After spending a leisurely, brilliantly sunny afternoon meandering the extensive grounds of Chanticleer, I can attest to its self description as “A Pleasure Garden!” Every path and each new corner led to some fresh delight that made me gasp in awe. If I were to write about everything my daughter and I saw that day, it would take you as much time to read it as we spent there, and, beautiful as it was, nobody wants that! In spite of my best efforts, though, this is a long post and should perhaps be digested over two or three readings, along with a cup of tea and a snack! (Update: In case this scares you off, WordPress says this is a mere eight minute read!)
Are you ready? Here we go!
Chanticleer consists of sixteen different garden areas, many of which merge seamlessly into the next. The paths between the gardens are thick with seasonal plants. May is the month for alliums and columbine!
At Chanticleer, you will find no handy-dandy plant labels identifying species and cultivars. On the one hand, I, who very much like to know what’s what, found that frustrating. On the other hand, it helps maintain a naturalistic setting. It is rare at Chanticleer to find a bed devoted to one specific flower or plant; almost all of the gardens are stuffed full of mixed plantings. Each garden does have a dedicated box containing guides to what is blooming that month, and there is an extensive plant list available on the Chanticleer website. In addition, I saw many groundskeepers busy weeding, watering, and planting, and every one of them was kind and willing to answer my questions.
The path from the Teacup Garden leads to the Tennis Court Garden, where, oddly enough, a tennis court once stood. The Chanticleer website describes this garden as such: “The garden now retains its namesake purpose in its rectangular outline and the arc-like shapes of the beds suggestive of a racket’s strokes.”
Chanticleer House and Terrace feature some slightly more formal beds and container groupings. The view of the hillside gardens from the terrace is stellar. There’s a pool, too, which we learned that the interns and other staff are allowed to use after hours! It did look VERY inviting! (I apologize; somehow, out of 300 pictures I took that day, there is nary a one of the pool!)
Chanticleer was built as a country home for the Rosengarten family in 1913, and eventually became their year-round residence. As time went on, they bought neighboring property for their son and his wife (site of the Ruin Garden) and built a house for their daughter (current visitor’s center). The son arranged for the formation of the Chanticleer Foundation upon his death (1990), and in 1993, the garden opened. The Rosengartens took the name from a novel by Thackeray, The Newcomes, which featured a home called Chanticlere. The word itself means rooster, and one can find rooster motifs in many places around the estate.
The Elevated Walkway is a gently sloped, comfortable path that winds its way from Chanticleer House to the lower gardens, and it is every bit as interesting as the rest of the gardens.
The Elevated Walkway led us to the Serpentine, inspired by the Tuscan countryside. The gardeners at Chanticleer trained willow trees into gnarled shapes to resemble olive trees (again, can you believe I didn’t take a picture?), and the curved beds are filled with different agricultural crops each year.
At this point my daughter and I took a break and ate our lunch at the picnic area near the Teacup Garden. Do you need to get up and stretch your legs or refresh your beverage before we resume the tour?
The Ruin Garden sits on the foundation of the Minder House, built in 1925 for the Rosengartens’ son, and razed in 1999 to construct the garden. It consists of three rooms. The library includes giant stone books, one of which is titled “Knowledge”. There’s also a great hall with a large water table and a pool room.
Exiting the library, we come to the top of the Gravel Garden, a large, sloping bed that faces the hot sun most of the day. It features plants that require little in the way of moisture, all set in gravel mulch. I was particularly interested in this bed as I’m working to construct a much smaller version on the back hill at my own house.
I wish I had thought to take a picture of some of the troughs used in the Gravel Garden. There were several, mostly filled with succulents.
Finally, allow me to lead you down the primrose path. I unabashedly oohed and aahed my way through the Asian Woods and the Creek Garden! Mid-May is prime time for Primula japonica at Chanticleer!
Have you seen enough? No? Me either. How about just one more?
I could have strolled that path for another hour, but alas, closing time approached. What a beautiful day my daughter and I had! I can’t wait to see it again in late September as part of the Garden Fling.
Chanticleer is located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, about twenty miles northwest of Center City, Philadelphia, in climate zone 6b. It is open Wednesdays-Sundays, beginning in May until Labor Day. Admission is a very reasonable $12; parking is free but requires a reservation at most times. Picnicking is allowed in designated areas. The nice woman at the admissions desk told us we could walk all of the paths in an hour; it took us nearly four times that! Chanticleer is, truly, a Pleasure Garden!
Looks wonderful Kimberley! Wish we had a garden like that near us!