Exploring Edmund Hollander’s ‘Good Garden’

The Good Garden
Photo: Charles Mayer/Courtesy The Monacelli Press

If you need a gift for your Hamptons hosts this summer, look no further: The Good Garden: The Landscape Architecture of Edmund Hollander Design will be a fabulous addition to the top of any rattan coffee table.

This 300-page, hardcover, full-color beauty of a book reflects the nearly 30 years Edmund Hollander and his partner, Maryanne Connelly, have spent creating breathtaking landscapes. Many of the gardens are located in the tony Hamptons, though the firm does work in Connecticut, Virginia, Westchester, and even as far away as the United Kingdom and the Caribbean.

The Good Garden explores the ways in which plants, and where they’re placed within a landscape, shape our emotional response to a garden. In addition to the numerous photographs, the book offers practical tips for gardeners interested in duplicating the designs. The caption paired with a picture of a cedar-shingled house reads: “Drifts of hydrangeas are classic accompaniments to Shingle Style architecture in coastal summer communities. Porches edged in monocultural mounds of Hydrangea macrophylla reveal the effect of acidity on the color of the blooms—the more acid the soil, the deeper the blue.” Who knew?

The book is easy to digest, as it’s broken down into components, with section headings such as “Entry Areas,” “Walls and Hedges,” and “Seaside Gardens.” Just glancing at the pictures gives you the sense that what’s at play here is not merely the plants themselves or the colors of the blooms, but how they’re positioned in relation to natural and architectural elements—working with the shape of the landscape—to create a specific feeling. For example, a pergola dripping with purple Chinese wisteria evokes a romantic English garden, perhaps where a young girl might sit beneath the blooms, reading a book, every now and then staring wistfully into the distance.

Another example of this would be the thought Hollander and Connelly put into designing the entrance to an estate. If you’ve ever traveled down a long driveway and felt that sense of anticipation as the house comes into view, it’s not by accident.

Says Connelly, “The drive…[allows] you to open up all these scenes…And the scenes are all part of the narrative, telling the story as you are arriving. I think that’s what really captures people’s imaginations. If you can create a little bit of mystery in the beginning, the story unfolds.”

The Good Garden won’t disappoint—and at the next dinner party you attend, you can inform your hosts that their soil must be very acidic because the hydrangeas are so blue.

The Good Garden: The Landscape Architecture of Edmund Hollander Design (The Monacelli Press), $60, available from your local bookseller and amazon.com.

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