June 2023

In conversation: with Inspiring Place

On the cusp of delivering our new garden design with the community of Ravenswood Heights Primary School, we caught up with Rosa Virgo and Adam Holmstrom our long-term collaborators from Inspiring Place.

Working in landscape architecture and environmental planning, Inspiring Place are committed to community-led garden design as a way of delivering abundance and impact.  

Hi Rosa and Adam – can you tell us about your collaborative approach to community-led garden design?

We listen and learn from the environment and people. The garden design process always starts with students, teachers, families, community members and grounds people. Who turns up at the ‘birthing’ stage and the first few meetings is really important. 

This shapes how the project will be realised. We love using creative ways of exploring and witnessing the physical site including site walks and interactions that help us observe and understand the ways in which people interact with what is already there. Landscape elements can have surprising uses. We find dense established plantings are really loved as they provide playful spaces as well as sheltered areas for mindful reflection.

These activities are then complimented by conversations as to what makes for a good kitchen garden (including things like the type of plants, sun position and access to water). We invite people to share ideas through writing, drawing and verbalising a vision for the garden. 

We always stay true to practical ideas for example, plants that can be used in the kitchen. We’ve found Italian herbs are a favourite as they work well in lots of dishes and recipes. In East Devonport, locally sourced kelp is used in the compost to make the garden thrive. Some schools have incorporated materials found around the school like old bathtubs and sinks, others have used class time in other subjects to make structures and work benches. 

How does this approach impact the community and outcomes?

Creating space for multiple needs, voices and insights means increased opportunity for ownership and ingenuity. We like to leave the door and invitation to be involved wide open. This means the whole school – students, teachers, volunteers and community contribute ideas. 

We’ve found this approach gives the garden a reach beyond the garden bed. For example how the garden physically connects to other areas of the school, how produce grown in a school garden can be made available to the wider community and how the garden relates to other food programs in the neighbourhood. 

Healthy eco-systems include healthy environments and humans. As well as looking at healthy soil and produce, we look to where we can create healthy communities. Our next big dream is to support 24 Carrot in their exploration of integrated training and experiences that lead to traineeships and qualifications in horticulture. 

What is your top piece of advice for people who are keen to establish a productive garden?

We would suggest to establish a productive patch, to invest time, energy and most of all, compost, into building healthy, living soil first!

Image: Yasmin Mund