The story of the Garden Redesign at SEEDS

The story of the Garden Redesign at SEEDS

Published Thursday, Dec 17, 2015

SEEDS Garden Manager Hilary Nichols and community engaged permaculture design consultant Abbey Piner collaborated for over a year to get the new garden design formed at SEEDS in 2013. They aimed to create a new garden design that worked for all programs and balanced everyone’s ideas of what the garden should be. 

They took an exciting path to get to the final design. 

At the beginning and throughout the design process, Hilary and Abbey met many times to identify who the stakeholders were, and how best to get input from everyone.  There were many exciting and heartfelt discussions about the philosophies of SEEDS culture and community involvement.  Through it all, Abbey came up with many inventive methods to ask “what do you think the garden should be” to encourage the flow of ideas.  It was (and still is) important to include everyone’s thoughts in the re-design process. 

Next, Abbey and Hilary held a bunch of gatherings to ask the different groups who care about SEEDS what they think (some with Abbey’s home-cooked food!). All sorts of ideas were shared, some the exact opposite of other people and some running right in line with each other.  It was a challenge to consolidate all of that rich feedback for SEEDS into one cohesive garden design.


Will Hooker’s NCSU permaculture class took on the challenge first.  For the students’ final project of fall semester 2013 and Will’s final semester before retirement, Hilary shared all of the ideas and needs for the garden that SEEDS’ stakeholders had shared.  Each student created a design that they thought best made the garden into a creation that served everyone’s needs and dreams.  That was a tall order, and they took to it with enthusiasm and a few of their own ideas too.



Next SEEDS staff got together and voted on who they thought would best represent the views of our stakeholders- staff, board, SEEDlings, Community Gardeners, DIG, neighbors, and the larger community.  The nominated individuals became the Design Council- Kavanah Anderson, Michele DeRose, Willie Dupree, Heather Hill, Hilary Nichols, Aisha Sanders, and Willie Williams.The Design Council considered all of the dreams the stakeholders shared, and looked at the garden designs Will’s students created.  It was tough to  contemplate so many inspired designs, mix, and match, and create one new design. They did it though! Abbey helped funnel the large amount of information and guided the Design Council’s process through to form a single design.   


Hilary took the collage the Design Council created from cutting up and pasting together lots of designs, with all sorts of scribbled notes in the margins, and drew the final garden design.  That meant Hilary did a lot of deciding what small details would create what everyone had spoken about, and measuring out the design.  It took a long time, but now SEEDS had a beautiful, colorful drawing of a massive collaboration of folks!

It was a lot of work to come to a community garden design,  and it’s not done. Abbey and Hilary held events to meet with the initial stakeholders to find out if the final design did a good job of listening to everyone’s needs and dreams.  People loved it, and were inspired to give a few more ideas!  SEEDS heard a plethora of great ideas and feedback on the engagement activities Abbey facilitated as well.  And so, the garden design will always be changing, infusing life into the design. We are off to a great start, beginning to implement the new garden design dream into a reality, one step at a time. 

SEEDS wants to shout a huge “Thank You” to Abbey for collaborating with Hilary and all of our stakeholders on this project! 

Abbey has been phenomenal to work with, and we are so glad she has been part of the process to create a truly collaborative garden design at SEEDS.  She helped everyone’s dreams for SEEDS garden come out so they can come true. 

The Southside Garden still needs everyone’s help to keep making this garden dream happen. The real success of the work being done will be seen -not as much in the plants or pathways- but in the people we meet in the space. 

Sign up to volunteer today!

Donate to fund this massive redesign.


If you want to work with Abbey on your own projects too, her website is

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