The original design directive for this metro-Atlanta nature-based school was to restore the understory of the oak forest that had become compacted by trampling feet, and to create curb appeal at the front of the school. Additionally, the space needed to function in such a way that it could seamlessly accommodate small and large groups for seasonal gatherings. Inspired by the whimsical and natural aesthetic of Waldorf, this garden nestles children, teachers, plants, animals, and magic in a woodland habitat that is full of shade-loving native species, native edibles such as pawpaw and hazelnut, and pollinator attracting wildflowers. Additionally, the design addressed the compaction and erosion by directing rainwater for passive irrigation through a series of raingardens, becoming home to frogs and turtles.
Originally, the front garden was a bare understory of oak and pine forest. Mulch had been added for years, making rich soil, but tiny feet and consistent use meant too much compaction in the root zones of the trees.
We partnered with the Waldorf school for our annual Permaculture Design Certification course, where we lead students in the installation of raingardens and a 250-gallon rain tank, to be utilized by the gardening program. The school used the initial master plan to raise funds to purchase plants, and for phase 2, we led community volunteers in planting.
Featured images: raingarden overflowing with an abundance of native plants, adding lush forest understory; this archway leads to a council ring lined by witch hazel and serviceberry, where community gatherings are held; children create magical fairy houses on the forest floor; volunteers added so much to the garden, including this handmade archway; Permaculture Design Students installed the cistern and raingardens; native perennials cover the forest floor; the team leads volunteers and children in planting; mixed herb and veggie understory of the forest.