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Formal garden Permaculture design

 
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Hello,

    I've recently watched Monty Don's French Garden show and Italian Garden show on Netflix as well as some of his other garden shows . These shows are mostly of large formal gardens made by royalty or wealthy powerful people 100s of years ago.

These are beautiful gardens but they are different from permaculture gardens . Of course things were organic , and done by animal or human power mostly (of course servants usually did this work).  Some beautiful gardens were also created at the beginning of the industrial revolution including glass houses and green houses filled with rare plants or to extend the season .

Gravity fed water fountains and displays, amazing hedges, this was a time where people really truly enjoyed the outdoors and spent a lot of time in the gardens. Of course this was a very wealthy life stlye lived by kings like King Louis at Versailles. Our farm is actually in Versailles MO, and I went with my dad and my brother a few summers ago to Versailles France which may have sparked my love for these European gardens.

My family which is only slowly warming up to the idea of permaculture I think might be more interested if the design was more formal .

I'm trying to figure out if there are ways to make a beautiful gardens with some formal European elements mixed in with permaculture elements.


Any ideas of formal Renaissance garden elements that could be given a permaculture twist.

I figure permaculture can't really have a bad plant, if you know the functions it serves.

Hedges and living fences are both beautiful and can create habitat for insects and birds etc. Block the road and noise .. create outdoor rooms for people and microclimates for plants and critters

Patterns found in nature can be replicated in a more formal mathematical style.

Flowers attract insects, can be cut as a business, also look beautiful and attract people

Green houses can preserve rare plants and animals for permaculture observation and study and genetic /species preservation.( I also have a interest in bonsai , terrariums , aquariums etc. )

All hedge clipping and pruning can use that bio mass for compost , mulch , fodder , wood for fires bio char etc.

Those are some ideas I had , I also had an idea to use different styles as inspiration for particular sections of the yard, placed in microclimates that fit their natural location. Japanese style in a shady spot under and oak , mederterainian style on the sunny side of the house . Water garden in the wet spot. Etc.

Anyone have other ideas on a formal , ornamental style garden done with permaculture design? Pictures are always nice.

Thanks

 
master pollinator
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Keep in mind that formal gardens require much more maintenance than informal ones!  I think one can take cues from the Potager du Roi and using rectilinear shapes for the beds, plant polycultures of edible plants in patterns.  It is the patterns more than specific plant species that make a formal garden.  Fruit trees can be surrounded by geometric shapes of support plants.



Barnsley House Potager (modern example of this style)

 
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I'm going to put a plug in for Creative Vegetable Gardening by Joy Larkcom, Amazon link here:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XRB4DH7/  

She's really inspired me to improve and expand my annual garden, introducing perennials almost as hardscape.  My partner gets discouraged (and so do I sometimes!) by how ragged the polycultures look, especially as they're not filled in yet.  I think organizing and formalizing a part of the yard will give us a better sense of control, and get back the fun in gardening.

She helps clarify how to structure a formal garden, how to use annuals to fill in as larger perennials develop, and how to break the rules once you know them.  The pictures are fabulous and the book is full of helpful tips.

I think I found it via Permaculture magazine (UK) back issues.  I have the Kindle version, which is worth reading on a device that shows off the gorgeous pictures.  A paper version would probably be even more useful for inspiring your family.
 
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To me, the key things that make a garden "permaculture" vs "something else" are the following things:
1. Build soil and keep it healthy.
2. Manage water, holding rainwater and distributing grey-water so as not to need to pump clean water to water plants - make the plants as water self-sufficient as possible.
3. Support all the organisms that make a "forest" healthy - macro (birds, snakes, etc) mini (worms, insects, spiders, etc) micro (soil bacteria, fungi etc).
4. Use as many perennial plants as possible.
5. Do the above 4 with as much safe, locally produced inputs as possible.
This is generally less labour when done with a dose of "messy" - throwing seed balls and letting nature decide what the results are - but there's no reason that a polyculture can't be planted with more "math". Also, you can use more formal 'edging' to help make things look neater than they are. One year I planted an entire row of carrots at the edge of a front garden in an era and area when veggies in the front yard just wasn't done. I should have interrupted the row with a beneficial/edible flower every 2 feet, but I wasn't as smart back then. The carrots were awesome! The neighbors were somewhat scandalized. As you plan your sustainable, if not quite permaculture, garden, do keep in mind which veggies like to play nice together and which don't. Check out several of the posts by Daron Williams who's been writing about perennial, self-seeding and easy to grow edibles.
 
T Sousley
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All great responses . I should clarify that by garden I really mean yard , or landscape.  Here is part of the property , majority will be used for livestock . In the field at the bottom of the picture I'm thinking hoop houses for a market garden. But the yard also has a smaller vegetable garden we use currently.  

The ideas of borders making things more formal , and using patterns . I was even thinking that perhaps some patterns in nature could be used in a formal way . Measuring I think adds formality.

