Three of the following gardens were design projects that I used in my Diploma Portfolio (where further details about these gardens can be found). The fourth was a Manor house garden that I managed for three seasons and during that time, assessed from a permaculture perspective.
This Permaculture garden was created around my home at the time, in the corner of an orchard, using a lot of recycled materials. I started it in the Spring of 2001, by reclaiming the grass a bit at a time. It may not have been to everyone's tastes, but it did attract a lot of wildlife, provide some food and I also think it was very beautiful. The picture on the left was taken in June 2003 and already the planting was really starting to make a difference. One of the design principles of Permaculture involves examining your resources: what is easily to hand or freely available and this garden demonstrated this very well. The garden utilised recycled items from the very start, in fact hardly any money was spent during the initial stages.
I took on the care of this manor house garden soon after moving to the mobile home. It suited me at the time as I was able to work alone on my own initiative. It was about as far as I could get from how I gardened at home and it could be hard to make a case for it being sustainable, yet even here Permaculture can find its place. These big gardens are very labour intensive; that was the whole point of them in the first place. If you could afford to employ all those people to look after an extensive garden, you must be very wealthy indeed. These days motor mowers and other equipment make such gardens a lot easier to maintain, though one of my conditions for taking the job was that I didn't manage the lawns!
This garden was started back in 1999 and I was involved in co-creating it for the first two years. These photos demonstrate what can be done with enough time and effort (two people in this case) in one growing season, beginning from a heavily compacted base of hardcore overlaid with gravel. When this photo was taken the garden was only a few months old; previously it had literally been a gravel covered parking area for the cars of the previous residents.... almost all of it. What vegetation that did exist had been recently hacked back to virtually nothing. This included some beautiful shrubs and some trees that were never to recover.
This garden was designed during a life-changing year spent living halfway up a beautiful mountain in South West Eire. While I was there I was able carry out the initial planting stage of the design, including starting the central willow dome structure. Like the mobile home garden its main design criteria were environmental and based on Permaculture principles, though in contrast to the former it used no recycled or modern materials at all. In fact we had decided to live without such things to see how we would fare. The reason that I have so few photos of this garden is because we had no camera; these were all taken by visitors!