An Urban Permaculture Home

A beautiful photo story of an urban home Jane Hilliard from Designful and I (Hannah) designed together and that’s just been finished!

But first a little “before” photo. The site was 97% grass with an old double car garage (which was replaced with the small house), a few raised garden beds growing rosemary and weeds, one gloriously old and special apricot tree and a couple of dead’ish fruit trees.

The clients were a grandmother, her daughter and her two teenage kids all lived together in the main house and wanted to build a small house for grandma to move into so they can all grow old *together*. They wanted no grass, a low maintenance edible and beautiful garden. You can see the design we completed for them and read their vision statement below.


Vision statement: “Our urban garden is productive, low maintenance and beautiful. It is where we forage for food, enjoy the view and each other’s company.”

This is what guided us throughout the design process to create this…

The central bed beneath the existing apricot tree has a baby food forest planted in it – this a multilayered, perennial plant system. This includes layers of white sage shrubs, globe artichokes, comfrey, a border of sweet alice flowers and a groundcover of prostrate rosemary. I’m looking forward to seeing it in 12 months time when it’ll be a flurry of thriving green layers!

The raised veggie beds on the left are for annual vegetables and the fence directly behind them has cable wire which the young passionfruit vines will grow up and along – soaking up the hot sun hitting the fence. On the far right are some existing rose bushes with a floral understory of mixed daisies – yes, even permaculture values flowers of all types for beauty and the bees (they need to eat too).

The bed with the steeping stones is also based off a food forest model with ground covers of mixed edible herbs, sweet alice flowers, mixed currants, native Hardenbergia vine growing up the funky vertical structure and one blueberry shrub (out of shot). The Hardenbergia will eventually create some “soft” privacy between the two homes, creating different garden spaces/rooms.

A baby native Hardenbergia

This bed leads around the west side of the house to the communal compost station shared between the two houses.

Where you’ll find this worm farm made from a recycled bath and hardwood timber.

The northern patio area (seen below) welcomes sunlight into the house and creates a warm, protected microclimate to grow grape vines up the fence line and eventually beneath the laserlite roofing. This will provide summer shade (and food) while still allowing winter sun into the space once the grape’s drop their leaves in late autumn/early winter.

Baby grapes getting ready to grow up that whole fence!

The paths are intentionally generous to allow for easy movement between the two houses and visiting grandkids to run and ride their bikes round and round and round.

The new gate cut into the side of the existing fence to access the new small house is just so special and inviting…

You walk straight into this…

The site that welcomes the residents home every day.

Me with Danny Lees and Sam (from Earth and Wood), being our best smiley selves – eating cake with one of the delightful clients to celebrate completion.

  • Special thanks to Jordan Davis for the photos.
  • If you’re looking for a skilled and friendly landscaper trained in permaculture, talk to Danny from Earth and Wood: 0468 667 633 (website coming soon).
  • For more information on the building side of things, contact Designful.
  • If you’d like to work with us to design your house and landscape, drop us a line at

10 Responses to “An Urban Permaculture Home”

  1. childrenwithoutshed

    how to add a poultry house of 100 turkey birds with this urban cottage? would you please tell the total area in sqft?

    • Hannah Moloney

      Hi there. Well, I just wouldn’t add 100 turkey birds to this small block :-). The total block is only around 550m2 and this includes both houses.

  2. Pen Goodwin

    Love it! It would be great to see how its all grown in a few years time 🙂

  3. JohnnyB

    I have a question about the paths between the garden beds. It looks like they are some sort of compacted gravel?? In my experience this sort of surface will start to break up and weeds will get a foothold after 4 or 5 years, and then it becomes an ongoing job to weed the paths (and it can be a really hard job because the weed roots are hard to remove from the compacted gravel). Do you have a solution to this? I’m starting to think that it is better to have paths with soft/loose surfaces (e.g. some sort of rough tree mulch) which can be “topped” up every few years – it will also get weeds, but they are much easier to remove (either by hand or by running a hoe over the paths). For this client that may not be an option as they may have wanted hard paths so kids can ride bikes etc, but in general that is my conclusion after observing our and other gardens over many years.

    • Hannah Moloney

      That’s right Johnny. It’s compacted finely crushed rock (FCR). That’s what the client chose as it fit their budget and other needs. They’re aware it’s not permanent.

  4. Catherine

    This looks great – it would be lovely to see photos of the garden after a season of growth.
    I particularly like the reo and timber screens, and the way the old tree was made into a feature. I’m curious about the type of timber used for the screens and whether a timber protectant of some sort was used on the in-ground section ?
    Thanks for the sneak peek into this garden.

  5. Kath

    Really lovely design and so great to see it implemented ‘for real’ based on your design. Love the separate spaces you’ve created, everyone would have their own sense of privacy. Really well done 🙂 Would love to see more like this if you ever have the opportunity.


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