Demonstration SitesUrban Projects

Rosina Buckman – Living Smart on the Sunshine Coast

Rosina Buckman tells me she’s 72 years old. She looks honest enough, so I’ll take her at her word, but her youthful spirit and energetic stride did give me a moment of pause. And more than that – her urban homestead was overflowing with clear evidence of passionate and fruitful labours that belie her age. I’m not the only one that’s impressed either, as the Sunshine Coast Council have just presented Rosina with one of their 2009 Living Smart awards – she’s their ‘Edible Landscape Winner’.

Rosina, a New Zealander by birth, lives in Tewantin, a small suburb on the fringes of Noosa – a tourist hot-spot on the Sunshine Coast in south-east Queensland. This is a land of ululant lorikeets and cackling kookaburras. The bird life in particular seem intoxicated with life, and nature in general seems jubilant – either optimistic, or just plain carefree, in the face of all we humans are throwing at it.

And we are throwing a lot at it.

The population of the Sunshine Coast is exploding – expected to grow from 280,000 people to 480,000 by 2021 – this will place significant strain on the natural systems locals rely on. Water in particular is already becoming a serious issue, with seasons increasingly getting out of whack – either delivering far too much rain, or none at all.

The Sunshine Coast does have something going for it though – a strong Permaculture community: The Permaculture Noosa group in particular. Rosina has been a member of the group for only eight years, but despite that her little urban homestead is a great, positive, living example of the work of the individuals that make up the group’s ranks. Her little yard boasts a profusion of edible and/or ornamental plants that all together create a veritable garden of eden in the midst of suburbia. Rosina has managed to transform her property from a bland, generic cookie-cutter type yard into something that’s not only entirely practical, but also highly aesthetic.

The front ‘lawn’ in March 2005, when she took the place, and now…

Only a few years ago the land, as you can visualise from the ‘before’ shot above, was pretty much dead. There wasn’t a worm in sight. Instead of a monocrop lawn, Rosina’s yard now has a banana circle, chickens, worm farms loads of edible plants and support species, etc.

Rainwater supplies drinking water – with excess overflow draining off into the garden

Chickens are moved between garden sections, fertilising and death dealing to ‘pests’

Despite this photo being shot on almost the shortest day of the year, there’s clear
evidence of a lot of spring/summertime activity in this nursery. During the hottest
months Rosina spreads a large white cover over the structure to reflect the heat.

Two worm farms recycle kitchen and yard scraps into rich compost –
a free service offered by the grateful, hard-working invertebrates

The back yard hideaway. Note: The polystyrene planters are purely because
Rosina educates people without a garden how to … er… garden without a garden!

No monocrop lawns here – only beauty, diversity, and food!


Rosina doesn’t believe in electrically powered air-conditioners – on very hot days
she makes use of the pool instead. And, before you get all precious about the water
consumption, be aware that no town water goes into it – Rosina fills the pool from
rainwater runoff from the roof (see image below).

When the water tank has had enough, Rosina points this down pipe add on
at the pool, then turns a valve – and lets the rain do the rest. Simple!

Pineapples grow in pots poolside

Even the scattered fungus colonies on the ground are beautiful

It’s colour and biodiversity at every turn

The award

Well done Rosina! You’re an inspiration to young and old. Making such a dramatic
transformation in just a few short years shows us all what is possible. Indeed, it seems we really do only have a few short years to do likewise, and more…. The next step would be to eliminate grid dependency, and attract enough like-minded individuals around us so as to really develop full self-sufficiency.


  1. Wow, what an inspirational post! So much amazing change in such a short time. Once again I’m reminded that the great keys to change lie in the hands of individuals and small groups of people. So much can be done by each of us (even with limited space; even if we’re no longer in our twenties) to become steadily less reliant on corporations or government. I’m so galvanised by the idea that, even in an urban context, it is actually quite possible to remove from your life’s equation any group or individual who doesn’t demonstrably have your / your community’s / the planet’s best interest in mind. Great work!

