Legendary Garden Designer-Ryan Gainey

Over the weekend the world tragically lost world renowned garden designer, Ryan Gainey. He was a mysterious figure who was a force of nature in every sense, often seen dressed in priestly shimmering robes and flamboyant headgear.

I first met Ryan in a local shop where he stood in front of me in line. An avid gardener I was acutely aware and in awe of his international fame and incredible talent, which spanned from the Hamptons to the UK. I remember wondering what I would say if he turned around. In the end, our first conversation began with a simple”good morning.” A general pleasantry started an unlikely acquaintance over the years, a bond formed by our mutual love of gardening and literature.

Intimate dinner parties were hosted in his eclectic gardens under the roofed canopies of trees and vines. Deeply philosophical conversations illuminated solely by the stars, the warm glow of candles and Ryan’s incredible intellect. He was impossibly well-read and a raconteur of cultural history.

Ryan’s house was an unassuming bungalow situated on a quiet street, enveloped in English Ivy and surrounded by a wild array of potted plants. A frenzy of color and texture sprouting from an impossibly small space with fragrant flowers blooming 12 months of the year. Entering through a rusty, time-worn gate you were transported into a magical world. A delightful confluence of botanical layers and intricate garden “rooms,” each an homage to enduring design styles from distinctly Southern to the Italian Renaissance.

His gardens were often open to the public for a mere five dollar donation, and it wasn’t unusual to see Ryan patiently holding court with legions of devoted followers. Mysterious and complex, his gardens were a wonder of hidden paths, secluded niches, intricate textures, and thought-provoking forms much like the man.

Regrettably, I lost touch with Ryan over the past five years, but so many of his beliefs have played an integral role in shaping my design philosophy and how I view structure and spatial relationships. He was a true visionary, an esteemed designer & legendary horticulturist who left behind an incredible legacy. And he will be deeply missed.

“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.” -Ryan Gainey

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Image/ Angela West

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Image/ Angela West

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If you’d like to learn more about Ryan Gainey he wrote one of my favorite books…The Well Set Table.

For more of Angela West’s amazing photography, you can visit her website here.

Until next time,

Live a life well-curated…

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Summertime is right around the corner. And now that the weather is getting warmer, you probably want to spend as much time outdoors as possible.

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