Finding Ryan’s

Finding Ryan’s house

The cab pulled into a street in Decatur and immediately I knew which was Ryan’s house. There were flowers flowing out of the garden and climbing through the side walk in front a small busy house dripping with greens leaves. I had flown to Atlanta to photograph Ryans’ garden for House Beautiful which was published in November 1988. Finding Ryan Gainey seemed always a matter of chance, but that was the way Ryan liked it. Finding Ryan’s house was easier.

 Ryan Gainey portrait
Ryan Gainey portrait.

On Assignment for House Beautiful

Ryan Gainey is hard to describe because he was a man of many talents. One thing everyone can agree on is that he was creative with plants. Like pasting the whole of his living room ceiling with Magnolia Grandiflora leaves. Known for his collaboration with Tom Woodham in ‘The Potted Plant’, a successful retail venture, people began to find Ryan. He was distinctive in his thoughts, his speech, his dress, his flower arrangements, his entertaining. I remember him entering the Philadelphia Flower Show with a cape, broad brimmed hat, silk scarf and small round heavy framed glasses.

White flower arrangement
White flower arrangement on floor of the Ryan Gainey living room.

Ryan was very talented. He could be extremely charming or equally annoying. There was a story about everything in his house, his garden, his family and everyone he knew. Everything had a connection, a history, a relationship, a color he loved or hated.

He got to write books and magazine articles, design significant gardens, he created designs for large charity events. Everybody in Atlanta knew what Ryan was working on next. But at heart he was just a simple plantsman and a genius at it.

Ryan Gainey Poppies
Ryan Gainey Poppies.
Dinner table set in the garden
Dinner table set in the garden.

His garden can only be described as a cottage garden, but Rosemary Veerey described it as, ‘entering a great hall of treasures’. Most of the plants were simple, ordinary in every way except how they grew, what they grew next to and how much they had been loved by Ryan.

Pulling film into the future

I got to photograph Ryan’s work in Atlanta and in France, at Anne Cox Chamber’s Provence house. I am going through my older photographs and digitizing them for my print e commerce site. Originally they were all photographed on 4 by 5 film so through this time with Covid 19 lockdown, I am digitizing my files to make them available again. Finding these pictures, is really encouraging to see, how much the work stands up today. Enjoy them all!!!

Colored Urn in Flower Garden
Colored Urn in Flower Garden

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