Rainbow Serpent 2014 Garden

The Rainbow Serpent 2014 Garden Space

After attending BOOM festival in 2012, I was completely awe striken and amazed at their beautiful Permaculture Garden spaces. Never had I seen something so inspiring at a music festival before, and it is the direction I have wished to take things for a very long time.
I experienced my first music festival when I was 18 yrs old, attending my first Rainbow Serpent Festival. It was a lot smaller back then and I was in amazement at all the different ways people were living their lives. I felt like I had found my home.
Over the years I found Permaculture and became more conscious of the impact my living had on the environment. This somewhat posed a problem, as one of the things I love to do most is go to festivals in the bush and stand next to huge speakers that pound heavy bass through the earth itself.
I have decided to try and interconnect both of these loves I have, and create gardens and teach workshops at festivals to inspire and empower others to live more conscious lifestyles.

The 2014 Garden underwent a huge transformation, with many changes to the initial design.
First of all I was going to utilize the skills I learned during the Earth Bag Building workshop with Permastructure. After a lot of thinking I decided building a Super Adobe structure on site would not be the best use of resources, as I would have to use a lot of earth and a lot of water. This idea also would have needed a lot of labor, and it is hard to get a team of people to volunteer their time and agree on dates.
The site near Lexton, Victoria is a harsh one. There are 2 wind farms close by, with winds that reach up to 100km/hr. The site can go from daytime temperatures of 42 degrees, to night temperatures of around 5 degrees. Flash flooding can occur, and due to the site being used for grazing the soil is compacted acidic clay, meaning the water gathers upon the surface and is not absorbed, creating erosion.
The Rainbow Serpent Festival does not have the budget to attribute to a whole Permaculture design of the site, and this year I focused my energy to using a few of the Permaculture principles in order to create a garden for inspirational purposes.

- Create No Waste: This is one of David Holmgren's principles. I aimed to use as many reclaimed products as I could, ensuring that they could all be recycled. Many days were spent breaking pallets apart to use the wood to create garden beds. Bamboo was used for the sacred geometry structure surrounding the garden. Soil was produced on site from peoples waste in the previous years, and had been composted in a worm farm. 

- Integrate rather than Segregate: The garden combined the principles and ideas of Permaculture with Sacred Geometry. This is not something that all Permaculturists would be fond of, as Permaculture is a Design Science and is not affiliated with any religious or spiritual beliefs. Oliver Stacey and I both wanted to combine these worlds in order to produce high frequency, productive, inspirational, resonant, prolific, efficient and effective garden spaces.

In future I would like to use the Permaculture principles of Small and Slow Solutions and Catch and Store Energy. Hopefully in future the garden will become more of a Permanent Permaculture space.

A student of mine kindly offered her hot house for me to grow the plants I needed for the garden (She sells her produce at the Big Dreams market at Belgrave Lake Park). This was invaluable, as it is extremely hard to buy established vegetable plants. I could not believe the size of the corn, melons, calendula and spinach in the space of a month!

Our initial idea (which we plan to still progress with, only with more planning and care) was to plant wisteria and grapes around the Bamboo Sacred Geometry structure. This would in time create a living architecture around the structure, and provide shade for plants to grow inside whilst retaining moisture within the soil.
Although the plants were staked well, the sun and wind were too harsh and although we lay down compost while planting, in just 2 weeks the plants looked a little sad.

Next time we will need to use shade cloth, stakes and compost, and hire a local to maintain the plants while we are city bound!

I have found a huge segregation in the Permaculture world: those who have grown up on farms and know how to build, and those who have grown up in the city and are only learning the ropes now! I fall in the latter category.
With the help of Oliver Stacey (www.plantgeometrix.com) I can now build geometric garden beds. This is something I have wanted to explore and offer as part of my business. To suit the icosa dodecahedron structure, we decided to create a three tiered offset pentagon garden bed for our plants.
After disassembling wooden pallets, taking out the nails, using a dropsaw to cut all the lengths, and to cut the angles of the framing timber, we assembled our garden bed on site.
3 tiered offset Pentagon garden bed. 

Signs were created for the garden to give people an understanding of what Permaculture actually entails, provide interesting facts about fruit tree guilds and bees and to inspire festival goers to become more educated and involved in sustainable practices.
A massive thanks to Andy Ross for providing his artwork for the sign templates.

After many hours of cutting, sawing, screwing, painting, nailing, gluing, typing, printing, laminating...etc. off site, I finally arrived on site at 7am (after waking at 3am to get there... long story!) Thursday the 23rd of January to do some of the really fun stuff!
This was about 19hrs of being awake, driving, shoveling, planting, arranging lighting, hanging signs and setting up decor.  I was exhausted, but somehow so excited and determined to have everything set out for people to enjoy.

The result was a three tiered offset pentagonal garden bed, set inside a bamboo icosa dodecahedron structure. Compost was distributed around the structure to condition the soil for future plantings, and corn was planted at 5 points of the dome. The garden bed was filled with soil and purple basil, purple sage, chives, red veined sorrel, globe artichoke, honey dew melon and lemon thyme were planted. A water feature lay in the middle with a rose quartz crystal and feathers upon a tripod of branches.

At night the space became a little more like a faery wonderland, the purple and white solar light flowers glowing and illuminating the space for people to sit and reconnect with nature and each other.
As I walked around the festival at night, at one point I was nearly brought to tears by a few people sitting around the garden. Some were meditating, others were just smiling, breathing deeply and soaking in the garden with such a look of appreciation and wonder that it broke my heart. The space was being utilized as a place to escape some of the roaring crowds and thundering music, in order to reconnect with the beauty that is growth and the system of nature.

I am incredibly happy with the Rainbow Serpent 2014 Garden space turnout and I am looking forward to its progression as it moves towards Permaculture and includes a wider community.
I already have ideas in my head to erect shade cloth and create more of a food forest type garden oasis amongst the barren grazing landscape of the site.
A massive thanks to Mandy Ives, Oliver Stacey, Rachel Jones, Miranda Mueller, Any Ross and John Down for their contributions!

See you next year for the next stages!


  1. Beautifully shared Taj ... the pics, the story and you ... full of life and can feel your love and passion for what you do shining through ...


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