Peek Inside Ryan Gainey's Personal Georgia Garden

The internationally known garden designer and author opens up his eclectic garden.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Rose Petals on a Pathway

The backbone of this Georgia garden is having flowers in bloom 12 months out of the year. "That’s why it’s so fragrant,” says designer Ryan Gainey. In the spring, flowers in bloom include 'Paul’s Himalayan Musk' (an antique rose) and geraniums.

Confederate Jasmine on Arbor

A stone urn serves as a table base in this temple garden, which has a hand-carved limestone top and plants in terra cotta pots by Hewell’s Pottery in Gillsville, Ga. Star jasmine (also known as Confederate jasmine) on the iron arbor fills the Georgia garden with a sweet perfume. The sculptures belonged to a friend of Ryan Gainey, like many of the accessories in his garden.

Italian Influence

The cottage garden has a sense of formality and reflects its Italian Renaissance roots with the structure of the clipped boxwood and patterns in the stonework. “Since we cannot shape our own destiny, we can shape plants,” Ryan Gainey says.

Agave Plants

Blue agave plants, which are used in the production of tequila, stand tall in Ryan Gainey’s Southern garden. “They represent bringing plants in from another world, to give a garden an exotic feel,” he says.

Century-Old Bungalow with Cottage Garden

In the cottage garden behind his 1905 bungalow, internationally known garden designer Ryan Gainey says he likes the juxtaposition between exuberant and overflowing. Boston ivy is draped over the home and the entrance to his garden includes plants such as Oakleaf hydrangea. He uses terra cotta pots by Hewell’s Pottery in Gillsville, Ga.

Enchanting Entryway

Walking into the garden of Ryan Gainey in Decatur, Ga., immediately brings a rush of fragrance and sense of the past, from the 1933 Model T Ford Woody custom wagon under the carport to the 1905 bungalow to iron chandeliers and flowering plants.

Bungalow Window with Foliage

Ryan Gainey creates vignettes, including on the side of his home, by combining architectural items, plant material such as Boston ivy, flowers and foilage in season, and other natural elements.

Cottage Garden with Native and Exotic Plants

The terrace, laid with native stone, branches into a romantic, exotic and charming garden with formal and informal spaces, greenhouses, arbors and passageways bursting with fragrance. “I’ve learned about putting plants together based on how they grow, when they bloom, what color they are, and if they have fragrance,” Ryan Gainey says.

Pet-Friendly Paths Through Cottage Garden

From the terrace, guests and Ryan Gainey’s dogs, like Leo (pictured here), can stroll along a native stone walkway to parts of the garden, which include sections called the temple garden, the oval, the rose arbor and the borders.

Dining Al Fresco

The garden has three places for Ryan Gainey and his guests to dine. “Having rooms in a garden is how great gardens evolve, just like rooms in a house,” he says, sipping champagne from a tumbler while sitting on the covered back porch.

Wood Trellis Near Greenhouse

A trellis made of honey locust wood provides a cozy canopy over a brick walkway in a portion of the garden. The greenhouse is one of two remaining on the property; originally there were six.

Treehouse in the City

A rustic treehouse, made of durable honey locust wood, towers above the greenhouse and an outbuilding in a far corner of Ryan Gainey’s Georgia garden.

Espalier Trees

River Road Farms, based in Tennessee, used the espalier technique to train these pear and crabapple trees to grow flat.

Garden Greenery

Ryan Garden says green is his favorite color, and his personal Georgia garden shows his fondness for the hue. Passageways, some lined with fallen petals, lead visitors through the eight garden rooms. His plant choices are based on creating a garden that is fragrant throughout the year and focusing on native plants and introduced plants such as camellias, tea olives and gladiolus.

Gate Opens to Another Garden Room

Acclaimed garden designer and author Ryan Gainey describes his garden as the way he can express himself artistically. He has incorporated plants of various texture, color and fragrance along with original sculptures and art in his Decatur, Ga., garden.

Lush Walkway

Ryan Gainey uses vines in wide and narrow passageways surrounded by flowering plants such as hydrangeas, ferns, bromeliads and other exotic plants.

Beautiful Borders

The borders of Ryan Gainey’s garden feature flowering shrubs such as hydrangeas, roses and annuals. He has designed some of the bird feeders, which are inspired by other garden structures.

Ryan Gainey in His Garden

Ryan Gainey, an internationally known garden designer and author, sits with JB, one of his four dogs on what he calls “my throne,” made by his friend, the late artist Christine Sibley. Sibley was known for her love of sunflowers, and the chair is made using that motif.

