Transforming Your Yard to a Permacultue Oasis

Permaculture News just published a really nice write-up about the process we used to transform our yard. If you’re looking for inspiration, or wondering how you can deal with transforming a whole property, this is a good article to check out. Permaculture provides some great tools for transforming even large landscapes by partnering with nature. 

Transform your yard!

And if it was that article that brought you to Lillie House for the first time, I hope you’ll visit our blog, which is loaded with high quality free information about Permaculture and our project:  


2018 Lillie House Perennial Guild Plants Collection

(UPDATED for 2018!)

For 2018, our full members will receive their choice of two recommended forest garden trees to start their project (we particularly recommend Asian pears, chestnuts, and paw paws) as well as a selection of fruiting shrubs (including varieties of blackberries, black raspberries, currants, gooseberries, honeyberries, cherries, goumi, elderberries, hazel, cornelian cherry, American holly, roses selected for their high quality large fruit, etc!)

In addition to their trees and bushes, our members get priority access to our large collection of perennial forest garden plants at a discount “members only” price. Since developing a high-value understory of perennial vegetables and useful plants is probably the most important task of forest gardening, each member will receive a customized “starter kit” of live potted plants for the first year of establishment that will make it easy to get their forest garden project going strong. You get the plants at the right time for your project, when you’re ready to plant them.
“Starter kits” come with a selection of our most valuable, useful plants, proven to work in Michigan, customized to your site conditions and project goals. Many are rare in the trade, expensive, difficult to find and not available from any single source.

Better yet, our full memberships come with 3-years of access to our entire plant collection of over 300 varieities for plant material (seeds, scionwood, cuttings, and in some cases, plants.) So you can start by learning a manageable collection, then expand your garden when you – and it – are ready. That 3-year-access means you’ll have the greatest opportunity to get your project established.

Starter kits may include:
Perennial Alliums (the onion and garlic family):

  • Egyptian Walking Onions
  • Allium Unifolium
  • Chives
  • Garlic Chives
  • Welsh Onion
  • Welsh Red Onion
  • Perennial Garlic
  • Ramps
  • Perenial Leek


  • Star Herb Minutina
  • Sea Kale
  • Perennial Kales
  • Sorrel
  • Blood-veined Sorrel
  • Peach-leaved Bellflower
  • Perennial Endive
  • Salad Burnet
  • Marshmallow (a perennial cooked “spinach”)

Perennial Vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • Scorzonera
  • Skirret
  • Perennial Bulbing Fennel
  • Lovage
  • Turkish Rocket (perennial broccoli!)
  • Jerusalem Artichoke
  • Ground Nut (Apios Americana)
  • Air Potato (Chinese yam)
  • Fairy Spuds (Claytonia Virginica)
  • Camas bulbs
  • Fiddle-Head Ferns
  • Crosnes (Mint Root)


  • Oregano
  • A large collection of Thymes and Creeping Thymes
  • Yarrow
  • Valerian
  • A large collection of Mints
  • Comfrey
  • Anise Hyssop

Permaculture Design Certificate Course-Fall 2016 at Lillie House

With “extras” on “Regenerative Living and Enterprise.”
(Page Under Construction Final Details TBD)

Course Runs 8 Saturdays, October – December, with a Design Presentation Symposium (TBD) 

The PDC developed specifically with Southwestern Michigan in mind! Get to know our local Permaculture opportunities, resources and projects, as well as growing information and experience refined to our local climate, soils, community character and market. Includes a list of over two dozen scalable “regenerative” business ideas with an unmet demand in our market, to help us grow a broad “regenerative enterprise community” to transform Southwest Michigan!

We teach the “PRI” curriculum, as taught by Geoff Lawton, which, from our research is the best around! And we teach that curriculum through a radically interactive, student-centered and “research based” educational approach developed by a professional pedagogy instructor who’s taught hundreds of teachers how to craft engaging, effective lesson plans.


Introduction to Permaculture:

Ethics and Principles

Concepts and Themes in Design

Methods of Design

Pattern Understanding

Climatic Factors and Design

Trees and Their Energy Transactions

Water in the Landscape


Eathworks and Earth Reources


Social Permaculture and Strategies for an Alterative Global Nation

EXTRAS in Social Permaculture, Financial Permaculture, and Regnerative Enterprise

Detailed Curriculum:

Day 1: Introduction to Permaculture

• Human past, present and future Permaculture design philosophy. Holistic thinking. • Key problems: Soil erosion, Deforestation, Pollution, Carbon, Climate and Consumption

• Ethics of Permaculture – Earth care, People care, Return of surplus

Comparing the “3rd ethic,” different perspecitves.)

• Definitions of Permaculture. Sustainability outcomes. History of Permaculture.

• Permanent culture. Urban Permaculture. Permaculture and City repair.

