Eco-Friendly Gardens Take Front And Center


The grass at Edwina von Gal’s home in Springs is left to grow tall to keep it healthy and chemical-free, and so is the meadow at Fred and Bettina Stelle’s home in North Haven.Judy and Ennius Bergsma’s Round House in East Hampton, Stephanie Manes and David Salle’s East Hampton home, Susan Dusenberry’s property in North Haven, Andy Sabin’s Buddhist retreat in Springs, Mary Ryan’s property on Gardiners Bay—all are free of toxic chemicals, whether to protect the health of people and pets or the environment, or both.

“Much loss is taking place on the East End,” said Ms. Bergsma during a tour of her 10-acre property, which was originally laid out by Jack Lenor Larsen of LongHouse, next door. “We used to have woodcocks … box turtles … a ton of bats—bats keep the mosquitoes completely at bay.”

Standing in his own garden filled with tall blooms, Mr. Stelle explained that he’d once tried a spraying on his fruit trees. “It was a disaster,” he said. “It killed my bees.” Today, without the spraying, the bees are doing much better.

“It doesn’t really make sense to be spraying toxins in your garden,” Ms. Von Gal said in Springs at the headquarters for her Perfect Earth Project, which discourages the use of pesticides to protect the health of homeowners and those they care about. She has already converted all her landscape design clients, from Calvin Klein to Faith Popcorn and others, to what she hopes will be a growing demand for clean growing.

The next few weeks could be a really good time for those seeking inspiration and advice to join the chemical-free fold. The Stelles, Bergsma, Dusenberry and Manes-Salle gardens are among five toxin-free properties, also including one designed by Ms. von Gal on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton, that can be visited during Guild Hall’s Garden As Art tour on Saturday, August 23.

The theme of this year’s tour is “the green landscape,” and a panel discussion on cultivating eco-friendly grounds at Guild Hall will precede the tour, moderated by Ms. von Gal and offering information about chemical-free landscape care and information about “pesticides and their perils.”

“It was all anyone wanted to talk about” at last year’s Guild Hall garden tour symposium, said Geoffrey Nimmer as he led a preview of some of the gardens to be on the tour. Those who attend the event will also be able to consult with local landscape professionals about toxin-free practices.

And that’s not all. Beginning Thursday, August 14, the Peconic Land Trust and the Perfect Earth Project have partnered up to provide free lawn care advice each week at the Land Trust’s Bridge Garden in Bridgehampton, with future seminars in the works. From noon to 4 p.m. each Thursday into October, Paul Wagner of Treewise will dispense advice on how to tackle lawn and landscape pests without using toxins. Both homeowners and landscape professionals are encouraged to visit, and they can also email questions to Mr. Wagner at

And, finally, the artist Cindy Sherman—also a convert to clean landscaping and lawn care, as well as a neighbor of Ms. von Gal on Accabonac Harbor—will host a benefit on Saturday, August 30, from 4 to 7 p.m., for the Azuero Earth/Perfect Earth Project. The event will include a farm picnic, live music, children’s activities including a petting zoo and acrobatic lessons, and art- and design-related attractions. Further information can be found at

In the interim, tickets for Guild Hall’s August 23 event are available by calling 324-0806 or emailing Laura Perrotti at Garden tour tickets cost $125 and cover a continental breakfast, the panel discussion and the consultations, and the garden tour itself, which runs from noon to 5 p.m. and will include a wide variety of styles and plantings, often incorporating vegetables and fruits and similar aspects of a “home farm.“

Tickets are also available, at $300, for a cocktail reception on Friday, August 22, at Mary Ryan’s farm on Gardiners Bay, as well as luncheon at noon on the day of the tour at Mr. Sabin’s retreat on 26 acres overlooking Accabonac Harbor.

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