Monday, August 17, 2009

Chanticleer revisited

Over a long 4th of July weekend, Phil and I drove down to Chanticleer, just outside Philadelphia. On my first visit last September, I was in a frenzy of plant madness and couldn't properly see the garden. This time, I realized why Chanticleer bills itself "a pleasure garden." It's a fun place, with wild juxtapositions of color and texture, risky plantings you may not like, or you may love. At least they'll make you stop and think.

Below an artistic joke: a grove of ceramic bamboo, with red rooster's combs randomly spurting out.

The "Serpentine" - last year it was planted with bronze sorghum; this year I'm not sure what's coming up. Beans?

Sporobolus heterolepis, a favorite in many parts of the garden, always brings a smile to my face. It's a stunning grass, but humorous too, a cartoon mop head. A buried gnome?

This area warms my heart because the designers decided to make the most of a wet area infested with Equisetum arvense (Horsetail). Bowles Golden sedge for some color highlights. Even some weeds.

Several beautifully carved bridges add an artful tone. This one evokes a feeling of magic or a fairy tale world.

In an out-of-the-way place, someone has been playing with paving made of clay tiles and slate buried on edge.

A sunburst in stone ...

And another, cruder than the first, but perhaps just waiting for a little gravel and age to bring it to completion.

The water wheel accompanied by Thalictrum and ferns ...

An entire field of Sporobolis heterolepis. Last year it was an unbroken expanse; this year it has a path mown through, with Echinacea dotted here and there.

Another Echinacea at the top of the hill. I don't know which one, but it has hairy stems and leaves.

A humorous planting, with skinny Rudbeckia maxima in the background, and rotund verbascums toward the front. Of course, "front" is relative since you can approach this island planting from any direction.

A stone sofa with a stone TV remote just visible resting on the right arm (your left). To either side are stone easy chairs.

One of Chanticleer's many creative groundcover plantings, here decorating the entrance stair to the Tennis Court Garden.

Lots of gold in this garden. Cercis 'Hearts of Gold' like a fountain behind a veil of Calamagrostis a. 'Karl Foerester'.

Still in the Tennis Court Garden, a golden Catalpa behind Salvia sclarea (Clary sage).

Another bed in the Tennis Court Garden. I think I liked the plantings last year more, but I also enjoy knowing I'll always find Chanticleer trying something new.

One of several hand-crafted boxes holding plant lists.

The "formal" courtyard garden behind the main house - more exuberant gold ...

Experiment in color and texture near the swimming pool. Last year a deep purple form of cotton was a featured plant in this area.

At the top of a hill is the stone 'ruin', rebuilt where an estate house was torn down. Here, a stone trough with tender plantings.

A very successful naturalistic garden at the top of the hill. The orange of butterfly weed carries the eye around on a visual exploration.

A weeping hemlock has its own personality.

In fact, many of the exotics are almost like characters in some story I don't yet know. You could have a relationship with this yucca.

An unidentified lilly ... but an appropriate symbol for this pleasure garden.


  1. That field of Sporobolus heterolepis is just incredible. Beautiful. I also like what was done with the slate turned on edge, especially protruding up out of the ground many inches. I wonder if the dropseed could be incorporated? Gives me ideas, anyway.

  2. I like the slate-on-edge too. Thinking about "replicating" it. I was just on your blog. Looking great. You must be spending a lot of $$$ on plants, or have they just grown a lot?

  3. Chanitcleer is one of the best gardens I have ever visited. My favorite section is the Ruin with its eerily playful water features. Gardening genius!

    Les @

  4. Yes, those weird faces in the fountain/pool are eerie. I really like the rather formal grouping of "Sky Pencil" hollies in the middle of the Ruin. But on this visit I spent most of my time outside the Ruin where the naturalistic garden was at its height. I don't recall its even being there last year.

  5. I'm so glad to discover your blog. Always in search for interesitn gardens, and this place is so close to you house! Thanks much!

  6. Thanks for the compliment. Both? They've grown crazily fast this year (on just compost), and seem to have blooomed earlier--my ironweed was done by August, alas. But I also do spend too much money on plants--not on getting big ones, but just on getting them. I'm looking at this garden as a trial run of what things I might want to grow on a larger plot in a few years, when I expect a new teaching position will force a relocation, so I feel a pinch to garden fast (plus I'm excitedly new at it).

  7. Just discovered your blog and it looks like there's a lot to catch up on! I've heard so much about Chanticleer but thought of it as strictly formal--was glad to see the whimsy in the bamboo sculpture and those great stone designs. I can see I need to visit my sister (~50 miles away in Elmer, NJ) again some time!

  8. Benjamin, I too have noticed different bloom times this year. The Rudbeckia maxima have bloomed and finished earlier than last year, when they accompanied the Joe Pye Weed. This year they finished just as the Joe Pye came into full bloom. We had a very cool, wet summer, until August, so I'm attributing some of the variation to the weather. But who knows?

  9. Monica, not formal at all. Well, the court yard behind the main house, maybe, but the character of Chanticleer is a kind of joyous exuberance. Really not formal at all.

  10. I dunno why I thought formal--something about how the people I spoke with described it (or the people themselves, perhaps, LOL!). I much prefer "joyous exuberance" -- is there any time f year you recommend over another?

  11. I've only visited in July and September, but I'm sure it's great at any time of the year. I know lots of bulbs are featured in spring, and fall must be extraordinary. The garden is 30+ acres so the trees should be very colorful; and I'm sure the plantings are designed to hold interest well into fall. I think the Chanticleer web site provides seasonal information.

  12. I think that the unidentified lily is Lilium 'Citronella', distinguishable by its almost black flower stems.

  13. Thanks for the lily id. I love the black stems.



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