Ten Minutes With Tim Ilyinsky
gardener, artist, and royalty
photo by Douglas Foulke
Tim Ilyinsky loves color and form. A descendant of the Romanovs, he is an abstract painter, a master gardener, history buff, and owns a Litchfield house that reflects these interests. Although he has lived in places as varied as West Palm Beach, where his father was mayor, and Cincinnati, where he first learned to appreciate art and gardening, he is a New Englander at heart.
What was your first job? I was 16 and that Christmas my girlfriend gave her father a Dali etching. I had never seen anything like it before. The next day I went to the gallery where she bought it and got a job as a gofer. It was a tremendous opportunity and that’s where I learned about Picasso and Braque and Miro and Monet. It opened up a whole new world for me.
When did you first become interested in gardening? I was commandeered to help my mother in her garden, but I never paid much attention to it. One summer our house was on the garden tour and I remember walking around the property and realizing how beautiful it was and how incredible the flowers were. It was the first time I’d paid attention and I became hooked on gardening.
You are a painter as well as a gardener. How did you get started? I am an abstract painter and totally self-taught. I’d always wanted to paint but never did anything about it. One day my youngest daughter, tired of hearing me talk about it, took me shopping for paint supplies and I haven’t stopped since.
What inspires you in creating a garden or painting a canvas? In both cases—color and shape. I have no particular plan when I begin a garden or a painting, but both are filled with interconnecting shapes and color. I seldom know how either is going to look when they are finished.
What brought you to Litchfield? My former wife’s family was from Connecticut and every summer we’d drive from Ohio with our daughters. One day we stopped at White Flower Farm—I’d been ordering from their catalog for years. I was blown away with the beauty of the area. As we drove into town for lunch, I decided it’s where I wanted to live. In face, we drove by the house we eventually bought.
You have an impressive collection of toy soldiers. How did that start? I don’t think of myself as a collector, I’m more of an accumulator. I love history, but the soldiers are more like a piece of pop art.
How does it feel to be the only man in the Litchfield Garden Club? Honored. There are some phenomenal gardeners in this area and I’m pleased to be associated with them and to have the time to contribute. Like so many clubs, we are trying to make inroads into chemical-free gardening, learning more about technology, and becoming more aware of water conservation.
What do you like most about living here? The people. The landscape is breathtaking, but it’s the warmth and charm of the people who live in Litchfield that makes me happy to be part of this community.