Messy or Magic? Biodiversity and the Perception of Beauty

Edwina von Gal, Founder, Perfect Earth Project

May 2023

Landscapes built along conventional standards of beauty, such as the pristine American lawn, are typically ecological dead zones, and often maintained with chemicals that are harmful to humans as well as wildlife. Given catastrophic declines in biodiversity, it is imperative that we make room for nature in our neighborhoods. But habitat-rich native landscapes are still commonly read as “messy,” a barrier to the widespread cultural embrace of this movement. Edwina von Gal discusses how we can change the perception of what a “good” garden is, where healthy habitat is not disparaged as untidy but appreciated for its richness, complexity, and life-giving magic.

Award-winning designer Edwina von Gal has been the Principal of her eponymous landscape design firm since 1984. In 2013 she founded the Perfect Earth Project, promoting nature-based, toxin-free landcare practices for the health of people, their pets and the planet. She is the 2017 recipient of Guild Hall's Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award for the Visual Arts.