In the introduction of his new book Garden Wild (Rizzoli New York, 2019), photographer Andre Baranowski contemplates the relationship people have had with the natural world over time. Centuries ago, he writes, “humans were surrounded by wild nature and survival was at best contingent. Now we’re surrounded by concrete jungles where we must carve out precious acres of wildness to connect to our existential roots.” The central question for Baranowski—and one he asks of readers—is “Can we as humans carve a comfortable niche on this planet without disturbing or destroying the natural order of things?”
It’s sobering stuff, to be sure, but the 12 gardens Baranowski documents in this book and the philosophy behind their design offer a way forward. The gardens vary in size, style, and stature. Some are historic estates now open to the public; others are small, secluded spaces tended by the families who live there. Some were designed by boldface names like Piet Oudolf and the firm Oehme, van Sweden. Others bear the mark of passionate amateurs who have nurtured their plots for decades. Yet all embrace the guiding principle that a garden should live in harmony with the land around it.
And what does this modern American garden look like? Drifts of loose plantings that create a sense of movement, swaths of self-sowing flowers that blanket meadows and hillsides, an enthusiastic embrace of native species, a reverence for sculptural plants like ornamental grasses, and a preference for a palette that is muted but rich in subtleties. Just leafing through the pages brings the blood pressure down. “Nature is a good medicine,” says renowned landscape designer Jorge Sánchez, whose work is featured within. For those of us plotting our own backyard escape from the pernicious pavement, Garden Wild offers a valuable prescription.
By Kirk Reed Forrester | Photography by Andre Baranowski
Garden Wild by Andre Baranowski (Rizzoli New York, 2019),