A new “Boss” for a day…


Permaculture artists garden with lucas Cecilia and deigo Sydney College of the Arts - 35
[Cecilia, our guest-boss on Thursday posing at her TENDING makeover, just before mulching…]

Following from Diego’s post about Thursday just passed… Yes, Tending is really hotting up now, in its own kinda slow, many-cups-of-tea-along-the-way, way.

Thursday was an epic day. It began with the collection of more sandstone blocks from “the quarry”, which is a courtyard two down from our own.


The quarry is like a purgatory for broken sandstone pieces from the SCA buildings.

Grant the property services fellow showed us this space a few weeks back, and pointed out which blocks we could take, and which were off-bounds.

It’s really satisfying to take the wheelbarrow over there and load it up with heavy chunks of this fantastic, site-specific building material.

Here’s The Boss unloading another barrow-load:


Besides the satisfaction which comes from the physical labour, and from the re-use of an onsite material, the stone blocks have another wonderful property. Unlike timber beams, they are able to be shaped in ways beyond the rectilinear.

So when Cecilia showed up in our lives, with her infectious enthusiasm for not just functional, but also beautiful solutions, it made us think more laterally about the deployment of sandstone.

Cecilia directed Diego and I in the subtle positioning of the stones: a little this way, a little that way, working on the principle that the garden bed should approximate a natural formation. She worked instinctively, by “feel” and trust rather than from a master-plan, transforming our straightforward circular bed into a complex new shape.

I personally found this a fascinating process, something that I’ve admired in various artworks throughout my years of thinking about art’s great tussle between order and chaos.

Rococo art, for instance, went to great lengths to this end, using all the skills of “artifice”, in the creation of “natural” formal arrangements.

See this Watteau, for example, or this Fragonard. In these works, the rectangular frame of the canvas provides a dynamic constraining force within which the artist is able to skillfully manipulate the organic shapes of “nature” to generate a composition which looks (but isn’t) random.

Cecilia uses this sort of aesthetic sensibility in her garden design methodology. For our part, Diego and I probably owe more to the modernist approaches of “land art” or minimalism or arte povera, in terms of our formal relationship to gardening.

So, in the spirit of being open to new ways of doing things, we were more than happy to have a new “boss” for the day. We reformed the circular bed we had made a fortnight ago, into a sort of rococo-rockery with multiple levels, shady and sunny sections, places for sitting and so on: a diverse ecology of three dimensional space.

[busting up the original circle…]

[beginning to let it take its new shape…]

[where to from here?]

[the kaffir lime tree takes a role…]

Jess came along and sat on the park bench watching all these goings-on in an amused way (she took all these shots for us too).

Permaculture artists garden with lucas Cecilia and diego Sydney College of the Arts - 33
[and here we are re-planting the lettuces into the newly shaped bed…]

We were also joined by Heather, who is herself a great joiner (indeed, Heather is the one who delivered Cecilia to us). Heather is a member of Transition Leichhardt, part of the emerging Transition Town movement. She has been actively installing some verge gardens in the area, and bringing all this work (including ours) to the attention of politicians at various levels of government. Closer to the dirt itself, here she is with Diego, cladding one of our potato tyres with thin sandstone pieces… This is the only photo I was able to take of Heather, as she cunningly avoids the lens at all costs…


In other Thursday events: Diego’s weed planter box asserted itself as an honorary member of Tending. This is the “original” terrarium which he found on the side of the road, and filled with dirt to observe what might take place. In the case of this original box, it’s mainly a sort of grass monoculture which has come to colonise it. (5 boxes which follow this model are now on show at the MCA).


And Betty from the Cafe came through with some food scraps for our compost, including this fantastic box of organic coffee grounds:

Betty's donation to tending's compost

3 thoughts on “A new “Boss” for a day…

  1. Pingback: Open Day « tending

  2. Pingback: Reshaping the Betty Bed « tending

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