Plant Systems — by Murray Gray March 13, 2006
Cecilia Macaulay of balconyofdreams.blogspot.com
Living on the Edge is about being part of creating a cutting-edge sustainable culture, of being powerful, creative and daring. It’s about empowering Melbourne’s inner-city residents to create and maintain lush balcony gardens. Edge gardens bring you to the’ ‘happening’ edge between private and public life – extend your boundaries physically and socially, as you get together with others to create.
Edge gardens happen on balconies, verandahs, window boxes. They happen at the back door, on porches and in courtyards, anywhere plants and living things need you, and you need them.
The situation now:
Inner city residents wish for more contact with nature, but do not know where to start.
Many people bravely try to get balcony gardens going, but a collection of pot plants is not a garden, nor is it a stable system. Pot plants become rarely-visited burdens which struggle on and often die.
Many inner-city residents lack vibrant social connection, and depend on things like internet dating to expand their social circles.
Creative inner city residents lack outlets for express themselves in a project that is meaningful and motivating to them
Landfills are unnecessarily filled with kitchen scraps, while our land’s fertility declines.
People embark on worm-composting with enthusiasm for ’saving the earth’, but when inevitable troubles strike, they do not have the resourcefulness or motivation to find solutions, they become discouraged, and the worm farms are abandoned.
Melbourne’s architectural inheritance of beautiful Victorian-era balconies is an untapped, un-enjoyed resource, while new inner city developments are built with balconies that go unused.
The Future as it could be:
Inner-city residents create balcony gardens in which they spend time each day sitting, eating breakfast, diary writing or debriefing after work.
These balcony or ‘edge gardens’ are an expression of the owner’s character and maybe their fantasies, they could be the single area in the persons life where the total environment is under their control and
Their balcony gardens are sustainable as gardens: they have healthy soil, a constantly available water supply (pond, hose, full watering can) and a place for the resident to sit comfortably. They have plants, vines, flowers or art features that delight or are useful to the owner. Because they satisfy the owners real needs , the owner will continue to invest attention and care on them. A ‘Virtuous Circle’ is created
Worm composting is undertaken with confidence and persistence, with a information and a community of advisors to help right things as they go wrong.
The gardens and the internet-based Designers Community satisfy real needs of the participants. These are both immediate needs – a place to relax, a way to find a partner or social connection. It also satisfies higher needs: to succeed at something difficult that has an impact on the world, to be socially connected and make exciting new friendships, to know they can have a vision of a new world and the skills and design principles to bring it into being.
Melbourne becomes a city that inspires visitors and travelers with the uniqueness of its inhabitants. There may be jungle balconies, English country garden balconies, Singapore-style tropical enclosed balconies, Permaculture food-forest balconies, Mardi-Gras balconies, Surfie balconies.
Facets of the Project
- A guide to Creating a Sustainable Balcony Garden is put together (web and illustrated print version).
- Creative people are actively recruited, and with the help of the guide and each other begin creating quirky, self-expressive and useful gardens. Metal workers, calligraphers, gardeners, illustrators, people who wish to be known for their ‘cutting edge’ work.
- A website display and design hub is created.
- In the ‘Gallery’ section you can see ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures, view drawn designs of what people are aspiring to build, and see inspiring examples worldwide.
- In the ‘Forum’ section creators post requests and problems, such as ‘How do I waterproof a half-barrel so it will hold water for a fishpond” or “How do I find out how much weight my balcony will hold”. Members contact each other to offer help or make partnerships to create things together.
- In the ‘Resources’ page sponsors and garden-related organizations provide practical information such as how to save seed, where to buy rare-breed seeds, trouble-spotting for worm-farms, and discount pots
- Balcony of the Month is judged by high-profile gardening personalities, winners are awarded a prizes by sponsor the site. These become models, systems to inspire or aspire to, or to outdo next time.
- Monthly workshops, presentations and networking parties are conducted. Topics include Starting a Balcony Garden, Creative Thinking, Sustainable Design principles including Permaculture or Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking.
- Winning gardens are featured in the Media, spreading enthusiasm for the project throughout Melbourne. Porch, Veranda, and Back-door gardens of course are included – anywhere where pot plants and humans get together to fulfill each other’s needs.
- Melbournians of every kind get hooked, as Edge Gardening fever strikes. More sponsors are attracted, competition and co-operation accelerate, and life is not the same – the boundaries between us, the boundaries of what we are capable of creating have been transformed. A sustainable culture seems something quite within our capabilities.
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