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Louis Raymond, Landscape Designer
Gardening Lectures

Louis Raymond addressing a lecture audience.

Louis Raymond offers his lectures to horticultural societies, museums, garden clubs, civic organizations, arboretum societies and theater associations—everywhere people gather to learn about and celebrate gardens and gardening. Louis’ profound horticultural and historical knowledge and his perceptive sociological insights result in witty, compelling discourses on the variegated glories and peculiarities of landscaping throughout history and across class.

This is a partial list of the titles of Louis’ lectures. To read a brief abstract on a lecture, please click on its title.

More Colorful Than Ever:

Clashing and Coordinating

in the Garden of a Lifetime.

Plays Well With Plants:

A Gardener's Garden of a Lifetime

The First Fifteen Years

Uncommon & Astonishing:

Fun Horticulture from My Garden to Yours

At Play, with Nature:

Snoozes & Celebrations on your Terrace

City Smarts:
Strategies for Great Urban Gardens

Private Viewings:
Society Gardens by the Sea

Hedging the American Dream:
Privacy & Horticulture in the U.S.

Beyond Beauty, Beyond June:
Plants & Gardens That Mature with Style & Grace

Between a Rock & a Yard Place:
Sculpture in the Garden

It Takes One to Know One:
A Tall Guy Talks About Tall Plants

From Sows’ Ears to Silk Purses:
Gardens Before & After

The Show Must Go On:
Confessions of an Exhibitionist

Mow & Blow:
Lawn in America

Astonishing Annuals:
Four Centuries of Garden Discovery

Colorful Foliage? Now You’ve Gone Too Far!

Putting Everything in Perspective:
Formality in Your Garden

Everything but the Kitchen Sink:
Recipes for Great Mixed Borders

Can’t See the Trees for the Forest:
Why You Have Too Many Trees & What You Can Do About It

Twenty Terrific Trees:
Selected Spectacular Species for Sale

 


 

More Colorful Than Ever:

Clashing and Coordinating

in the Garden of the Lifetime.

 

A great garden is like a great life:  Both are a collage of broad exuberance, attention to detail, occasional bravery, more-than-occasional naps, and plenty of experiments.  Both balance a respect for tradition with regular and even gleeful assaults on that same tradition.

 

Creating a colorful garden, then, is like living a colorful life.  When does colorful veer into juvenile?  Serenity slide into boredom?  Inspired juxtaposition careen into eye-crossing jumble?

 

More Colorful Than Ever chronicles thirty-years-and-counting of garden designer Louis Raymond’s exploration of color in his life and his garden.  Does blue really go with red?  Apricot with pink?  Parchment with white?  And what plants best bring which colors to the garden, and when most needed? 

 

In every possible sense, it’s a colorful talk.


 

Plays Well With Plants:

A Gardener's Garden of the Lifetime,

Fifteen Years and Counting.

 

Louis Raymond poses this existential question: “After so many years of creating gardens for clients, what garden do I create for myself?”

In “Plays Well With Plants,” he talks candidly about these first fifteen years of his garden’s successes and failures, and how his design philosophy has guided its creation.  Overall, he is pleased.  “So far, so good: The red borders actually do look red, sometimes triumphantly.  The Belgian fence—of beeches, not fruit trees—is filling out its frame.  Two of the pergolas are built and largely canopied.  The double-ball topiary of hardy orange is the biggest and baddest on the continent.  The Southern magnolias, so rare this far north, are almost as high as the roof.”

“But the yellow borders?  The arboretum?  The dry gardens?  They’re on my computer and in my imagination, but not yet in the garden.  And these are just the projects on the to-do list that I already know about.  Horticulture’s a fast-growing field, so to speak; where will the next hundred of my favorite new plants go?  Always something more—and with only a lifetime to get it all done.”

“Plays Well With Plants shows how far we’ve come, the gardens and me, and where we’re heading next, project by project, bloom by bloom, vine by vine, experiment by experiment.  The gardens succeed or fail as much from the plants themselves as from anything brought to the production by me, their impresario and caretaker.  To the degree they reach the goal of ever-greater excitement, it’s because of our synergy.  The plants and I, we’re all in this garden together.”

 

 


 

Uncommon & Astonishing:

Fun Horticulture from My Garden to Yours

Louis's personal gardens are as infamous and adventurous as his clients' gardens are exciting and practical.  Join him as he introduces the plants he is the most excited about now.  All are stars in his own gardens, and more than a few could be a thrill in yours.

