E Marcel Breuer house + Avalanche.jpg
Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 10.51.23 PM copy.png
Osyrey pole boy scouts close up.png
Water feature bee feeder.png
Blue Spruce totem fell over.png
Stinkhorn + torch Lily.jpg
deer at bird+bee water feeder PSed.png
Fence to keep deer out of veg garden 2.jpg
edwina_von_gal_lindsay_morris_0.jpg
J Prfct Earth project sign.jpg
E Marcel Breuer house + Avalanche.jpg

letting nature take its course


@Edwina von Gal’s Marsh House

East Hampton, LI

SCROLL DOWN

letting nature take its course


@Edwina von Gal’s Marsh House

East Hampton, LI

I was brought up to believe that all crawly creatures were something to be despised and, immediately upon sighting, KILLED. I had no idea that these terrible, loathsome bugs were necessary for not only human life but all life, nor about their vital inter-connection with soil renewal.

In my teens when I started spending time in untouched nature I began to feel an unexpected connection which evoked a deep sense of calm mixed with kinship

Alternatively, whenever I lay my eyes on man’s manicured, decimated and domesticated ‘nature’ that looks contrived and out of place, it looks as if someone without design sensibility tried too hard to make their fee. These manicured English lawns, originally exported from a small humid island nation to this country, still populate all sorts of U.S. suburban climates, including deserts in the Southwest, in favor of their native plantings. Fortunately, lawns are slowly falling out of favor as people are slowly realizing the amount of care and water lawns take is antithetic to their natural environment.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 10.56.01 PM copy.png
Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 10.55.40 PM copy.png

Landscape architects, possibly with the help of their clients, are coming to their senses by letting go of imposing their controlled footprint: a never ending cycle of digging, pruning and dividing. Instead they are leaning toward nature’s own way to beautify. Today as storm conditions erode planted and planned terrains, people are asking nature to take it’s course. Places near the water are returning to wetlands while others look like they could have always been there - naturally occurring meadows meandering with wildflowers and native grasses.


Some years ago, while living in Japan, I gifted my teacher a bouquet of flowers. He unabashedly wiped away hundreds of years of ikebana culture and proceeded to dump the bouquet into a vase filled with water. This act of seeming irreverence for tradition, but not for nature, made a deep impression on me.

Fast forward to recent years when I took several classes and seminars in landscape design at New York Botanical Garden to hone my skills to become a landscape designer - but something didn’t click. Not being able to put my finger on it or move forward, I felt stuck. So I quietly continued volunteering at the Botanical Garden’s family food gardens, sniping away in the tremendous heat of the Rose Garden - (ugh, more pruning to meet someone’s standard of eye-catching beauty). All the while I tended my wild and crazy bunch of terrace plants. 

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 10.51.23 PM copy.png

A Refreshing Take on Nature


A Refreshing Take on Nature

During the Winter 2018 Lecture Series landscape designer, Edwina Von Gal spoke to a packed audience at the NY Botanical Garden - my home away from home. She definitely has her finger on a pulse that senses a different kind of landscape. She’s crafted a dialogue with nature, a back and forth c-o-m-m-u-n-i-c-a-t-i-o-n. By working this way she leaves a quiet, barely detectable footprint and lives in harmony with all of Nature’s moods: sometimes certain and at other times tumultuous.

A Refreshing Take on Nature


A Refreshing Take on Nature

During the Winter 2018 Lecture Series landscape designer, Edwina Von Gal spoke to a packed audience at the NY Botanical Garden - my home away from home. She definitely has her finger on a pulse that senses a different kind of landscape. She’s crafted a dialogue with nature, a back and forth c-o-m-m-u-n-i-c-a-t-i-o-n. By working this way she leaves a quiet, barely detectable footprint and lives in harmony with all of Nature’s moods: sometimes certain and at other times tumultuous.

Edwina von Gal says she started her business without a plan but with a passion. And it looks like that passion - her relationship with the outdoors - has only flourished with time.

She knows Mother Nature is the best designer. She happily lives with the surprises nature reveals, letting go of her preconceived notions and even asks her clients if they can live with spaces that allow for surprises - for things to happen that she didn’t do. This is her exploration and her life’s work - sort of a “letting go” - from the infinitesimal to the big picture. 