Another question is the use of ornamentals or other non productive plants. What are good yeilds or niches that ornamentals can provide.

Pruning and management are some big problems with the formal garden , but if I can find yeild or uses for these clippings then maybe it becomes more worth the labor. Prune and take cuttings at the same time. Etc.

The other concern is money formal gardens can be expensive, any good methods to reduce cost of materials ? Especially things for hard scape like stone and concrete  gravel brick .. all expensive. Maybe sustainable ways to source these items . Maybe they can provide multiple functions in the system . Self propagation, using plants ripped out from construction and landscape projects. Any ideas on this?


Going to have to look into that book . I think my dad and the rest of the family have an idea of what presentable looks like . Some of the more let it grow where ever attitude permaculture stuff keeps them from wanting to try it . Like giant hugel beds covered in edible weeds and other random plants .  They want it to look neat and orderly like someone is taking care of it . So using patterns and finding functions for formal elements is a good way to mix the two.

Thanks for all the info . I'll try and ad some photos maybe of ideas or inspiration from formal gardens and how they might be adapted to a more holistic approach.


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Jay Angler
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If it were me, I would chose first off, ornamentals that can easily be grown organically. Since a main use of ornamentals is to produce flowers, choosing ones that are known for supporting bees, other pollinators and parasitic wasps, and that will flower sequentially over as much of the year as possible, would be a huge asset to the planet and could still be done very formally.

If the pruning and management produces materials for composting and building soil, or possibly an income stream if you choose plants with flower sales potential, herbal tea use, home medicine use or some other small scale product.

I really can't think of any good ways to reduce the expense of formal gardens. In my climate, gravel is *very* time consuming to maintain, so I don't recommend it. Grass can only be used for paths if they don't get too much use, and again it will infiltrate the plantings if there isn't a border. Available natural rock depends on your ecosystem, but it is a skill that can be learned. You can attempt to recycle/upcycle cheep or free materials, but it's difficult to get enough to either make a pattern that looks formal, or that you can get enough all the same. Glass bottles is about the only think I can think of that would be available in quantity. I've heard of people using an old cement mixer to "polish' glass for paths.

Those are all the thoughts I have for now.
 
Morfydd St. Clair
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There are a lot of ornamental flowers that are also useful and not too expensive en masse.  Alyssum is lovely, a well-behaved groundcover, nice for bees, and marginally edible.  Breadseed poppies produce massive amounts of seed to spread in future years.  (Technically, yes, they're opium poppies, so YLLEEMV - Your Local Law Enforcement Environment May Vary.)  Hollyhocks (all the malva, alcea, etc., variants) also produce tons of seeds - I've been collecting them from the weedy versions rampant through my city - and they're edible and very old-fashioned-pretty.

I had wood-sided raised beds that worked ok, but weeds wanted to lurk in the edges.  This year I'm trying just humped-up dirt beds, paths are dug a bit down, covered in cardboard and then wood chips (and all the leaf mulch that blew off the beds over winter - Sigh).  I'm growing out ornamental dandelions to hold the sides in, and have some Corsican mint as well.  We'll see how it goes.

Paths are a pain.  Well-trimmed grass looks lovely, but my grass wants to invade everything within reach.  As always, wood chips are great if you can get them in quantity.  (I can't, sigh.)  Gravel has to be picked clean of organic matter to look tidy.  Jay mentioned glass, and I want to shout out to one of my favorite businesses in Seattle - https://bedrockindustries.com/ - who do gorgeous recycled glass tiles and tumbled glass chips for paths.  BUT I could never afford to do even my 2 small paths in their glass chips.  And you have to pick them clean too.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Another author to look into is Rosalind Creasy https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7356490-edible-landscaping
 
Jay Angler
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Morfydd St. Clair wrote:

Jay mentioned glass, and I want to shout out to one of my favorite businesses in Seattle - https://bedrockindustries.com/ - who do gorgeous recycled glass tiles and tumbled glass chips for paths.

I saw a Youtube about someone using a Fresnel lens on a sunny day to melt glass bottles. I wonder if they could actually be melted and pressed flat enough to be set into the ground to make paths? I'd also wonder if they'd be slippery? You'd have to collect a *lot* of bottles to make enough path to be useful, but maybe in the most visible locations it would be a good use of glass.
 
Morfydd St. Clair
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Oh hai, I'm reading back issues of Permaculture Magazine (UK) and suddenly came across an article called "Designing & Planting a Permaculture Potager"

Link is https://reader.exacteditions.com/issues/8677/page/11 if you have a digital subscription.  (It gets you the whole online archives too!)  Or Summer 2011 if you have paper copies floating around.

This is a pretty basic article - I think either Creasy's book (excellent recommendation!) or Larkcom's would be more long-term helpful - but it's a nice intro.  And it has specific spring/summer planting recommendations by color!
 
Just put the cards in their christmas stocking and PRESTO! They get it now! It's like you're the harry potter of permaculture. richsoil.com/cards
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