Arts

New Documentary Captures Philosophy Of Atlanta Master Gardener

Garden designer Ryan Gainey is shown in a still from "The Well-Placed Weed."
Garden designer Ryan Gainey is shown in a still from "The Well-Placed Weed."
Credit Steve Bransford and Cooper Sanchez
Audio version of this story here.

Gardens were Ryan Gainey’s life.

He rose from an impoverished childhood to become one of the most celebrated American garden designers of the past three decades. He moved to Atlanta in the 1970s and designed gardens around the city and eventually around the world.

Gainey died in a fire at his home in Lexington, Georgia, in 2016.

Now, Steve Bransford and Cooper Sanchez, two Atlanta filmmakers and gardeners, are releasing a documentary about the man. It’s called “The Well-Placed Weed,” and it draws on six years’ worth of interviews and archival footage.

The film focuses on Gainey’s character and philosophy more than on his accomplishments or his gardening technique.

“It’s an honest film,” co-director Bransford tells “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes. “I think it’s a respectful film. We didn’t want to make a film that was an endless gush-fest about how brilliant this person was. We wanted to get at some of the ambiguity of his character, and contradictions. On one hand, Ryan could be incredibly off-putting and self-absorbed — I mean, he had a very robust sense of self. But he was also incredibly generous — giving away plants, giving away knowledge. He was a very loving person but had a hard time expressing it.”

“The Well-Placed Weed” premieres Thursday, May 17 at the Plaza Theatre.