A testament to her success is that Hurricane Sandy caused no damage to either her house on stilts (an office of Marcel Breuer designed by principal Hamilton Smith) nor her waterfront meadow. The only telltale the storm came and left was a waterline on one of her sculptures. In direct contrast, her neighbors, also on waterfront property, found their gardens destroyed. 

Hurricane Sandy no damage.png

Interventions


INTERVENTIONS

Interventions


INTERVENTIONS

FOCAL POINTS add interest to the landscape. This idea of rest stops for the eyes is explored in Eye Circulation

light and shadow

Light + Shadow.png

LIGHT + SHADOW are one of her many GUIDEPOSTS. While people are drawn to the LIGHT, the SHADOW from a tree casts it’s reflective magic onto the side of a building and adds a definition to the space. 

water features

WATER FEATURES are another DEFINING element. She worked on an outdoor shower and a swimming pools on past residences for this purpose. Now she looks to sculptural elements and the natural bio mass collected on the property. She strives to INTEGRATE these elements with the home’s architecture as well as to have them function as architectural elements in the garden holding the property together.  

sculpture

Her SCULPTURES are guideposts within the landscape. They include pieces by Chuck Arnoldy, Win Knowlton and Maya Lin. She sees Maya Lin’s  Avalanche as both reflecting and anchoring the landscape.

mowed paths

Meis House 2.png

A sense of place is created with infrequently MOWED PATHS. Initially, she stopped mowing completely.  Now she mows 1x a  year. This infrequent mowing defines sections of the property and becomes what she calls an INTERVENTION. If she doesn’t like where she placed any mowed area she is not tied to it. All she has to do is to stop mowing. 

Osyrey pole boy scouts close up.png

For the Birds


for the birds

For the Birds


for the birds

No matter her bevy of high profile, name-droppable clients, she now counts just as valuable clients in the form of the birds, bees and butterflies as well as the endless and vast variety of creatures that alight her or her clients’ properties. She also includes as equally valuable the soil, wind and water. 

Osprey pole boy scouts.png

because the birds coming to her property need to feed

…the Boy Scouts were contracted to put up a pole for OSPREYS to nest and feed their youn. 


Water feature for the birds2.jpg

A dripping pipe keeps the water fresh for birds and does double duty to water her petasites plants, a plant that flourishes in moisture. 

BIRDS need to feed their baby chicks 


catapillars feeding on leaves.png

CATERPILLARS Because the babies can’t yet digest seeds and nuts, Edwina lets the caterpillars feed on her leaves knowing trees can withstand their leaves losing up to 20% of it’s mass. Doug Tallamy

Dare we remind ourselves of this every time we bit into the perfect ‘whole’ lettuce leaf that has been sprayed to keep anything from nibbling on it? 

Water feature bee feeder.png

for the bees


for the bees

for the bees


for the bees

Because HONEY BEES need a lot of water, yet have short legs, she puts stones in her bird baths for them to walk up to the water and sip.  

the new living dead


The New Living Dead

the new living dead


The New Living Dead

Blue Spruce totem fell over.png

blue spruce bio mass


These dead elements of bark, mowed lawns, and tree trunks found around the property can no longer support their own life, become a safe haven for life to inhabit. 

blue spruce bio mass


These dead elements of bark, mowed lawns, and tree trunks found around the property can no longer support their own life, become a safe haven for life to inhabit. 

Even after it fell to the ground Edwina kept a dying BLUE SPRUCE totem pole that has been hosting a succession of living animals. She says she will keep it until it eventually melts into the earth. 


When stones got packed down in her driveway she gave up the “tidy” gravel look in favor of natural STONES and WOOD CHIPS from the bark of her trees. They became the literal foundation for her driveway and walkways. 


She made BRUSH PILES - huge broomsticks - when her compost bin got too full. Within the safety of these piles, THRUSHES and RABBITS make their home. 

Cut MEADOW GRASSES (bunch grass or panicum) get raked up and made into a haystack looking like an homage to Monet. 


No bio mass leaves the property. Bio mass is anything that can be broken down by natural means over time. 

logs cut 2 PS Hue, Sat, Bright.png

She creates walls out of assembled LOGS. Hiding AC condensers, they define the area. 

logs cut 4 Light Sat PS.png

Stinkhorn + torch Lily.jpg

pop up landscape


POP-UP LANDSCAPES

~

Tourch LILIES or Kniphofia, not native but move in by themselves. They crop up and randomly and punctuate the landscape of the meadow, she can’t bear to remove them.

