete.
The miracle that beauty can take hold wherever the human spirit is beautiful.
The miracle that something that doesn't exist yet, except in someones mind, can be 'loved' into existence, that love eliciting the time and tending to make it real.

I wish I didn't have to believe my eyes when I saw the site of the garden this weekend. My little patch of West Melbourne heaven gone.
Some humans create heaven on earth, and others turn heaven into desolation. Both probably fueled with equal passion, coming from...I don't know where. I wonder where?

Though I'm mostly a nice lady, my first reaction was kind of 'ancestral'.
I could have killed somebody.
The signs explained it: a couple of locals had complained that the garden infringed bylaws, was a hazard to pedestrians, and had to go.
Millions of dollars a year are given out by the government in arts grants and 'greening the city' grants, but this garden, and the 'divas' and fairies who lived here almost two decades, were banished. Why?

I needed to make up an answer to how anyone could want this garden destroyed, as I was feeling sick with loss and anger. So I just stayed still for a few minutes.
It dawned on me that this is how the bushfire survivors felt, as deliberately-lit fires destroyed all that was precious to them. To compare the scale of my loss to theirs helped calm me down.

Then being still for a few minutes longer, I tried to picture, to understand the people who demanded its removal. Here is what might have happened: Someone lives a bleak life, maybe in a flat nearby. Maybe long ago they had something precious they loved destroyed. Some toy, some secret place. Some live entire childhoods with abusive parents, joy-stealing teachers or family members. To cope with that, maybe they need to destroy beauty that others are still allowed to have.
This happens. There is always a reason.

There are many, many such stories. Far stories, such as the Cultural Revolution in China: pesants destroying the art treasures and books they couldn't understand or enjoy.
And near stories, to me: Chadstone Shopping center pulling down the Cathedral-like Good Shepard Convent and church, the 19th century monastic gardens and orchards that I knew so well. In its place they built a bitumen car park.

Can something be done to get this garden back?
I don't want to have to talk myself out of tears, out of becming vengeful, every time I pass.