NEW PRESTON — Litchfield County is teeming with beautiful gardens and ambitious gardeners. Whether you actually till the soil in your own garden or simply page through and covet beautiful photographs of them, nature influences our lives. As with most things there are trends in gardening. From Vita Sackville-West and her gardens at Sissinghurst to the gardens at the Cotswolds and Highgrove, the English gardens have influenced their American counterparts. Here in our part of the state we have, among many others the Gertrude Jekyll Garden at Glebe House in Woodbury, Caroline Ferriday’s garden at Bellamy-Ferriday in Bethlehem; the modern gardens of designers Bunny Williams and Carolyne Roehm, to name but a few, each different one from the other and unique in their idea of what a garden should look like.
Now comes a new book called “Garden Wild: Meadows, Prairie-Style Plantings, Rockeries, Ferneries, and Other sustainable Designs Inspired by Nature,” magnificently photographed by Andre Baranowski. An award-winning editorial and advertising photographer, his work has appeared on the covers of prominent gardening and lifestyle publications, including Better Homes & Gardens and Departure. He frequently photographs for the Cultural Landscape Foundation and the Garden Conservancy, and his work was part of “The New American Garden” exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
Baranowski grew up in Poland and came to the United States in 1981. Although he had a degree in literature, photography was always his first love. For several years he worked for Time Life and its group of magazines. In 1996 he then decided it was time to strike out on his own.
“At the time I went out on my own Christopher Meigher, of Meigher Communications, and editor Dorothy Kalins were working on two startup magazines — Saveur and Garden Design,” explains Baranowski. “These were going to be two very upscale publications — beautifully designed and produced. They hired me to do a cover for Garden Design and it wound up winning several awards. So they started giving me more stories to do, mostly still lifes and landscapes. One day they asked me if I would like to photograph food, which I had never done. I won some more awards and I became their main photographer for almost 16 years.” Both magazines are still in publication.
Baranowski has always had an interest in nature and gardens and he decided it was time to explore that passion.
“Gardens have always been my love,” he says. “It’s amazing working with nature and observing people who have gardens and those who design them. I love certain changes that are going on with American gardens.”
Baranowski is referring to the new movement in contemporary gardening, which is about going back to the wilderness, creatively landscaping with native plants to enrich their environments and seamlessly merge with their natural surroundings. Politely rejecting traditional manicured, hedged and pruned gardening aesthetics to invite an alternative kind of beauty: wildly bursting with indigenous plants, old-growth trees, vibrant patches of wildflowers and perennials, succulents, unpruned bushes and ornamental grasses.
“Garden designers are letting nature take its course,” explains Baranowski. “It’s the perfect time for such a movement, given our concerns about the environment. Appreciate these amazing indigenous plants and let them display their beauty.”
In the stunning “Garden Wild,” Baranowski has highlighted 12 gardens on the east coast, from New Jersey, New York, Long Island, to Massachusetts, and Connecticut. From the simplest to the most intricate design, from country to beach to New York City’s High Line, Baranowski wields his camera as if a canvas and on it captures the intricacy and subtlety that the garden designers have incorporated into their creations.
Dorothy Kalins, who wrote the Foreword, wonders how Baranowski captures the intimacy of the landscapes he chooses. “I picture him prowling the grounds, restless until he finds his image. Once it’s framed, he plants his camera and roots himself as well. Then he watches, senses alert and still — always still — waiting quiet waiting until the light and the shadow and the wind align.”
He admits that this is true. “I work in a meditative state,” he says. “The camera is almost a part of my body. Sometimes I return to a garden as many as 15 times. I really need a year to photograph a garden.”
And the work reveals how much effort, thought and creativity Baranowski has expended to capture these gardens. And since he returns to them several times, he is able to present the gardens in more than one season, from the landscapes basking in the glory of summer to the first signs of spring, to the magic of a snowfall.
Each of the 12 gardens is introduced with one page of text to set the scene, followed by pages of breathtaking photography that makes the reader as if he is actually strolling through the gardens. If you are a gardener or a garden designer looking for inspiration, look no further. If, like many of us, you are an armchair gardener, paging through “Garden Wild,” could inspire you to take action and start one of your own.
Pergola Home, 7 East Shore Road, in New Preston, one of the most innovative and unique garden (and much more) design shops, will host a book signing for Andre Baranowski on Saturday, April 27, from 3 to 5 p.m.
“We are thrilled to be welcoming Andre and his beautiful book,” says David Whitman, co-owner of Pergola Home. “Proceeds from the book signing will be donated to Trade Secrets/Women’s Support Services and tickets for the May 18 and 19 Trade Secrets event held at Lion Rock Farm in Sharon will be available at the shop.”
For more information visit www.pergolahome.com or call 860-868-4769.