Morag Gamble and Evan Raymond were recently awarded a ‘Glossie’ at the 2012 Sunshine Coast Living Smart Awards for their Edible Landscape, a low maintenance garden that provides a diversity of foods, fibres, medicines, flowers and play elements for their family. Julie Shelton caught up with Morag over a cup of tea to find out what makes it special.
A WALK THROUGH MORAG and Evan’s one-acre garden is both nourishing and instructional. Which is exactly what they had in mind when they designed it. The underlying principles and ethics of this landscape
design are based on permaculture. Both Morag and Evan have worked as permaculture teachers and designers in 20 countries and have been inspired by the edible landscapes they have seen around the world.
Their garden provides a range of edible landscapes including a kitchen garden, integrated food forest and chicken run, bushtucker garden, an edible hedge entrance, fruit tree walk, outdoor rooms and shady nooks, mountain and valley views of the Conondale ranges, edible playscapes with edible shade trees and several compost areas.
It has been designed to draw on the natural beauty of the area, with the kitchen garden visually connected to the house, kitchen and dining areas.
In each season, there is a colourful display with different textures, tastes and flowers. Even on a chilly June morning, colour and abundance is everywhere; fruits and salad plants invite picking and eating on the spot.
It is a sanctuary and playground for their two children, Maia (6) and Hugh (4), (pictured above right), while also providing Morag with a teaching space and materials used in her workshops and university lectures.
Morag explains, “When we designed the garden, we had a few key goals. Initially, it had to be a learning garden – a place where people could come and learn about permaculture. I have permaculture high school camps and Conondale school groups coming here. I also run hands-on weekend permaculture workshops.”
“I wanted to demonstrate how to set up a garden simply and affordably; to design it in a way that doesn’t require terribly much maintenance or water. I had a specific intent that I don’t water more than about once every three weeks.”
Their edible landscape is set within Crystal Waters Permaculture Village in Conondale, a United Nations Award winning eco-village (for demonstrating low- impact and sustainable ways of living).
Morag and Evan bought the block in 1998, began owner-building their house in 2005 and commenced work in the existing gardens the following year. Having co-founded the Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network, Northey Street
City Farm and Permaculture Brisbane, they arrived armed with bundles of plants and cuttings.
Since becoming parents, the focus has changed to making the garden a play space and learning space for the children.
“The flat area is surrounded by the edible landscape – it informs their play,” describes Morag, casting her eyes around the garden.
“The kids have grown up with the chooks, and their guinea pigs do some lawn mowing. They know what plants to use and what to use them for.”
“I wanted to demonstrate that you can have a busy life with a young family and very little time but still have a really abundant garden.”
Like all living organisms, the garden continues to change. Morag and Evan have plans for further
development of the one-acre lot, which runs down the hill on a gentle north-facing slope.“I want to do more with the hedge of entrance edibles down to the house – I see that as a major avenue,” she says.
“I purposely put the house down at the bottom. The cars stay at the top, so that every time we walk to the house we walk through the garden, say hello to the chooks, and check the berries, which need to be checked regularly to make sure the birds don’t get them all,” she says with a smile.
Our cup of tea finished, it’s time to wander back up the hill, past the curving terraces of nutritious leafy greens punctuated with worm towers, past the fruit trees and green manure hedges. It’s a feast for the eyes.
“My edible garden is central to my whole life. It’s a representation of how I feel about food,” Morag comments as we wander past the contented chooks.
“It’s a source of healthy food for my family, and it’s a way I can integrate how I think about the world and teach my children without telling them about it but by showing and bringing them into that.”
“It’s central to my professional work. It gives me inspiration and provides me with the resources to do it.
“It gives us a great amount of joy.”