~

Stinkhorn MUSHROOMS use the understory of her collected bark chip stacks to grow and mature in. She only knows of their whereabouts when they surprising pop up in bloom. 

pop up landscape


POP-UP LANDSCAPES

~

Tourch LILIES or Kniphofia, not native but move in by themselves. They crop up and randomly and punctuate the landscape of the meadow, she can’t bear to remove them.

~

Stinkhorn MUSHROOMS use the understory of her collected bark chip stacks to grow and mature in. She only knows of their whereabouts when they surprising pop up in bloom. 

de-fence against deer destruction   

deer at bird+bee water feeder PSed.png

deer destruction


cute, eh? well….

deer destruction


cute, eh? well….

rope to keep deer away in Vibrance Sat +44.png

DEER are predators that are destroying the entire understory of Eastern Long Island. There is no ground cover for ground nesting birds (they used to be a predator of ticks). This huge imbalance of the deer population came as a consequence of the original screening of the Disney film Bambi over half a century ago.  

Wrapping the trunk of trees with a twine-like rope helps keep deer away from the bark. 

Edwina von Gal  cages  some small trees and bushes to protect them from the deer. She also fences her vegetable garden to keep the deer OUT.

Edwina von Gal cages some small trees and bushes to protect them from the deer. She also fences her vegetable garden to keep the deer OUT.

Fence to keep deer out of veg garden 2.jpg

dear garden


a dear garden

dear garden


a dear garden

                            garden

EDWIN’S PLAYPEN - her vegetable garden - happenstance vs. hover

edwina_von_gal_lindsay_morris_0.jpg

edwina's playpen


 EDWINA von GAL tending her Garden

edwina's playpen


 EDWINA von GAL tending her Garden

Edwina likens having a garden to control vs. no control. Like raising children - one is never sure how much to hover over them or to throw your hands up and say, ‘That’s who they are.’

cold frame for winter lettuce + Raised beds.png

Her garden is partially her hover. But she does find that every bed is under her control. She finds that raised beds are easier to keep and the soil stays healthy from year to year as opposed to having an on the ground garden where you have to replace the soil every year. The raised beds also keep out the voles.

She keeps a cold frame (left background) with a glass cover - like a mini greenhouse - on one of the raised beds. This supplies her with lettuce for most of the winter. 


NYBG online PSed more contrast+blu.png
Garden in bloom 4.png

The vigorous survive in her vegetable garden. She let’s a lot come up where it will. An artist friend made sculptures (right foreground) and placed them as guides to mark where her watering hoses are. She says she grows something different on the arches/garden trellises every year. One year it can be gourds and the next year something else. She allows plants to take over. The gourd might take over a chair placed in the garden - where she never has time to sit anyway. This combination of doing and letting go exists more for her in the garden than the meadow. 

E EVG office w:tressil.jpg

The trellis in both her garden and on the patio of her office seem to be a recurring element. This upward and downward growing of vines has a tendency to move the eyes around and adds visual interest. This same principle is used in interiors and was discussed in Scale/Diagonal

J Prfct Earth project sign.jpg

THE PERFECT EARTH PROJECT


THE PERFECT EARTH PROJECT


 THE PERFECT EARTH PROJECT - a chemical free environment

Edwina sees a disconnect between environmentalists and the landscape industry. The people making designed landscapes for their clients put chemicals on lawnsthat make it unsafe for the owner’s children, grandchildren and pets. Whereas environmental and gardening people are of the mindset to let things happen naturally. She likens the landscaping group to people who take probiotics yet wash their hands with hand sanitizer. She reiterates that there is a direct relationship between soil biome and our gut biome and maintains that an important overlap exists between human health and the soil we come in contact with.

Many of us are collectively hoping and realizing through the promotion of the Perfect Earth Project and like-minded initiatives, that the landscape industry comes to see themselves more as land stewards and that the land is everyone’s sanctuary in need of protection.

(Photos courtesy of Edwina von Gal’s lecture giving at NYBG and those taken by Lindsay Morris, Eileen Le Guillou and Jody Harrow onsite)