This Week’s Podcast: In Love with Magnolias — Andrew Bunting
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Andrew Bunting became famous among horticulturists for being among the first gardeners to use tropical plants in seasonal containers and even in garden beds. He did that during his 25+ years at the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Now, he is back in Illinois, where he grew up, as the assistant director at the Chicago Botanic Garden and director of collections. It was in Illinois where, as a teenager, he fell in love with a specific woody plant genus.
The Plant Lover’s Guide series is an encyclopedic publishing collaboration between Kew Gardens in England and Timber Press in Portland, Oregon. These books are devoted to a genus or category of plants, for example, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias, Snowdrops, Tulips, Dahlias – you get the picture. The books are written by experts on the featured plants, and rather than being dry monographs, they are personal and include much of the experience of the authors. There are sections describing individual species and cultural advice as well as design advice and propagation techniques. My only caveat is that some of the British authors do not always make the transition to US gardens.
The latest addition is by Andrew Bunting, and is definitely American. It is The Plant Lover’s Guide to Magnolias. If I were to describe the book, I would say it is a memoir combined with a compendium of spectacular members of a beloved genus. You follow Andrew from his early sightings of Magnolia x soulangeana flowers and how he came to love the genus adding over 100 different colorful trees and shrubs to the Swarthmore campus. We talk about tropical-looking big-leaf M. ‘Ashei’ (above, photo Lisa Strovinsky) and Andrew’s favorite yellow, ‘Judy Zuk’ (right, photo J.C. Raulston Arboretum).