Southern Plants and Italian Influence

This fascinating Georgia garden features the romantic influence of Italian Renaissance design and Southern charm.

Rambler Roses

Ryan Gainey says he only uses antique roses, from Roses Unlimited in Laurens, S.C. He grew these roses—'Paul’s Himalayan Musk—from a 6-inch tall plant.

Pond with Stone Wall and Sculptures

The temples, designed by Ryan Gainey, are made of limestone and placed throughout his Decatur, Ga., garden. The carvings in these temples, above a pond on his terrace, represent the symbols of the four seasons: sunflowers for summer, corn of autumn, oak leaves and acorns for winter, and fiddlehead ferns for spring.

Garden Terrace

An Adam and Eve sculpture—one of many references to the Bible story in the garden—is placed on the terrace of Ryan Gainey’s garden, among hostas, ferns and other plants.

Spring Flowers

Ferns and other exotic plants mix with native plants such as Clematis, plus sculptural accents. The limestone temple in the background is among a series of items designed by Ryan Gainey and on display in his personal garden.

Garden Room

English pottery made in the 1870s to resemble tree stumps hold two urns made in the 1900s. Look closely and you’ll see the urns feature the oak leaf and acorn motifs that are prevalent in Ryan Gainey’s garden and represent winter. The seasons influenced the design of his garden.

Garden Walkway with Roses, Boxwoods and Trees

When Ryan Gainey purchased this property in Decatur, Ga., the garden only had three trees. The acclaimed garden designer says he gained his knowledge by observing and seeing what could grow in the South, from antique roses to exotic plants, and in different sections of the garden. He learned how to choose plants and how to combine trees and plants for an overall experience for himself and his guests.

Cottage Garden

The vines in the garden are a combination of roses, clematis and honeysuckle. “You let them grow up trees and over bushes,” Gainey said. “They’re good colors together.”

Canopy of Greenery

Ryan Gainey calls his Georgia garden a “horticultural evolution” and “design experience.” He based his choices in plants and design on intuition and inspiration from the Renaissance. He also chooses plants based on their fragrance.

Sculptures and Outbuildings

The Italian inspiration in this garden includes how outbuildings were incorporated and the use of sculpture. “Accessorizing a garden with plants and objects is the same thing as decorating the inside of a house – so I’m an interior designer, garden designer and a collector,” Ryan Gainey says.

Inside the Orangerie

In his largest glass greenhouse, which serves as his orangerie, rows of plants are in terra cotta pots made of Georgia clay by Hewell’s Pottery in Gillsville, Ga. “They’re totally frost-free. They ain’t cheap but they don’t break,” Ryan Gainey says. “It’s all about using indigenous material to make your pots out of, as opposed to some other clay form that’s fragile.”

Log Bench

Benches made out of split logs offer an old-fashioned spot to sit in this Georgia garden.

Blooming Clematis

Vibrant clematis, which thrives in shade, bursts forth during spring in Ryan Gainey’s personal garden. “I’m a plants man and I love color,” he says.

Garden Art

A Haitian artist used recycled oil drums to depict the story of Adam and Eve in this piece of art attached to a garden gate.

In the Greenhouse

A weather vane with a distressed patina occupies a greenhouse in Ryan Gainey’s Decatur, Ga., garden. The greenhouse is one of six that Gainey discovered on the property, and he now uses two of the greenhouses.

Bird on a Branch Hose Guard

A bird hose guard is nestled among American boxwood.

Foxglove in Bloom

The elegant tall white blooms of Foxglove ‘emerson’ are on display in Ryan Gainey’s personal garden.

Exotic and Native Plants

The hardy palm, Trachycarpus fortunei, is among the exotic plants that Ryan Gainey introduced—and has seen flourish—in his Georgia garden. Only three trees existed in the garden when Ryan Gainey bought the property 40 years ago. A geranium is in bloom underneath the wood arbor.

Large-leafed Magnolia macrophylla

A Magnolia macrophylla, with its large deciduous leaves, blooms in the spring in Ryan Gainey’s garden. He chooses plants based on their shapes and the aromas that will fill his garden throughout the year.

New Plants in Pots

Geraniums join sculptures and other potted plants in the terrace section of Ryan Gainey’s garden. His favorite season is fall, when his garden includes asters and chrysanthemum.

Pineapple Garden Accessory

A pineapple—next to a blooming gardenia—is a symbol of hospitality. Ryan Gainey welcomes thousands of visitors to his garden annually during the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Gardens for Connoisseurs tour, which he founded in 1984. His personal Decatur, Ga., garden has been on the tour each year. “People needed to see you could build a beautiful garden in the South,” he says.