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

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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Fabulous in the Fall: Coral Sun Koelreuteria

Even the straight species of Koelreuteria paniculata is unique: it's the only hardy summer-flowering tree whose blossoms are butter yellow, not white. Below-left is its Coral Sun cultivar, which does everything but flower. Given the spectacular show the flowers of the species make, it's incredible indeed to suggest that with Coral Sun, you won't miss them. 

Koelreuteria paniculata Coral Sun Canna Wyoming Galphemia gracilis closer 101616 320

Coral Sun provides eye-popping and complex displays each season of the year, involving separate shows of the leaf blades and their petioles, as well as the bark of its young stems. Compared to such dextrous versatility, mere flowers would be so obvious. Here, then, the first of many looks at this remarkable tree.

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Fabulous in the Fall: Frosted 'Rock Garden' Holly

Plants differ in their ability to display frost, snow, and ice instead of just being battered, broken, or buried by them. One sunny morning after a recent and sharply cold night, just the edges of the leaves of this dwarf holly were encrusted with dense ice crystals. For a few hours until the sun's warmth melted it, the frost brought spectacular white variegation to the foliage of a shrub that's normally solid green.

Ilex x Rock Garden close up 120616 320

Why is there frost just on the leaf edges? And why frost at all, not solid ice? Details of the plant, its place, and the weather determine the particulars of the show. This time, the synergy was toward the aesthetic. Hooray!

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Fabulous in the Fall: Weeping Dwarf Siberian Elm

Gardens are the result of countless choices made day by day and decade by decade. Which plants? How to handle them? What layout of beds, pathways, and grass? When to switch to Plans B, C, and D?


The weeping habit of this dwarf Siberian elm is so intense that I couldn't resist the project of growing it long-term in a container. Not this cracked black nursery pot, mind you. Nor would the ultimate habit be the current weeping-just-on-this-side one.

Ulmus pumila Dwarf Weeper overall 120316 320

What with brittle wood and insect-ruined foliage, Siberian elms are bad actors when planted as street trees and windbreaks. No one should plant their full-sized forms and, to my knowledge, there are none locally. So perhaps a crazy little potted specimen could escape the bugs, while showcasing the quirky features. Many choices will be made along the way.

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Fabulous in the Fall: Variegated Shrub-Mint & Prairie Dock

Fall foliage is so much the province of woody plants that we're shocked—shocked!—that there are even a few slaggards. Perennials are the yin to this yang: only a few provide a credible show of fall foliage. Below, a vivid mash-up of prairie dock (the huge still-green leaves) and variegated shrub-mint. Spring and summer, the leaves of the latter were green splashed with white. For fall, most of that green has been ditched for pink and dark purple that would make any coleus proud.

Silphium terebinthenaceum Leucosceptrum japonicum Mountain Madness 101716 320

Even as this perennial's foliage shouts that fall is here, its spikes of fluffy white flowers continue to develop, seemingly, in merry defiance. Like the prairie dock leaves, the shrub-mint flowers remain center stage regardless of merely cool weather; only serious frost brings their curtains down.

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