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Louis Raymond
Landscape Designer

Louis raymond in one of his gardensNo one could envision the way Louis’ talents would flourish. But by the time he was five, it was clear that both the arts and sciences would play significant roles in his future. A four-pack of ageratum was a sought-after birthday gift, while he opted to spend his leisure time in piano and violin lessons, choir practice and jazz rehearsals. Yet with a Father who was a large-animal veterinarian, a dietician Mother, a biomedical engineer brother, and a chemist sister, clearly the sciences were integral to his development.

Twenty-five years later, Louis’ academic studies and artistic talents had yielded three baccalaureate degrees (in Chemistry, Voice and Piano), several years of medical studies at the University of Pittsburgh, a flourishing career as an opera and concert singer, and frequent assignments as a free-lance writer for New York glossies.

Throughout these stages Louis had continued to do what he loved best: to plant, grow and nourish all things green. A leading regional theatre company had been established on the grounds of a farm in Rhode Island, and the company’s directors asked Louis to design several gardens on the property as part of a multi-million-dollar renovation. Theatergoers raved about his landscape designs and horticultural choices.

The gardens became as much of an attraction as the theatrical productions, and soon Louis had offers to landscape private estates and corporate spaces. Projects multiplied as Louis’ reputation blossomed. The buzz traveled to Boston, and germinated an offer from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society for Louis to host their first-ever commercial videotape of Boston’s New England Flower Show.

The New England Flower Show is the third largest in the world, covering more than six acres and attracting up to 200,000 enthusiasts annually. After having demonstrated his flair for the role of video host, the society then charged Louis with the responsibilities of another "first": show designer. From 1998 to 2003, Louis had complete oversight on each show’s 50+ gardens, entailing assembling the roster of landscapers, review and approval of design concepts, generation of floor plans, and design and implementation of special display gardens. He resigned the position after six successful seasons because his own projects were taking him out of the country with increasing frequency.

While Louis’ science background informs his horticultural knowledge and supports his vision, he remains a true showman, employing dramatic flair in creating his landscape designs. He tantalizes and teases and, ultimately, reveals and rewards—with views, vistas and spaces that resonate with visceral impact. Because it’s not simply multi-hued flowers assembled into pretty pictures that fascinates Louis.

The horticulture serves as the "cast of vocalists" assembled on an operatic stage. Just as the singers alone do not an opera make, so horticulture does not a landscape design produce. There must be form, shape, a palette of colors, textures and nuances. Louis assembles a "complete cast": bulldozer and backhoe, stonemason and carpenter receive their orders long in advance of opening night. The set is constructed: earth, rock and vegetation are moved and modified to create the setting. Scenery and props are designed, and the options are myriad: ornamental pool, flagstone terrace, sculpture, follies, outdoor furniture, perhaps a swimming pool and tennis court. And as form and framework are taking shape, the orchestra is in the pit, rehearsing the score. Likewise Louis’ contractors are preparing the ground, blending loam, compost and other elements to support and nourish.

Only then are the singers—the gorgeous, diverse plants—integrated into the full scope of the work. The colors and textures of the varied voice categories harmonize to produce an ensemble of such lasting grandeur and beauty that one can only say Bravo!

Reprinted from Meadow Moments courtesy of Nathaniel Winthrop

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet—James Oppenheim
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