Chanticleer, a garden outside Philadelphia, is one of the notable public gardens in the U.S. It's very much a garden in progress (but aren't all gardens in progress?). On my first visit a week ago, I was bowled over.
This is an informal landscape garden with several major "events" as you walk its circuit - a large irregular circle with byways and diversions. The formal elements are limited to the symmetrical courtyard gardens around the houses - even these are bursting their constraints - and the Tennis Court Garden, which is lent some formality by a center staircase leading to it, a central axis of grass and symmetrically laid out planting beds, which are so rich with exuberant life and variety, even at the end of summer, they don't feel formal at all.
This map from the Chanticleer website shows the garden as a large circle with several detours. You'll need to click on the map to see the details.
Chanticleer bills itself as a 'pleasure garden' and it is that. Plenty of seating, in private nooks and in the open landscape, invites visitors to rest and while away the hours in this idyllic environment. On my visit on a Thursday afternoon near the end of September, many visitors were doing just that, quietly sitting in some of the choicest spots. Chanticleer also has a playful side - ceramic bamboo canes adorned by bright red Chanticleer 'rooster combs' (the rooster is Chanticleer's identifying symbol), visual jokes such as a large sofa and 'easy chairs' made of heavy stone slabs, a bright red row of custom-made lounging chairs, water fountains carved out of wood and stone, all contrived to bring a twinkle to the eye. Even on this quite day, there were many children.
Click on the photo below for a slide show of the garden.