Character & Charm

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Natural woodland, bright splashes of seasonal color and a lush, tropical paradise setting create a sense of peacefulness and relaxation in this outdoor “Landscape Museum.”

Story by Ann Butenas   |   Photography by Matt Kocourek


Built on a 12-acre estate site, this garden arboretum is home to George & Judy Butler of the Butler Transport Company and has undergone numerous phases of landscape renovations over the years, continually enhancing its natural beauty. Located near 179th and Antioch in southern Johnson County, it could easily pass as an outdoor museum, as it offers a veritable treasure trove of elements designed for relaxation and bliss.

The concept behind the variety of landscape highlights was to create a plan that blended with the natural wooded environment, while also providing additional seasonal color interests along with plenty of opportunities for entertainment. When the Butlers purchased the home from the former owners, they hit the ground running when it came to the landscaping measures desired to create its wonderous charm and appeal. Partnering with Steve Heichel, Landscape Designer, BSLA, at Rosehill Gardens has allowed them to maintain their landscaping commitment to their estate grounds with ultimate perfection.



“We’ve completed several phases of design and enhancement to the property since they moved in five years ago,” noted Heichel, whose passion for the project and unparalleled expertise is evident at every turn. “The layout is indicative of a woodland retreat, blending into natural while creating beautiful sweeps of color and other visual elements to charm the senses. The homeowners wanted to create a relaxing oasis to come home to every day.”

As you approach the long and meandering asphalt driveway (widened to help the couple’s RV navigate several tight curves) the entry gates offer that sense of arrival, inviting you to follow the path to the dramatic beauty beyond, effortlessly drawing you to the main house. At the gates, you are greeted by layers of color and interest, courtesy of a border of Walkers Low Catmint that artfully define the entry beds along with mixed shrubs and perennials, all framed against the native walnuts and Hornbeams of the woodland. As if majestically choreographed to enhance the visual detail of the gardens, the beds were layered with plants of varying heights to provide depth, along with seasonal interest and variety to the landscape.



“The colorful splash of chartreuse moneywort borders the bed and accent the red drift roses behind,” noted  Heichel. “Sweeps of Incrediball and Limelight Hydrangeas provide a long lasting bright mid-ground planting along with accents of purple cleome for additional summer impact. All of this is displayed against the stately backdrop of Norway Spruce, White Pine, and Arborvitae to provide year-round screening to the property.”

Framing the circle driveway is the bold red color of cannas, elegantly backdropped by Aspen and Colorado Spruce. (No, Dorothy, it doesn’t appear we are in Kansas anymore!) For added pops of whimsy and charm, several decorated bird houses and statuary throughout the   entry provide just the added touch needed. A creek runs through the front third of the property and woods and continues under the part of the driveway that has been leveled and supports a bridge reinforced with wood guardrails. A 100-foot “barn” sits slightly away from the house and is used to store the couple’s RV, motorbikes, four-wheelers, classic cars and other “toys.”



The backyard pool area is the equivalent of a lush, tropical paradise. (Yes, those are real large palms that are replaced annually.) Ferns and myriad of blooming sweeps of color are perfectly integrated around the boulders and meandering waters of the hot tub and pool. Heichel and his team also re-created the decks, stonework and boulders, as well as added stone steps and terraces. The space also boasts a heated cabana house, an outdoor grill and seating area with a mylar enclosure.



“The pool was poured around several large boulders and bordered with rough cut limestone coping, designed with a natural irregular shape and Caribbean blue color  selected to create a ‘lagoon’ feel,” explained Heichel. “The hot tub is also framed by the large boulders and cascades into the pool over the rocks to maintain the theme.”

Adding to the natural informal style, Heichel incorporated large, five-foot wide weathered limestone steps to perfectly complement the bright sweeps of seasonal color. To continue the theme of spectacular color, large pots highlight multi-colored leaves of variegated crotons and dwarf date palms backdropped by sweeps of sunpatiens and lantana in the surrounding beds. The glazed pottery and blue gazing ball add a fun and playful touch to the scene.

Gorgeous accent lighting abounds in just the right proportions, giving a new layer of visual appeal as the sun begins to set.



“Lighting is an integral portion of the landscape, as it accents the living spaces and color beds throughout the landscape areas, reflecting in the pool and providing a shimmering view of the festive colors of the cabana and plantings,” emphasized Heichel.

When immersed in this magical palate of natural wonder, one senses what it might be like to stand in a botanical heaven.

“This is such a wonderful experience for us to create and  maintain such a beautiful space,” reflected Heichel. “This is the place to which all of the Butler’s adult children and grandkids come to play, as there are plenty of opportunities for fun and enjoying the beauty of the property.”

Project by Rosehill Gardens


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