I want to create a permaculture area in my yard. Physical environment includes heavy clay soil, flood and drought precipitation, very flat slope in the front and back yards, and neighbors. The house next door is probably about 10 feet away from ours. It is in the central US in zone 6. I have a young child, a puppy, three cats, and am considering aquaponics and maybe raising rabbits and Japanese quail in two to five years. Maybe. I want minimal cost in money. I also want minimal time cost for establishing and maintaining the areas. If that means a bit more effort and complexity getting started, I am willing to make that trade off.
I want trees that are the right height for the structural elements of living structures I design and grow. I want shrubs to be fairly compact, maybe 4 to 5 feet at most. I want forbs, grasses and other plants to be 3 feet or shorter. I don't mind a species or two that are just pretty, but I'd rather have most or all plants working in one way or another. No invasive plants, unless they are contained. No nuisance plants. Safe plants are a must. No toxic plants until kid and critters are old enough to know they should not try to nibble.
Goal 1) A reed bed water catch area. Under the roof overhang, where the area floods every time there is a heavy down pour. I want miniature or dwarf cattails, reeds and perhaps arrowleaf. Between rain storms, it will probably have no visible surface water, so facultative wetland plants instead of obligate wetland plants. I see regular cattails in dry drainage areas all the time in my area, so I think the miniature ones would do just fine.
Goal 2) A living structure, or several over time. Could be a dome for an outdoor living area or workshop, could be a carport, could be something else. Initially, it would be more complex, but I think it would be easier and cheaper to propagate living willow cuttings even with the water supply needs than to plant drought tolerant hazelnut and hawthorn and need to buy more plants due to the difficulty propagating more of them. Cost is definitely one issue. How wide should I design the bed to contain the willow roots, one and a half feet, three feet, more? The roots will grow together as they grow sideways in the bed, just like the branches will grow together as they are encouraged to graft above the soil level.
A vine species, or several, would speed the growth of the shell of the structure while still allowing breeze to pass through as long as there are some that can co-exist with the willow without trying to choke it out. Shrubs, forbs, grasses and other plant suggestions would be welcome. Any suggestions for moss that is softer to use as a "carpet" inside living structures?
Any arguments for using hawthorn, hazelnut and a third species from a different family instead of willow for the living structures? They would be simpler at first because I'd just dig a hole and plant, but would have a higher cost over time due the difficulty propagating them. With willow, as long as I have a few extra trees that I can coppice at intervals, I'll have new rods to fill in as needed. But I need to make that bed to hold more moisture in the soil to get them through from rain fall to rain fall.