• Permaculture aid work. The Peraculture Master Plan.

• Permaculture in society.

• Permaculture as an holistic design

Example of a Permaculture System: Exploring and Analyzing Lillie House Design. 

Day 2: Concepts & Themes in Design (Approx. 4hrs ) • Sustainable systems • Hierarchy of soil creation in natural systems • Permaculture is primarily a design for a sustainable, human-controlled support systems. • The Prime Directive of Permaculture: Nature is the “super-client” • Principles of natural systems and design. Elements -needs and products • Guiding principles of permaculture design • The web of life and net of functional relationships of designed ecosystems. • Entropy extension • Energy capture within • Categories of resources and their management • Diversity -Yield • Mollison and Holmgren Principles 

Chapter 3: Methods of Design (3 hrs) • Design emphasizes patterning of landscape, function, and species assemblies. • Approaches to design • Analysis of elements • Maps • Sector planning • Observational, Experiential • Zones, Sectors • Slope, Orientation • Putting it together- Listing possibilities • Selection of random assemblies-Connecting components in a system 

Day 3 Chapter 4: Pattern Understanding (4hrs) • Seeing pattern as valuable connections • Growth patterns and explosive patterns • Scale of orders of size • Edge events and pressure between media • Recognizing pattern

Chapter 5: Climate Factors 3hrs 35mins • Climate and classic landscape profiles • Climate Differences Temperate Tropical, Dry-lands, • Continental effect, Maritime effect, Rain shadow • Orographic effects • Climate analogues • Classic landscape profiles • Major landscapes Humid and Arid • Minor landscapes Volcanic, islands high and low, coasts, Flatlands, wetlands, estuaries • Ecosystems as climate moderators 

Day 4 Chapter 6: Trees and their Energy Transactions 1 hr • Wind, Rain • Types of forest • Role of fungi • Legumes as support species EXAMPLE OF ENERGY TRANSACTION ANALYSIS

Chapter 7: Water 3hrs • Water harvesting earthworks • Rechargeable water and non-rechargeable water • The duties of water in landscape design • Swales, Gabions, Limonias, Dams • Types of dams • Capturing water from hard surfaces 

Day 5: Chapter 8: Soils 4hrs  • Collapsing soil fertility, difficult soils • Understanding soil erosion as number one global problem • Understanding where and why soils are conserved or increased • Understanding pH acid/alkaline analysis and interpret the consequence • Role of Weeds as repair mechanisms • Compost and the decomposition cycle of humus creation • The function of the hair roots of plants feeding on minerals and structuring soil starch exchange.

 Chapter 9: Earthworking and Earth Resources 3hrs • Earthworks and earth resources • Terra-forming • Landscape restitution • Machines used in earthworks • Planning earthworks • Soil tests • Surveying and site pegging • Planting after earthworks • Slope measurements • Levels and leveling • A design for water harvesting earthworks 

Day 6 Chapter 10: Climate Design 4 hours • Climate comparisons -house design • Energy use • Aspect -Heating /Cooling • Waste systems • Garden design • Food Forest comparisons across climates • Main crop comparisons • Seasonal timing • Mulch and forage production • Small animals • Comparisons in zone 3 • Comparisons in farm forestry 

Chapter 11: Aquaculture 1 hr 35mins • Chain of life in water design • Selection of species • Self-foraging systems for fish • Pond sizes • Aquaponics

Day 7 Chapter 12: “The Strategies of an Alternate Global Nation 4 hours • Invisible structures • Establishing permaculture community groups • Bioregional resilience • Necessary legal structures • Formal and informal financial strategies. Trade • Village systems Community land development • Establishing not for proit Permaculture Institutes & Mollisonian “Invisible Structures”

Day 8: Social Permaculture and Design Discussion and Review 8 hours  • Review and case studies of social Permaculture structures around the world • Building effective social Polycultures • Financial Permaculture and Regenerative Enterprise  • 

Design Symposium and Public Presentation 



Envisioning a Forest Garden

As we get ready to start our email series on forest gardening basics in mid-February, I wanted to serve up a few appetizers.

The Permaculture design process starts from patterns and moves to details, so to get familar with what food forests are about and more importantly, what they look and feel like, here are 3 really fantastic videos featuring cold-climate forest gardens. They’re each about 15 minutes long and well worth the time.

Martin Crawford’s Forest Garden

This video features one of the oldest temperate forest gardens in the world, possibly the oldest that was designed and created as a forest garden instead of being adapted later from a more conventional garden or orchard. Martin Crawford is the author of many fantastic books on forest gardening and the publisher of Agroforestry News.


Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute forest garden.

Another early example from a dryer climate than we have in the Great Lakes region.


The Avis’ zone 3 micro-food forest.

