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Cecilia Macaulay 's Profile
Cecilia Macaulay
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Sydney/Melbourne/Tokyo, Australia
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Warm Temperate
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Asaba Art Square

Asaba Art Square

Yokohama-shi, JP


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The Panya Project
Anton Lo Barry Batchelor Darren J.  Doherty Eliza Pearson Geoff Lawton Gordon Williams Jack Heimsoth Janet Millington Kathleen McCann Kevin Thien Mark Brown Mark Ermacora Mark Garrett Miguel Varella-Cid Nick Sikorski Richard Perkins Richard Telford Ross Mars Warren Brush

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How to be a Paid Urban 'Start-at-your-Doorstep' Garden designer - The story of meeting Steve Webb

Posted by Cecilia Macaulay over 12 years ago

Every street in Sydney needs a part-time Permaculture 'doorstep garden' designer. We arrange to get paid, which gets us to commit to being excellent, world class. We learn on the job, a steep and exciting learning curve. This 'side'job expands who we are

Re- posted from my 'Balcony garden dreaming' blog of August 2011

Quirky Doorstep Garden designers of Sydney - I found one!

If you want to meet unique people, then do quirky things.
Here is how I met Steve, a young daddy of 4 and a real, culture-creating Start-At-Your-Doorstep Designer.

Stephen Webb at his inner-city home, where things flourish

I met him through the add I put up on Gumtree Classifieds, "Chicken Sitter Available'.

Like many things I do, this offer sounds weird, but is eminently sensible.
Try-Before-You-Buy is a low cost, low burden, low angst way to ease yourself into something new.
If it doesn't go as hoped, no worries.

Chicken sitter available - my add

My brother has long wanted chooks for his jungle back garden. Spring is coming, and is the time to take action.
Steady, flamboyant action.

Well, yesterday my chicken add got a reply from Steven, who thought it was a good idea too.
He has plans for a renovation to his Urban Chicken Palace, and his ladies could do with a holiday.

Who is this fellow? I wondered, and googled him. His website 'Edible Kids Gardens',  was rich with my favorite things:  low-tech, improvised designs, easy and rewarding for designer and for customer. I dashed right over to meet him. That very night.

He is a real Doorstep Garden Designer, someone who starts a garden - tiny, urban, useful - from where people actually are. From the energy and resources and dreams they actually have.

A person very well placed to save the world.
I wasn't going to wait.

Gumboots for his children as they stomp about the garden

Maximum productivity from Minimum space

This Permaculture design principle doesn't just describe what he designs, it also describes how he does it - minimum drawing, with maximum communication to the future garden owner as to how it will all look and feel.

He draws alternatives, with the stories of all the elements he want to include, and why.  There are tunnels to transition from adult area to children's secret fairy garden, clipped mini-hedge edges to protect herb garden from children's ball games, multiple reasons for everything.

Allow for Evolution

His designs are light, quick and flexible, with alternatives.  He can re-design around the obstacles and opportunities that appear - Finding great rocks as you dig, or a pipe that sends your riverbed in a new direction.

But mostly, he allows for his own evolution. 
Garden-creating is weekend job for him, a love since his own childhood. At uni, he graduated in Landscape architecture, not horticulture, so he is now learning about plants as he goes, asking his mates what will work.  Instead of paying for a Horticulture course, he gets paid as he goes. Not paid much, but enough to keep on creating. Enough to keep up with his Doctorate in Psychology, and as active daddy, husband and share-house leader.

A house of treasures. Children and other kinds.

Maximise useful connections

The gardens themselves are full of useful and thoughtfully-linked playing, hiding, digging, messing areas. But again, he maximizes useful connections in How he designs, not just What he designs.

Latin is useful for the priestly ones to hand down accurate orders to the middle man, who then does the construction - the owner does not interfere with her annoying personal plant preferences.  The way Steve designs,  he can just do a Google image search of important plants, to show the owner just what will be coming to live with her.  He makes that connection for her, so she doesn't have to wonder.

Dry river bed in a school garden

How is a children's garden different from a regular garden?  This is what Stephen said:

"Adventure, Interest. Adults like gardens for sitting, drinking tea, viewing. Children like to engage deeply, clambering through tunnels, into hidey-holes, constructing little nooks and gadgets themselves. Plants are chosen to be handled, not just looked at.
I don't make gardens to teach children about sustainability. How they turn out depends on who their parents are, really, that's the more constant influence.
 I want to make gardens that will captivate and delight, keep their attention. I don't make gardens for political reasons. Ive always made gardens, since I was a child. Its to delight myself, really."

He tells the story of how last week he went to 'Reverse Garbage', and brought a pile of pipes and elbows for a few dollars. His children spend a few days putting them together as a chute for racing their cars. After that they made them into a telephone system for communicating in the garden tunnel. These children are unlikely to grow up boring. And the pipes and elbows will probably have many more re-incarnations before they are truly garbage.

Being a paid Permaculture designer is something you can start, from now. Pick up a pencil, trace over a photo on your computer screen, do a google search for plants you think might be happy there. Find someone who really, really wants a garden, and help them.  Take a photo, and put it on a blogger blog - a free website. Learn Search Engine Optimization, and put useful stories in there, to get known.Then don't stop till you get there. I will help.


Wonky, rough, but good enough to change the world. Someone's world.

Contact Steve Webb, or get inspiration from his Edible Childrens Garden website: http://ediblekidsgardens.com.au/

Comments (1)

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Kirsten Bradley
Kirsten Bradley : beautiful - thanks Celia! Going to ask Steve to do a little presentation at our January urban PDC in Sydney methinks, to get some new permies inspired :)
Posted over 12 years ago

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My Badges
Consultant Aid worker I'm female, single, and looking for a permaculture partner
My Permaculture Qualifications
Pri verified
Type: Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course
Verifying teacher: Geoff Lawton
Other Teachers: steve cran
Location: Mullumbimby
Date: Dec 1998

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