"Raymond experiments in his own gardens like a mad scientist, searching out plants most people have never seen before and figuring out how to make them perform.  [His is a ] pyrotechnic secret garden, [combining] exuberance and restraint, abundance and thrift...the effect is downright poetic."  The Boston Globe

"Uncommon & Astonishing" is the signature lecture of Louis's new multi-stream blog www.LouisThePlantGeek.com.

 


 

At Play, with Nature:

Snoozes & Celebrations on your Terrace
Don’t we all love to be outside on a terrace, enjoying the warm-season weather? Well, if there’s shade, a cool drink, and comfy seating. And how about an attractive view out into the landscape? Easy access to the house? Privacy from the rest of the world? Gorgeous horticulture right there to greet you? And what about when we get hungry? Can we cook some of the food right outside? Eat it outside too? Oh oh: Now the bugs are out. And how did it get chilly all of the sudden? Darn it, now it’s also getting dark. Can’t we have some light out here? Music too?

Being comfortable outdoors is only simple for the first ten minutes, when the chair, the shade, and the patch of pavement are all you need. But to really enjoy being outdoors? That’s where planning and nuance come in. The more thought and possibility we bring to our outdoor space, the more inviting it becomes, the more we and our friends will want to get together in the one space that unites the best of our house with the best of our garden: our terrace.

Landscape designer Louis Raymond has been creating terraces for over forty years—since setting second-hand bricks into the dirt at the back of his family’s first real house, near Washington, DC. He was ten. His terraces have gotten much better. In At Play, with Nature Louis explores the many ways that a terrace can be shaped into your property’s must-use focus.

Hilarious as well as inspirational historical terraces and outdoor celebrations thereupon give context as well as hope that our best outdoor moments are yet to come.

 


 

City Smarts:

Strategies for Great Urban Gardens
Louis Raymond’s very first garden design was for a Manhattan penthouse. The years of brownstone gardening that followed taught him the unique secrets and pleasures of city landscapes with both style and substance.

In this engaging, thought-provoking lecture, Louis highlights gardens that dance for months on end—from September through May—when you’re in the city to enjoy them. Plants that revel in shade that would make a yew faint, or pitiless heat that you thought only a cactus could crave. Plants that cozy up to concrete and never met a brick they didn’t want to embrace. Plants that are vandal-proof but incite thoughts about larceny. Container plantings that look even better in September than they did in May. And overall layouts with such scope that they make your garden resonate even before the plants go in—and such integrity that they hold everything together even after the plants are lushly mature.

City gardeners need to be more clever—and more ruthless—than their country cousins: there’s neither enough time nor space for the standard-issue shrubs and trees of the country. In "City Smarts," Louis gets you up-to-speed on the rhythms of urban gardens.

 


 

Private Viewings:

Society Gardens by the Sea

America’s second and weekend homes are often far different from main residences. Whether the landscaping is faux meadow or faux chateau, weekend gardens are expected to foster the relaxation, comfort and frank hedonism inherent in any getaway place in the country.

Nowhere is this city/country dichotomy greater than at the shore, where weekend and summer visitors have left behind not just the city, but also most of their clothes. Indeed, the only acceptable place for most people to be half naked outdoors is in conjunction with bodies of water.

An oddity about American vacation life is that our shorelines uniquely embrace the highest privacy landscapes in America. Back in town, residents inhabit the traditional American landscape of unmarked boundaries, wall-to-wall grass, and timid horticulture. But at the shore (or around the pool), the hedges soar as high as the temperatures, with the horticulture more exalted still, as modesty overcomes our historic aversion to outdoor privacy.

In "Private Viewings," Louis peers over the hedges on more than a century of America’s seaside gardens, revealing how our culture and our horticulture have enjoyed splashing about together. He also introduces a wealth of classic and cutting-edge plant species that enjoy the coastal life.

 


 

Hedging the American Dream:

Privacy & Horticulture in the U.S.
We live in one of the rare countries where it’s the norm, not the exception, to have little if any privacy outside the house. Whether in the First World or the Third, whether in Europe, Asia, Africa or South America, houses are customarily built with high lot-line walls, fences or hedges. This is even—or, rather, especially— true in what would seem to be our closest European confrère, Great Britain, where exterior privacy is as ubiquitous as intense gardening is world-class.

But the U.S. is traditionally a singular landscape of unmarked boundaries, wall-to-wall grass and mediocre horticulture. This lecture explores the diversity of reasons why. While so many of the results of privacy-impaired landscapes are horticultural, many reasons are anything but. For over a century, tastemakers such as Frederick Olmstead and Frank Scott (accompanied by effective popular-media propaganda and advertising campaigns) have invoked religion, patriotism, technology, economics, health, community, race, class, and even sex as reasons why high hedges, fences and walls—and the privacy and separation they bring—are un-American and improper. Although middle-class suburbs are usually the battleground, landscapes both meager and majestic show the scars of our perennial struggle with exterior privacy.