This video from Calgary Canada shows what’s possible on a VERY small urban r suburban yard. The first video features the forest garden, while the rest shows other design features from their very cold climate. Many of these features aren’t necessary in the Great Lakes region, but the forest garden’s a good example of how to make good use of small spaces.


If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave me a comment.



Designing a Food Forest Garden: Complete Course Curriculum


The class that takes you through every step of designing your own forest garden and learning how to use what you grow. Each class we’ll review monthly yields, bloom schedules and maintenance tasks, in addition to the curriculum. Every class date will also include a workshop, in which we start putting our learning to work planing and installing our own forest garden projects.

Forest Garden Design Basics – May 2017

– Aesthetics: we’ll review a wide variety of forest garden aesthetics and help you choose a look that you love.
– Integrating social uses: Social functions are part of the definition of successful forest gardens. We’ll look at how you want to use the space and design a forest garden to enhance your use.
– Site mapping: using free site mapping tools to create a base map for your site.
– Workshop: Picking aesthetic ideas for a journal and visioning our own home paradise.

Regenerative Design – June 2017

– Energy efficient design
– Zones: the classic Permaculture tool for making gardening easy and energy efficient
– Sectors: Identifying energy streams we can put to use.
– Review
– Workshop: Zone and sector analysis on our basemaps.

Advanced Forest Gardening Design – July 2017

– Water-wise design
– Polyculture basics: Not just one plant, but many, living together as a community. We’ll start discussing how to design functional ecologies.
– Soils and how to build them: We’ll discuss how ecosystems build soil, and how we can copy them to create amazingly fertile gardens.
– Mulch types: Picking the right mulch type for the job!
– Workshop: Identify opportunities and strategies for a water-wise garden, add them to our basemaps.

Designing Plant Communities – August 2017

– Guild Design: we’ll discuss strategies for designing great ecologies at the micro level.
– Lillie House Pre-designed guilds. We’ll give you descriptions of the guilds we use to import into your project, or as a template for designing your own.
– Workshop, begin selecting trees and bushes, arrange them in functional guilds onto our basemaps.

Paths and Beds Design  – September 2017

– Paths: the most difficult part of any garden to design. We’ll discuss path design and materials and how to maintain them. We’ll cover case studies of different forest gardens and their outcomes with different path types.
– Bed Preparation: We’ll discuss a variety of strategies for preparing beds and planting them to minimize maintenance
– Workshop: Mid-course project review: We’ll look at our base maps and assess how we’re doing.

Installation – The Permaculture Way! – October

– Permaculture Community Organizing.
– How to organize, outreach and plan a fun and educational get-together of family and friends to help build your forest garden. If that isn’t an option, we’ll help provide other strategies to make your forest garden a reality.
– We even provide promotional materials and letter ideas for your outreach.

Forest Garden Project Review – November 2017

– Review Course, final discussion.
– Project presentations (optional.) Our students share their own design projects with each other. The opportunity to participate in the design and implementation of multiple forest gardening projects will make you one of our region’s most experienced forest gardeners.
– Workshop: Final project review and recommendations.

For 2017, we will be offering 2 sections of the course, one on 3rd Saturdays, from 9 – 12 May-November, and one on third Thursday evenings, from 6 – 9.

To reserve your spot, visit our store!

Or see our other membership packages.

Our Portfolio

At Lillie House, we design gardens that harmonize with the historic and arhitectural character of your home and neighborhood, but with the benefits of ecological “wild” plantings. We often use formal elements and layouts with designed polycultures that mimic nature to reduce maintenance and create natural resilience. And almost everything we use is edible or useful.

Lillie House – Community Supported Permaculture (CSP)

The easiest, most cost-effective and most rewarding way for you to begin your Permaculture adventure:

Create your own healthy personal food system,
Invest in yourself and your community,
Learn about gardening and Permaculture,
And transform your home landscape into the kind of paradise you day-dream of visiting on vacations.

That’s what we want to create.

So we at Lillie House Permaculture came up with the Community Supported Permaculture programs, beginning with the Community Supported Forest Gardening membership.


We all want to live in beautiful, rich landscapes where we feel secure, our needs are met, we’re surrounded by opportunities for meaningful leisure, and gourmet delicacies – fit for the finest restaurants – fall from the trees.

A place we can really relax and thrive: I believe we all deserve that.

Using tools like Permaculture Design, Ecology, Forest Gardening, and community organizing, there is absolutely NO reason we can’t create the happy, healthy and wealthy communities and ecosystems we deserve.

And we can start right at home.

No matter who you are, where you live, or what your goals are, we want to work with you to create a membership to fit your needs and overcome your barriers.

Meanwhile, you’ll be generously investing in us, helping us meet our needs and overcome our barriers as we invest in our community and work to make S.W. Michigan a better place to live for EVERYONE.

Right now, we’re launching our first major initiative, the Community Supported Forest Gardens program. Please check it out and let us know what you think.