A Decade in the Garden with Horticulturist Andrew Bunting


Andrew Bunting has worked at all the best places in the horticultural world – Chanticleer, Morton Arboretum, Chicago Botanic Garden, not to mention gardens in England and New Zealand – and has been the curator of the Scott Arboretum for 10 years now.  All of which makes him sound old and he’s not. He also runs a landscape design/install business, so he has to know what works.  

I first met Andrew when I visited the Arboretum to hear all about lawn replacement, but got to hear the story of his own garden more recently when he spoke at a local public garden.  The highlights are the photos, of course, plus these notes:

  • He says a “pretty good garden” cost 10-20% of the value of the home.  Shocked?  He’s spent MORE on his than he paid for his house, but that includes redoing his garage into a $130K “summer house”.  The back flagstone patio, done in his first year there (1999) cost $10K.  And so it goes.  
  • He loves Japanese holly as a fast-growing alternative to boxwoods and great hedge plant, especially ‘Nigra’.  Another great hedge plant is the Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Gulftide,” which has fragrant white flowers in fall.
  • He’s very pro-sod because it gives an instant look, doesn’t cost much more than seed, and can be partied on 10 days after installation.
  • He loves Thuja ‘Green Giant’.  (Me, too.)
  • When a gorgeous old Japanese maple died he chose the American yellowwood to replace it.  Why?  It’s fast-growing, has a good winter habit and lovely silver bark, great yellow foliage in the fall, and a profusion of pendant white fragrant flowers in the spring.
  • He uses lots of bananas, cannas, other nonhardy tropicals that winter over in his basement.  Favorite banana?  Abyssinian ‘Maurellii,” which grows to 15 feet.
  • A fantastic cheap patio surface is one-half-inch granite gravel.
  • The surface of his summer house is concrete but stained a really, cool color – like a dark brown leather.



  1. 10 to 20 % of the house value ?
    Andrew Bunting has it right.

    A well crafted stone or colored textured concrete flooring is more labor intensive and the materials are more expensive per square foot to install than an interior linoleum or an engineered wood floor.

    Here in the west we use our outdoor spaces just as much as our interior spaces 365 days a year.
    In some cases/ locations we use the outdoor rooms more than the interiors for cooking, lounging, working and sleeping.
    So it is no wonder that we spend an appropriate amount of money on creating comfortable attractive exterior rooms.
    10 to 20 % of the homes value – realistic. .. ( and that doesn’t include those silly wood burning fire pits and outdoor kitchens that Garden Rant is so fond of )

  2. I love the dark green on the house trim! I think plants look amazing against dark-colored houses and don’t understand why people are so afraid of paint in deep shades.

    If I were going to spend 10% of the value of my house on my yard, a swimming pool would definitely be involved.

  3. I have heard that landscaping can increase your home value by 10-20%. Of course what people don’t tell you, that once the gardens have gone wild (like from the home being empty for years with no one doing anything to the beds) it is not an asset. It got me a steal on my house, of course, I am putting a lot of work (and some money) into making it look better.

    I hope my house looks just as good in a few more years.

  4. There’s no way I ever want to put myself through the torture of adding up what I’ve spent on our landscape. I think he’s probably right with that figure, but there’s no way I want my husband to figure that out!


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