Landscape architect Richard Horsman outside The Locust
By Robin Jovanovich
Fresh out of graduate school at the University of Michigan, where he studied landscape architecture, Richard Horsman set off for job interviews in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. He never made it to Boston. After leaving an interview with Peter Rowland in Rye, he knew this was where he wanted to work.
“Years later, when I decided to open my own office, Peter supported me,” said Horsman. “He didn’t want to take on projects in Rye because he lived here, but I saw no reason not to.” They still meet for lunch regularly.
Horsman can’t remember a time when he wasn’t drawn to the outdoors. Growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania, his father, who worked in office supply, always had gardens. “I grew vegetables and entered competitions. In rural communities, you made your own fun.”
At Delaware Valley University, he majored in Ornamental Agriculture.
In Horsman’s 52-year career, he has assembled a list of favorite plants that is 12 pages long that probably warrants publication, as he is a man of considerable knowledge and reputation. But, as he explained, you plant what’s appropriate for the site.
He has long leaned towards native plants and will always include a variety in a residential garden plan. In his first consultation with a client, he will ask them what colors they like and why and where they hope to incorporate them.
He has a thick album of plant photographs he rarely shares with clients these days, as they are just as likely to show him pictures of plants and trees they’ve found on Google.
For decades, Horsman and his family lived on Brookdale Place. “It was a tight piece of property, but I found room for lilacs, Rose of Sharon, hydrangea, and azalea, and covered the fence with clematis.”
While he mostly works independently, he has worked on several projects with developer Paul Varsames. “Paul’s that rare developer whose work is high-quality and who puts money into the landscape and doesn’t just leave it up to the homeowner.”
Their working relationship began in 2008 when Varsames asked him to do parking and site work and then the landscaping for a north Purchase Street development. “Paul lent me office space.”
That arrangement continues, but on Locust Avenue where Varsames moved his office before starting work on the Locust, his swell eight-condominium complex in the heart of downtown Rye. The planting plan is in the early stages because the construction is ongoing, but there is a lovely row of red maples along Locust Avenue, a Japanese maple along the driveway, and the rhododendron are in full bloom. “My goal was to soften the urban landscape.”
One recent residential project that stands out for him involved turning a whole backyard into a garden. “It’s a mix of flowering evergreens and deciduous trees. I’m particularly fond of the sitting area I created behind the plants which is nicely shaded by trees,” he said.
Whatever landscape design Richard Horsman creates, you can count on it having canopy trees, year-round interest, and timeless beauty.