The Instrument

Syd Carpenter (American, b. 1953) and Steve Donegan (American, b. 1951)
The Instrument, 2024. Hügel garden.

Stemming from a traditional Eastern European gardening technique, hügels are giant mounds of earth that can be several feet high and can vary in shape and size. The inside of each mound has layers of organic materials, like rotting wood and plant debris, that boost the soil quality and support the plant life on top.

The idea behind a hügel garden is to mimic the natural process of soil formation, where layers of organic matter decompose over time to create rich, nutrient-dense soil. Compared to flat gardens, hügels improve drainage and water conservation, reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and require less maintenance.

Graphic representation of the inside of a hügel mound. Courtesy of Syd Carpenter and Steve Donegan.

The Berman hügel bears the distinctive mound shape within a terrace-tiled area to create a large, artistic display with visual appeal year-round.

To see an example of a hügel art garden, check out Syd Carpenter and Steve Donegan’s hügel installation at the Woodmere Art Museum.