Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles


Wire Vine in Winter

In milder climates, it's easier to tell if a plant is dead in the winter. With only a modest challenge to remain green during a season that is merely chilly, not arctic, if the plant is brown, it's usually a goner. For plants in climates with more intense winters, this basic Green : Alive / Brown : Dead thinking must sometimes be tossed. Plants stay alive on their own terms, leaving the conceptual catch-up to us.

Muehlenbeckia axillaris Nancy Taylor overall 012117 320

This is a large colony of wire vine—most often seen as a container annual, or a rampant but beautiful groundcover in Zones 8 and 9—that has been thriving for many years here in southern New England. The foliage of the upper reaches is green, while that of the lower is brown. For this plant in this site in this Zone 7a climate, its reality is Green : High / Brown : Low / Either Color, High or Low : Just Fine. What gives?

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The Best Season Ever: First Flowers of the Paperwhites

How can it be that I hadn't ever forced paperwhites before a friend brought over a pot of them earlier this month? Their fragrance is shockingly powerful and voluptuous; it's really a slap-in-the-face astonishment.

Narcissus papyraceus upper growth 011817 320

I'll force a few pots each winter from now on—if for no other reason than to see how they perform when watered with diluted gin or vodka, which is reported to keep the leaves and flowering stems dramatically shorter. Finally, I have a reason to up my annual consumption of martinis from just one or two: I'll also have the company of a plant that benefits from a sip.

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The Best Season Ever: Paddle Plant in Bloom

Shorter days in fall and winter, combined with comparatively chilly fifty-degree nights in the greenhouse, inspired my colony of paddle plants to soar into bloom. Vegetative stems are squat, with closely spaced pairs of round leaves that are, indeed, the size and thickness of paddles—or flapjacks or cabbage. When each stem is a year or two old, a tall flowering stalk emerges from its tip. Mine developed so quickly that they hit the translucent roof of the greenhouse before I noticed. 

Kalanchoe luciae overall 010517 320

I put the container on a lower bench, bringing the entire colony into right-at-hand view in the process. And hooray for that: a paddle plant in bloom is a strange beast that deserves to be appreciated in every detail.

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Must Have: 'Gold Standard' Scholar Tree

Gardening would be intolerable without the certainties: Plant this, and it will thrive. Prune that, and it will become bushier. But a garden of only certainties would be a bore—while a garden of only surprises would be a nightmare. It's the balance of the two that rings the bells the best.

Styphnolobium japonicum Gold Standard limb National Arboretum 122616 320

Hooray for plants, such as this gold-stemmed scholar tree, that provide both certainty and surprise.

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Must Have: Wintersweet

For humans, December is a peak month for parties. It's the depth of dormancy for most plants hardy to zone 6 and colder but, for a few contrarians, the season's short days and sharp winds are encouraging: December is their month to party, too.

Chimonanthus praecox National Arboretum flowers fingers 122616 320

Here's a stem of a Chinese shrub known in the West as wintersweet. The flowers and buds may look pale and scattered, but no matter: this plant's December celebration is about fragrance, not appearance. Spicy and sweet, to me the wafting perfume recalls carrot cake smothered in cream-cheese frosting.

Wintersweet won't debut in my own gardens until 2017; this picture is one of several lusty specimens in flower by Christmas at The National Arboretum in Washington, DC. What have I been waiting for?

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Fabulous in the Fall: Teton Pyracantha

Pyracantha fruits are profuse and durable. And they're at their best all fall, while so many other plants slide into winter dullness. Fruits of this Teton cultivar are unusually pale; although some cultivars have yellow fruits, most are deep orange or veering to red.

Pyracantha x Teton pomes fingers 121516 320

The shrub itself is a mixed blessing, being fast-growing, less hardy than you'd like, and requiring pruning—but with vicious thorns that punish any lack of concentration in the process. Every pyracantha is fertilized, if only minutely, by the blood of its human caretaker. But for those fruits—and the many ways the shrub can be trained—this shrub is worth it.

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