With dramatic, humorous and even appalling historical highlights from the Civil War to the present, Louis exposes the roots of America’s hedge-o-phobia, shows how our horticulture in particular—and our culture at large—has suffered as a result of the privacy fear it engenders, and speculates on the future health of both our landscape and our society.

 


 

Beyond Beauty, Beyond June:

Plants & Gardens That Mature with Style & Grace
Ahhh . . . the seductive charm of nurseries in the springtime, abundant with plants in full flower—not to mention the eager young staffers assuring you that this shrub or that perennial will reach full size during their first season.

But the last thing our gardens need is yet another plant that blooms in May or June, and is pooped out by August. The fact is, plants that provide late-season, season- long, or, even better, year-round interest should predominate, so that our gardens are as engaging in September or February as they are in May. We also need plants (and, realistically, low-maintenance strategies for handling them) that are with us for the long haul, year after year, decade after decade, so our gardens will embrace both adolescence and maturity with as much verve and creativity as we ourselves do.

The wiser choice, both short and long-term, is to look beyond the fleeting charms of early-season blooms (and even blossom entirely), and focus instead on plants and design that create gardens full of vigorous, witty, dramatic enticements from July through April, from now through the next millennium.

In "Beyond Beauty, Beyond June," Louis shows dozens of plants and describes multiple design tips to create just such a garden, equipped to seduce you all season long all the years to come.

 


 

Between a Rock & a Yard Place:

Sculpture in the Garden
Once upon a time, sculpture was everywhere: shrines at home, saints at church, ancestors in cemeteries, and capitalists at work. But in the 20th Century, modernism made figurative works old fashioned and more appropriate for museums than houses. And because modernism championed iconoclasm, modern sculpture never found favor with a middle-class majority respecting security, not anarchy.

So as both Brancusi and Bernini became inappropriate (let alone unaffordable), middle-class property became strikingly sculpture-scarce. Instead, do-it-yourself birdfeeders, barbecues, and, more recently, raised beds took pride of place. Further, the contemplative calm of traditional sculpture is out of synch with our athletic esthetic of tennis courts, basketball hoops and swimming pools.

With spas serving as the new middle-class sculptures, old-fashioned art survived only at society’s outer layers. Upper classes either inherited their Gaudens or donated them to museums. Lower classes, which hadn’t the leisure, space, or money for major artwork, favored pre-fab representationals—the Virgin in a bathtub is the epitome—that were cheap to install and easy to understand.

That figurative art thrived, but only at these opposite economic poles, is but one of the strange ironies at play here. Another is that the very do-it-yourself gardening that once banished middle-class sculpture to the back of the compost bins is now embracing it as the focus of the entire yard. Garden structure is in high renaissance, and fancy fences and follies, pillars and pergolas now roost in American gardens in numbers unseen in a century. With gazing balls and plastic flamingos now avant-garde, can a socially acceptable backyard Botticelli be far behind?

In "Between a Rock and a Yard Place," Louis samples and savors our new enthusiasms for garden ornament.

 


 

It Takes One to Know One:

A Tall Guy Talks About Tall Plants
Tall plants can seem like the Mt. Everest of gardening. Delphinia need staking every inch of the way even if they only get waist-high. Just when your asters are at their biggest and bushiest, they flop over irrevocably. At the other end of agony, when will we see a "dwarf" buddleia that really is less than three feet? And because we all do need snowdrops in bloom in February, why can’t the six-inch beauties face upward so we can keep our knees out of the mud?

At 6’3", garden designer Louis Raymond is understandably interested in gorgeous plants that look him in the face, not the ankles. Join him for It Takes One to Know One, as he looks high and low for easy and unusual ways we can all raise our horticulture to new heights.

 


 

From Sows’ Ears to Silk Purses:

Gardens Before & After
It's a blessing that new gardens can mature speedily: We can forget all the sooner how awful they looked Before Beautification. In "Sows' Ears to Silk Purses," Louis Raymond fearlessly reveals the pedestrian and even horrifying state of sites that he has transformed into some of his most exciting gardens. A series of purely Before shots from his latest projects closes the talk, making "Sows' Ears II" inevitable, let alone irresistible.

As always, Raymond's lecture is packed with humor, history, and hands–on horticulture. Listeners also receive a sourcelist for books and nurseries, so they can welcome Raymond's favorite plants and tips for garden transformation to their own properties.

