Yin and Yang in Tillson: A Harmonious Garden Design that Fuses Nature and Art

See It During the Garden Conservancy Open Days on June 9

By   |     |  Farm & Garden

Paul Goldbacher contemplates both the forest and the trees when faced with designing a novel landscape. The interplay between interior design and garden design undeniably informs his work, which is why the owner of Hudson River Valley Gardens is keen on working with nature, rather than against it, in order to cultivate meaningful conversations between otherwise disparate spaces.

“It’s about bringing the outdoors in [and vice versa],” says Goldbacher of a recent collaboration, with client and New Paltz homeowner Courtia Worth, aimed at achieving balance and engaging all five senses using myriad natural elements presented in an artistic way.

“We took what was a blank canvas, which we built and designed together,” says Goldbacher of “Yin and Yang in Tillson,” an intricate dance between nature and art, which will be unveiled on June 9 from 10am to 4pm, part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days—an annual tour of the country’s most exciting, creative, and innovative private gardens. Since its founding in 1989, the Philipstown-based nonprofit’s mission has been to preserve, share, and celebrate America’s gardens and diverse gardening traditions for the education and inspiration of the public.

Yin and Yang in Tillson will be open to the public on June 9 from 10am to 4pm, part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days—an annual tour of the country’s most exciting, creative, and innovative private gardens.

“[In ‘Yin and Yang’] we explore and embellish the relationship between art works, their installation and nature,” says Worth, the visionary behind this project—a captivating fusion of a variety of sculptures and earthworks in an open meadow—all of which quite literally grew from a series of red rock outcroppings intended to create a visual path meandering from the main residence down through the woods.

“The open field and surrounding woods serve as an extraordinary canvas for art and atypical gardens,” says Worth of the meticulously curated, almost Zen-like display, nestled at the base of the Shawangunk Mountain ridge abutting the Mohonk Preserve, crafted to evoke a profound connection with nature. A panoply of elements—from moss and cattails to sculptural ceramics and South African potjie pots—create an artistic tapestry celebrating the beauty of the landscape.

“It’s somewhat of a stage,” says Goldbacher of an ever-evolving landscape dependent upon light, time of day, and season. In keeping with its moniker—evocative of the two great opposing, albeit complementary, forces at work in the cosmos according to Chinese thought—balance is central to the ethos of “Yin and Yang in Tillson.” This collaborative effort is a provocative juxtaposition of nature and the imagination at many levels; as such, there is harmonious interplay between the raw, untamed essence of the environment and the transformative power of the artworks.

The garden is dotted with art, including Chainsaw Totem by Paul Steward.

“While some elements appear to exist opposite of one another, each has a relationship to the other,” says Goldbacher of a powerful landscape that’s simultaneously rigidly formal and evocative. It is at once an Alpine rock garden with abundant sculptural structure softened by open meadow, native plants, and ample woodland shade gardens—punctuated by scenic views and a water feature.

Goldbacher, a respected authority in landscape design and horticultural innovation, routinely transforms outdoor spaces into vibrant living environments that inspire and delight. His background in interior design makes him particularly adept at incorporating site-specific art and design elements where least expected.

“It very much blends in with the surrounding landscape and stimulates the senses,” says Goldbacher of a project, stemming from earlier garden restoration in the same location, that took several years to establish. The final installation, completed in 2023, will be in its prime for the early-June unveiling when the cylindrical spikes of the cattails will be blooming and the abundant moss thriving.

Goldbacher brings a broad interpretation of landscape to his work via smell and touch, vision and light—each of which speaks in different ways to visitors and invites them to think outside the box. He’ll be on hand for the all-day garden tour later this spring, so secure your tickets) and start brainstorming questions today. From expert to novice, there is no better way to improve as a gardener than by experiencing a diverse range of gardens, and gardening traditions, firsthand.

“Landscapes can be built and designed in many different ways depending on the environment, and the lay of the land [in question],” he says, citing balance between various components—chief among them different shapes, forms, and living things—as essential. Ditto for positioning.

“Good landscape design plays with light and movement until you’re kind of sucked right in,” Goldbacher says. 

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