August 10, 2020

“Pyrotechnic” Gardener Digs Formalism

Landscape designer Louis Raymond - March 18 at Essex Meadows

Landscape designer Louis Raymond conducts an illustrated and animated presentation on that perennial horticultural question “To be Formal – or Not to be Formal” as part of the Essex Library’s Centerbrook Architecture Series.

Raymond’s exposition, which is formally titled “Putting Everything in Perspective: Formality in Your Garden,” is on Friday March 18 at the Essex Meadows Auditorium from 7 to 8 p.m.  Admission is free; please call the Essex Library at (860) 767-1560 to register.

Raymond and his exuberant garden designs have appeared in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, House & Garden, Metropolitan Home, and Design New England.  His broad plant palette ensures that his gardens go from peak to peak Spring through Fall, while his acute sense of space combines with a keen interest in foliage and form, bark and berry, to ensure that his landscapes maintain their interest right through the Winter. 

A flower lover at the core, he’s nonetheless unafraid to speak plainly about the impracticality of relying on flowers alone for garden interest.  “In New England, it’s a triumph to have even one thing in bloom in any given week, month after month after month.  So it’s best to think of flowers as the icing on the cake.  Delicious indeed, but the heart of your garden’s appeal must be in its plants’ form and foliage, as well as overall layout.”

Raymond served for six years as the design manager of the New England Spring Flower Show, which draws more than 100,000 people a year, and his portfolio includes work from Montreal and Manhattan to the Caribbean.  Favorite projects include New York’s legendary Turtle Bay Gardens, the eye-popping gardens for owners of a rare Gustav Stickley house in Wellesley, MA, and a massive waterfront estate in Narragansett, RI.  For other projects, visit his website,

Raymond is not shy about expressing his beliefs: “Naturalism is for wusses.  People use it as an excuse to plant things willy-nilly.”  While he has always had a fondness for plants and gardening, Raymond, who is 56, took the scenic route to his current vocation.  By the time he was 25 he had already earned baccalaureate degrees in chemistry, piano, and voice—and still found time for a couple of years of medical school along the way— before launching successful careers as an opera singer and a freelance writer.   By 30 he had retired from both to take up the trowel as a garden designer.

One reviewer described the riotously-expansive gardens at Raymond’s country home in Rhode Island as “pyrotechnic.”  Many hundreds of varieties of indigenous, exotic, and tropical plants cavort within its strictly-formal layout.  It’s where Raymond celebrates both his successes and failures, learning from each.  “To have a garden of this intensity is freakishly rare,” he said.  “I can only do it because it’s my business, so I don’t have to hire myself.  My gardens are a big lab to figure out every possibility for what we can grow here in New England.”

The Centerbrook Architecture Series is sponsored by Centerbrook Architects (