 


 

The Show Must Go On:

Confessions of an Exhibitionist
At the age of five, Louis Raymond stood in front of his first-grade class and demonstrated how to sprout an avocado pit. Twenty years later his audience would be opera enthusiasts, and Louis would be singing onstage, impersonating an octogenarian mythological character. And, now, another 20 years later, he’s still in the public eye—but he’s resumed his public acts of horticulture.

Decades of designing, lecturing, exhibiting, judging, managing, attending, shopping, partying, napping, and cheerleading for and at flower shows, exhibitions, show houses and garden tours from Philadelphia to Providence, Newport to Montreal have elapsed, and Louis is ready to tell it like it is!

 


 

Mow & Blow: Lawn in America
A manicured lawn is the classic hallmark of any well-tended landscape—be it suburban plot, estate sward, or golf course acreage. This same verdant patch has changed the look, ecology, and workload of our outdoors. The intensive mechanization, manpower, and chemicalization that the "perfect" lawn requires has made lawn care one of our most environmentally controversial industries.

Anti-turf tussles mounted by native-planters, xeriscapists, meadow-mavens, prairie populists and mowing-lawn rebels are challenging the wisdom and even morality of our love of the Lawn as never before. As always, Louis’ lecture is packed with humor, history, and hands-on horticulture. Guests will receive source lists for books and nurseries, so they can follow up on the engaging anecdotes, ground covers, lawn substitutes and all the other fabulous horticulture that is highlighted.

In "Mow & Blow," Louis samples the turbulent tales swarming just beneath the velvety green calm of our lawns.

 


 

Astonishing Annuals:

Four Centuries of Garden Discovery
Aside from fruit, which is usually derived from long-lived woody species, agriculture is about annuals. Grains, roots, tubers, gourds and leafy vegetables: virtually all are annuals, and beloved essentials of diets the world over.

But we are far more quixotic in our interest in ornamental annuals. Indeed, these undulate in and out of fashion from generation to generation. For Victorians, cannas were the height of taste. Until only five or so years ago, though, they were strictly exiled to municipal beds and other taste backwaters. Similarly, the deep purple foliage of perilla was a 19th century pride but a 20th century horror—better for back alleys than front borders.

Sometimes old favorites are pushed aside by new discoveries: annuals are peculiarly plentiful in tropical zones, and entirely new species with promise for garden use are discovered, even today, with appropriately "annual" frequency. And their short lifespan makes annuals the delight of plant breeders, who are perennially introducing this year’s larger-flowered petunia, weirder-leaved coleus and whiter-still marigold.

But factors as diverse as taxation policy, central heating improvement, guilt-free imperialism and scary religious analogizing have also helped us indulge in carpet bedding, castor beans and the alarmingly-titled annual known as "nun’s whip."

From new, old and never-before-seen-in-captivity plants that do something interesting in the garden in only one season, "Astonishing Annuals" traces our fickle affairs with the world of tender garden plants. Always alert to unusual species that can enhance almost anyone’s garden, Louis profiles the best annuals available today. Also included are sources for the seeds and plants shown.

 


 

Colorful Foliage?   Now You’ve Gone Too Far!
In America, autumn is the only time when everybody thinks it’s okay to have leaves that are anything but green. The rest of the year, omnipresent green foliage is one of America’s distinctive (and boring) landscape styles.

The few exceptions are as vivid as they are intriguing: purple beeches and Japanese maples are almost universally adored; Colorado blue spruces remain favorite trees despite their flea-bitten maturity and vast overplanting; and the competition for larger and more flashy hostas continues unabated. But the wider ranks of colorful foliage are either almost unexplored, or shunned as tasteless and flashy. Yellow catalpas, locusts, sambucuses, maples, dogwoods and aralias are almost unknown in America, although they are perfectly hardy and hold their color well. Purple cannas and castor beans, the darlings of Victorian bedding schemes, are only now being released from the esthetic backwater of municipal and trailer-park plantings.

In the last decade, though, America seems to be rejoining the world’s more well-hued ranks. (True, purple castor beans are still hard to find, but now their rarity only increases their allure.) In "Colorful Foliage," Louis paints a bright future for our fine-foliaged gardens.

 


 

Putting Everything in Perspective:

Formality in Your Garden
In American landscape design at the dawn of the new millennium, "formality" is as slippery a concept as "wildflower," let alone the ultimate nebulosity, the "English" garden. Some people will pronounce any garden with so much as a clipped hedge "formal," while others need a hefty dose of symmetry, expense, smartly-defined rectangles and pretension to set off their own particular Formality Alarm. We don’t question why Formality Alarms should exist at all, and why we should avoid setting them off.

