Internationally-known, madly passionate, stimulating, thought-provoking, exuberant, creative, romantic, whimsical, embracing - mere words are inadequate to describe the force of nature that is Ryan Gainey. He is gardener, poet, raconteur, philosopher, mentor, verbite, visionary, designer, and showman all in one.
Growing up in Hartsville, South Carolina he found himself keenly interested in the natural world around him. Mentors in that rural Southern community nurtured his love of growing things, much as he mentors others today. He went on to study Ornamental Horticulture at Clemson University under Professor F. W. Thode. Later he received an Honorary Doctorate in Letters from Coker College in his native Hartsville.
Moving to Atlanta, he at last began to nurture his own piece of land, a two-acre garden in Decatur, Georgia which has been featured in every major gardening publication in the United States and abroad. Visiting this paradise is a highlight each year for the thousands who partake of the Atlanta Botanical Garden's Gardens for Connoisseurs tour. His garden has been a featured stop for 20 years.
Mr. Gainey is the owner of Ryan Gainey & Company, and has designed gardens around the world. Each garden is an individual vision based on classical design, and filled with the love of romance, informed with a connoisseur's vision, in tune with seasonal changes, and inspired by the myths, legends, and fantasies of garden history.
He works on both public and private gardens. He headed up the design team for the Visitor's Center and its garden at the South Carolina State Botanical Garden at Clemson University. He is currently working on private gardens from East Hampton, New York, to Palm Beach, Florida.
He has been commissioned to direct the garden development of Lyons View Gardens, a 35-acre project in Knoxville, Tennessee. The garden site overlooks the Tennessee River as it stretches towards the Smoky Mountains. Its first phase is a classical garden in the Renaissance style using indigenous materials both horticulturally and architecturally. The ever-varying scale and style of his public and private commissions serve as a constant source of stimulation.
Be not dismayed if you cannot hire Mr. Gainey to create a garden for you. He gladly shares his vision in private and public garden seminars. He has shared the podium with such notable international gardeners as Rosemary Verey and Penelope Hobhouse as well as almost every U. S. garden expert.
Or perhaps you will find yourself the owner of a piece from The Ryan Gainey Collection of garden accents. These include handmade pots personally designed by Mr. Gainey and crafted in Italy from fine Impruneta terra cotta. The line also features accessories for the table.
He is legendary in his work with the major events which raise funds for worthy Atlanta charities. He has fashioned countless virtuoso parties including the Garden of Eden Ball for the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Swan House Ball for the benefit of the Atlanta History Center, and the Opera Ball for the Atlanta Opera. The High Museum of Art called upon his imagination to create the patron parties for their Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Rockwell, and Rings exhibits. He coordinated the International Olympic Committee party at the Woodruff Art Center during Atlanta's 1996 Olympic games. Mr. Gainey's love of gardening inspires the horticultural and floricultural themes for these events, which never fail to delight and surprise. He also serves as Honorary Ambassador and on the Board of Trustees for the Southeastern Flower Show, and as a Board member for Atlanta's Cherokee Garden Library.
Mr. Gainey believes so strongly in the philosophy that the "house and the garden should become one", that he has lent his talent to many design and architectural projects as well. Recently, he collaborated in the design and construction of a speculative luxury home and garden in Atlanta. That project was a showcase for the idea of integrating home and garden and the surrounding landscape. His designing of the charming Brookgreen Cottage for Brookgreen Gardens in Pawley's Island, South Carolina has been well-documented. It was a commission from Southern Living magazine in which Mr. Gainey was charged with creating a Southern-style cottage showcasing how one could create a home linking the interior and exterior as an integrated whole.
Most recently Mr. Gainey has become one of the founding fathers of a community to be called "Serenbe", providing the vision for the creation of an entirely new integration of home, community, and nature set in an idyllic expanse of south Fulton County near Atlanta. Here, a community of people will find a home within a community of trees. This enormous project provides the best proving ground for tenets he has long held dear. Within this community, he believes "we can take the best from both worlds without taking the city from the country or deserting the country for the city . We can again possess the spirit and passion of life. The romantic nuances of our agrarian past can merge with our contemporary ideas and create tomorrow's dream."
But the quintessential laboratory and showcase for this man's creative genius is his own turn-of-the-century farmhouse in Decatur, Georgia. The property at 129 Emerson Avenue is in a constant state of rejuvenation. Now only does he develop his horticultural gift on this land, but his garden, home, and auxiliary structures provide an opportunity to display the work of many Southern artists. Well-known for fostering the creative development of craftsmen and artists, his commissions have resulted in highly decorative works which abound on his property. His gift to us all is that this wonderful work-in-progress is open to the public daily.
HE'S FEATURED IN COUNTLESS MAGAZINES AND BOOKS
Mr. Gainey's own garden and those of his clients have been shared with the world through such magazines as:
- House & Garden,
- Fine Gardening,
- Southern Accents,
- Southern Homes,
- Southern Living,
- House Beautiful,
- Flower and Garden,
- Garden Design,
- Food and Wine,
- Victoria, and
- France's Cote Ouest.
His home was the cover story for the August 1992 issue of House & Garden magazine.
His own garden has been included in many books including Gardens of the South, House Beautiful's Outdoor Living and Gardens, Frances Schultz's Atlanta at Home and Atlanta at Table, Gardens of Georgia, Better Homes and Gardens Garden Style, and perhaps most fittingly in Rosemary Verey's wonderful book, The American Man's Garden.
HE'S AN AUTHOR
Mr. Gainey's first book, The Well-Placed Weed, is an expression of the Southern roots and inspirations for his work and his garden-centered lifestyle both inside and out. His second book, The Well-Set Table, is a celebration of food, fetes, and flowers.
His charming poem, "The Weekly Weeder", has been captured in print, in paint, and in stone. This story of the search for love through the seasons teaches us all to embrace the common names of typical Southern garden flowers. Ever the teacher, Mr. Gainey has also incorporated a glossary into this poem, with the genus and species of each flower, and information on its origin and its usefulness to man.
He is currently working on two new books. Cut and Come Again, being written with Conne Ward-Cameron, focuses on his own garden and past projects reflecting his personal philosophy of "making the house and the garden one". The second is a children's book, telling the whimsical tale of how the rainbow came to earth. It's entitled The Rainbow Story.
HE STARS ON FILM
His life and work have been captured on film as well. His video, "Creating the Romantic Garden", is a beautifully filmed inspirational lesson in new horticultural ideas. Connoisseur magazine called it "the best garden videocassette ever produced". And The London Times stated "this American video highlights what we have been missing in England". The video is available by contacting Ryan Gainey at 404-377-1494. The price for the video is $30, which includes shipping and handling.
His first book, The Well-Placed Weed, and his garden philosophy were featured in a seven-part PBS documentary series, produced by Conne Ward-Cameron, which aired nationally. Mr. Gainey's philosophy and gardens have been featured on HGTV's "A Gardener's Diary", and his Brookgreen Garden cottage was the subject of an HGTV documentary special.