Patterns of Design in Permaculture

Permaculture design works to copy many patterns and shapes that occur in nature. This tends to enhance energy flow or slow it down, depending on the needs of the inhabitants. This also adds diversity of life and edge. Below are some of the common patterns in permaculture design and how they can be used.

Natural forces that govern each pattern and how to use these forces practically in permaculture:

Waves: Gravity and flowing energy

Example: Radio waves, wind blowing across long grass

Design use: Increases edge, which increases diversity and productivity.

Wave Pattern Marked to be Planted

Streamlines: Edge

Example: The edge of your car as it moves through the air

Design use: Can be used to encourage a diversity of species along the streamlines where different microclimates occur

Cloud Forms: Actual clouds are formed by the evaporation of water, and rising air currents where the water vapor condenses to form cloud water. Cloud forms tend to involve collection and dispersal.

Example: Smoke from your chimney

Design use: Increased edge, and planting area

Spirals: They increase, enhance, and capture the flow of energy for a longer time than straight lines.

Example: DNA helix, seashells, a rams’ horns

Design use: Herb spirals for diversity of climate and water in a compact area, spirals can also have less path area than straight lines

Herb Spiral

Lobes: Can hold energy in a circular pattern.

Example: Neighborhood cul-de-sac

Design use: Keyhole beds or mandala gardens allow for less path space and more planting space.

Mandala Garden

Branches: Branches are a way of connecting and dispersing energy, food, and materials in the most efficient pattern.

Example: The classic branching pattern on a leaf allows for the main vein to disperse nutrients to the entire leaf efficiently without taking up too much space.

Design use: Allow for more planting space and less path space, also the diversity of paths. Main path can be large for a wheelbarrow, and small branches can just be footpaths, while still smaller branches can be very small, just for occasional use.

Scatter: In the scatter pattern, there is a cluster of the material or being and radiating out are less of trying to gain a foothold at the edges to create more clusters.

Example: Insect outbreaks on a farm

Design use: This can be good if you are looking to spread a species via seed, and would like for the plant to self-seed into an area downwind.

Nets: These individual cells put together in a net can greatly increase the strength of the entire pattern.

Example: Spider webs

Design use: This can be used to connect trees via trench networks.

~ Phil Williams

Phil Williams is a permaculture consultant and designer and creator of the website  His website provides useful, timely information for the experienced or beginning gardener, landscaper, or permaculturalist. Phil's personal goals are to build soil, restore and regenerate degraded landscapes, grow and raise an abundance of healthy food of great variety, design and install resilient permaculture gardens in the most efficient manner possible, and teach others along the way.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Great ideas.  Using Nature/Math for energy rich garden.