It’s always revealing to try to fathom why anything at all goes in or out of fashion, be it shoulder pads or salpiglossis, cigarettes or cannas. The current American allergy to landscape formalism is all the more interesting, however, because the rest of the known gardening world thinks formalism (however it’s defined) is truly swell, as did most Americans themselves for much of our history. With the exception of Japanese and most current American design, the wider world notion is that if one perennial border is good, a perfect pair (or even an entire perennial parterre) is that much better.

In "Putting Everything in Perspective," Louis dissects some of America’s jitters that keep formality out of our landscapes and lives. After all, we don’t garden in a vacuum: there’s a lot of culture in horticulture. Pressures as diverse as native plant societies, the Arbor Day Foundation, advancing lawn-mower technology, anti-elitism and snobbism, automobile culture, sex roles and the prevalence of the putatively anti-city and pro-informality suburban life have all contributed to our Formality Phobia.

 


 

Everything but the Kitchen Sink:

Recipes for Great Mixed Borders
Remember those naive days when we all thought that if we only planted enough perennials we could have a colorful garden all season long? Soon enough we’d learned the folly of perennial-heavy gardens in the sweltering heat and shivering cold of the typical American garden. And in the process, we’d already gotten way too much training in the deadheading, staking, dividing and watering that many perennials require.

The secret to long-lasting beauty in gardens is to specialize in everything but perennials. To revel in garden-worthy shrubs, trees, grasses, annuals, vegetables, vines, bulbs and tubers—and then add only a few honest-to-god perennials so common folk will still realize you’ve got a real "garden." Leave the platoons of delphiniums where they belong—on your next trip to Scotland or Seattle. Instead, enjoy the wealth of "un-perennials" that can make your East Coast garden both realistic and ravishing.

 


 

Can’t See the Trees for the Forest:

Why You Have Too Many Trees

& What You Can Do About It
America is more heavily forested than at any time since before the Civil War. This is a good thing for our forests, streetscapes and world ecology. But it’s usually a disaster for home landscapes, where owners typically face too many trees—and too many mediocre trees at that.


And with both the emotions and practices of tree preservation so successfully advocated in recent decades by environmental and wilderness groups, homeowners often feel that any tree at all should be retained, regardless of its quality or its effect on the beauty and functionality of the property. Worse, tree-plagues (elm, chestnut, hemlock, pine, American dogwood) understandably capture the public’s sympathy, fostering the sense that all trees—any trees, it seems—are fragile creatures, in need of nurturing.

In "Can’t See the Trees for the Forest," Louis tracks the historical ebb and flow of America’s love affair with trees in general, and specific trees in particular, to highlight how we’ve brought about our current challenge of too many mediocre trees. He also details a baker’s dozen of the most desirable and unusual trees for today’s home landscapes. After all, the last thing anybody needs is another sugar maple. Why not consider a dove tree, say, or a golden-leafed catalpa?

Lecture attendees receive a complementary Learn More About It sheet, listing helpful books on trees as well as sources for all the trees mentioned in the lecture.

 


 

Twenty Terrific Trees:

Selected Spectacular Species for Sale
This lecture is designed specifically as a fund and profile-raising event. This program has sold scores of trees for several non-profit organizations, and has broadened the development base of each host organization by tapping into an entirely new community.

In this hour-long presentation of slides and asides, Louis profiles about 20 trees carefully selected for the host organization’s constituency and climate. Trees suited to coastal, exposed, shady or other demanding locations are included, as are trees with particularly exotic blossoms or habits, trees with regional or historical significance, and trees that for no good reason seem simply to have fallen by the wayside of arboreal fashion.

In the case of organizations with outstanding or unusual specimens on the grounds, these trees may be particularly highlighted. A recent host organization had a beloved beech tree on the property, so some rare beeches were featured as the close of the lecture. Small and grand-sized trees are considered, and different treatments of trees, such as standarding, coppicing and pollarding, are discussed.

The lecture itself is publicized as a fund-raising event, so a reception before or after the talk establishes a festive note, validates the lecture as a worthy fundraiser, and enables attendees to get to know Louis one-on-one. Louis’ distinctive combination of enthusiasm, knowledge and charm ensure the success of the event.

Guests are encouraged to buy trees to plant at their homes or to donate to a host organization property. The trees are usually distributed at a special Saturday morning in the upcoming planting season; and this might also be structured as yet another event with its own fundraising potential.

 

 

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.—Cicero
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