  2. obviously, this isn’t a council property. it would have all been torn down for ‘safety’

  3. What a great site she has – I used to have a yard that grew a lot of things that were edible too – I’d do it again if I had the chance. Congrats!

  4. This is living. This is what it is all about. I love what this wonderful woman has created and it shows that you don’t have to be “20 something” to do it. And you don’t have to live in the tropics either …. it just takes a bit longer. And you don’t have to live on an acreage “out of town either”! Thanks for an inspirational post. Amazing.

  5. You don’t have to live in the country or the tropics but you do have to live where ‘they’ (Homeowners Associations)don’t forbid such diversity. Good grief the neighbors would rather go into their homes and watch soap operas with folks hopping from one person’s bed to another than see my clean clothing drying in the sunshine and air. Doesn’t make sense does it? We have 350 days a year where I live of sunshine~~summer and winter. Too few people really care.

  6. Rosina you are a total inspiration and it comes so naturally. You show people how being in touch with nature and growing your own food, brings so much happiness. Rosina you are living proof of that. Congratulations and well deserving….

  7. Well done cousin Rosina. Your work in the garden is amazing. i am sure dad is up there looking down and feeling proud of you. he loved his gardens too. As do I.
    Great seeing Isabel recently. Keep up the good work
    Love Beryl

  8. It is so good that others are seeing and understanding your work and vision. It isnt just a garden, its a masterpiece.

    Although it may not always feel like it with teenagers, you are making an intergenerational difference too by being a stark reminder that ‘where there is a will, there is a way’.

    Well done Mum

  9. Yay go Buba!!! I am positive I have the most amazing grandma in the world! Just looking at those photos reminds me of the amazing times we’ve spent in your gardens with the family.
    Hopefully see you very soon!

    Love you lots and lots
    Eva xoxox

  10. Wooooohaaaa!!!! Well done Rosina, you are a real inspiration. Just makes one want to get out into the garden. Keep the great work going.

  11. Was at your talk in Maroochydore library yesterday and discovered your personal permaculture world for the first time. You impressed and delighted me, Rosina; thank you! Although my tiny retirement village yard is the smallest garden I’ve ever had, it does contain mostly edibles, which, now that I’ve seen your methods and enthusiasm, will benefit from the work that you do and the generosity with which you pass it on. It’s never too late, is it? Long may you garden!

  12. Dear Rosina, It’s all true!!! I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Congratulations!! You look wonderful and so does your garden. You have worked so hard and lived the life you advocate. Well done. I hope it won’t be long before I can come and visit again.
    I’m glad all is going wo well for you and that so many want to learn your “secrets”. Much love your sister Isabel in Perth. XXXXXOOOOOO

  13. thank you rosina for showing what you can do in a small place. I however have 50 acres that I would love help with.. do you consult or know anyone who could help me. we want to have horse agistment,a home,a lake,a small sunday only food and music day. we are hoping to supply the small cafe with veg, etc. as well as artist rooms……

    any info would be wonderful . my e-mail is [email protected]

    well done Julie

  14. Hi Shirley Symons,

    Yes she was my grandfathers cousin. I was named after her.

    I have visited Cov. Gardens in London and swapped info with their archive records. Melba and she were often sharing rolls in the early 20s.

    Thanks for your interest.

  15. …and remember, those organic greens are bursting with lifeforce to make you healthy, attractive, and smarter! Good show!

    now about them bears and racoons…

  16. The curved mesh greenhouse is exactly what I need to allow light and rain in but keep squirrels and birds out of my garden. How was it made, or can it be purchased?


  17. A stunning garden! And just watched your chop chop compost video haha- brilliant!

    I have a question about your pool. We also have a pool in our yard and I have been wondering how best to put it to use within a permaculture system (aquaponics or natural swimming pool or rainwater collection or fill it in!??)

    Is it chlorinated? If not what system are you using to keep it clean?

    Many thanks

  18. I have the same question as Beth. You’ve inspired me to give it a shot but where do I get one of those mesh tunnel greenhouses? Thanks!

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