Urban abundance: the finest suburban permaculture

Urban abundance: the finest suburban permaculture


A sumptuous permaculture garden in the heart of suburbia is a feast for the eye and the table

Karel Vine and Anne-Louise Dampney share a passion for gardening but come from quite different life perspectives. Karel is an experienced counsellor, registered psychologist and clinical hypnotherapist. She started the garden in 1992 and recalls, “In the beginning there was only clay, weeds and building rubble.”

Anne-Louise has been an enthusiastic gardener since she was a child and has always had a passion for nature, art and design. She has a very practical approach to finding creative solutions to difficult problems and has a keen eye for the unusual, whether it’s quirky plants or unique artworks. With an excellent working knowledge of horticulture, landscaping and garden design, she runs her own business, InsideOut.

Anne-Louise started working in the garden, Krackatinni, in 2005 and the rest, as they say, is history. Together, this clever pair has created something very special. Krackatinni is a garden of rare appeal. It’s imaginative, productive and brimming with flowers, fruits, veggies, herbs and whimsical artworks. The plants are superbly healthy: green, lush and vital. Karel and Anne-Louise have a clear vision for their garden. As Anne-Louise puts it, “Our philosophy is simple: to create a sanctuary for both people and wildlife; to combine beauty with productivity; to encourage a sense of community, sharing food and resources with our neighbours; and, most importantly, to sit back with a beer in hand (hence the name) to enjoy our space and plan the next step.”

Quirky and unique

As soon as you enter the street, it’s clear this garden stands apart. The plantings are right up to the road edge, the colour blazing across the whole front, drawing your eye around the corner into the action-packed
backyard. Every time you look, there’s more to see. Behind the flowering annuals pops up celery, iridescent red-stemmed rainbow chard, fennel and myriad lettuce varieties, all interspersed with colourful flowering plants such as forget-me-nots, nasturtiums, stocks, irises and poppies. Sweetpeas bloom on reclaimed builder’s reo and similar structures tame beans.

Which leads us to Karel and Anne-Louise’s ingenious use of recycled and reclaimed things. “Recycling has been an integral part of the garden development,” says Anne-Louise. This savvy pair love finding new ways to use things harvested from roadside council clean-ups. Old wooden ladders provide a home to fruit-bearing pots or lend support to climbers, while former wine barrels have been converted into garden tables and pots, and several old workboots now serve as planters. Unique garden furniture and other objects complete the picture.

The garden has the illusion of being much larger than it is thanks to the ultra-clever use of space. With interesting pathways, hedges, garden rooms and backyard working hubs, it’s amazing to think this garden sits within just 634 square metres of mostly clay soil.

Frosts are common during winter and summer can deliver hot, humid conditions with consecutive days over 40 degrees. But climate and size restrictions have been catered for with careful design and constant monitoring. Karel and Anne-Louise love that the garden is reminiscent of treasured childhood days when life was lived at a less frenetic pace and permaculture values, so often seen in backyards back then, came to the fore.

Food growing

Large existing trees meant that growing fruit and veggies could have been a problem. To overcome this, Karel and Anne-Louise grow edibles in pots of all shapes and sizes. Handy to the kitchen are containers filled with herbs, tomatoes, peas, strawberries and citrus, including lemon, kaffir lime and mandarin. Gorgeous old favourite annuals, such as stock, live there, too, adding a splash of colour and sweet fragrance.

There are several raised tank-beds on the back patio area within easy reach of the backdoor, providing a neat partition. A recycled wooden ladder leans casually against the wall, giving rise to pots of organic strawberries. When it became apparent they needed more space, Karel and Anne-Louise removed the entire front lawn to make way for edibles. It’s worth mentioning that they allow their crops to self-seed throughout the garden but also save some seed for future propagation. They like heirloom varieties from the renowned Diggers Club and enjoy growing from seed.

In the back corner is the fenced-off composting area, furnished with recycled ladders and a shed as well as a chook pen, providing fresh eggs and fowl manure for the compost heap. Tools are stored there and adjacent to the chooks’ enclosure is a timber saw-horse for wood cutting — an idea borrowed from a fellow gardener. Ideas are what this garden is all about and Karel and Anne-Louise want to share their knowledge and gardening ethos with everyone interested.

Both Karel and Anne-Louise spend considerable time in their haven and relish how satisfying that is. Karel says green space is “good for the soul”; and, of course, it’s good for the environment. It’s very rewarding to recycle and re-use rather than throw away, to grow produce and share the abundance with neighbours.

This garden is a treat; one of unusual sensitivity, beauty and productivity. It’s dotted with unique artworks and knick-knacks and clearly has been created with passion, love and knowledge.

Written by Diane Crawford

Photos by Diane Norris

Originally in Backyard Volume 15 Issue 3