Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, recognised as a seminal German polymath, developed a unique approach for investigating nature, termed “delicate empiricism”. Goethe's approach uses empathy, imagination and intuition to promote a participatory engagement with the world. It goes beyond the dualistic-rationalism that defines “conventional” ecological research and can lead to novel insights. “Delicate empiricism” was applied in an ecologically-degraded agricultural landscape in the Brigalow Belt, Queensland, Australia, and its potential for increasing landscape understanding and providing a basis for land-use design was assessed. It was found that Goethe's approach led to holistic, qualitative landscape awareness, not ordinarily accessible via “conventional science”. Application of “delicate empiricism” also gave rise to a land-use design that refected the Australian-ness of the Brigalow Belt landscape, particularly the potential for recovery of native biodiversity values through retention of regrowth vegetation. Overall, the study suggested that there is merit in educating Australian ecologists about “delicate empiricism” to encourage more creative and sensitive landscape management, that is in sync with the environment.