Tag Archives: Chanticleer

100 Years as an Estate…. 20 Years as a Public Garden!

 (Photographs by Gary Shanks)

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The new first-year graduate students got a chance to visit one of the more intimate gardens in the greater Philadelphia area. Since Chanticleer has been written about in a previous LGP blog, let’s just dive right in to the details.

Our tour with Bill Thomas, Chanticleer’s Director, began in the Teacup Garden. Exotic plants are mixed creatively with natives, and because it is directly behind the main house, it feels like one’s own private courtyard.

IMG_1668On the way to the Tennis Court Garden, there is a stately hybrid oak (Quercus alba x Quercus montana) that keeps one humble due to its enormous size. Not until one is faced with a giant tree like this does one realize one’s own small stature. The Tennis Court Garden is full of flowers that fascinate, and sitting on the staff-made wooden glider under the shady arbor is a great vantage point to appreciate the vibrancy of this garden.

Down the slope is a 120-foot “hedge” of asparagus. That’s right, asparagus hedge. The frilly fronds wave in the wind, enticing the visitor to investigate what is behind it… a charming cut-flower and vegetable garden. Tended by a graduate of the Longwood Professional Gardener Program, flowers from this garden are used in the flower arrangements in the house.

Here we stopped, and Bill pointed out what appeared to be an ordinary patch of land. He explained that water from the parking lot flows underground, down the hill to this site, where there is a 10,000-gallon pipe full of holes. This allows the water to come out through the holes and diffuse throughout this patch of land instead of running off and causing flooding. Brilliant!

IMG_1678Our tour continued into the Woodland Garden where one of the staff horticulturists (who doubles as a metal- and wood-worker in the winter) created a giant, partially-enclosed bridge over Darby Creek to resemble a fallen log.

 

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The path on the bridge and into the Woodland Garden is made of recycled tires, shreddedand dyed to look like wood chips. There is a binder added to the tire pieces to prevent leaching of the rubber products into the soil. It also provides a soft and comfortable base for pedestrians, as well as being wheelchair and stroller accessible!

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From the mysterious Lady of the Pond to the frog gravity fountain; from bubbling rocks to the stepping-stones through the moss garden, it is a charming stroll through the Woodland Garden. The path leads to the Asian Woodland Garden where most of the herbaceous plants, shrubs, and small trees originate from China, Japan, and Korea.IMG_1723

Chanticleer’s charms continue on. You will have to go visit yourself to find out about the Pond Garden, Serpentine Garden, Terrace Garden, Ruin Garden, and the countless hidden treasures waiting for discovery as you wander the grounds.

First year Fellows visit Chanticleer

(written by Laurie Metzger, photographs by Chunying Ling)

It was a sunny, sometimes cloudy– typically capricious Autumn day in Eastern PA when we made a visit to Chanticleer. A seeming anomaly in a region dominated by DuPont estates turned public gardens, Chanticleer is the estate of the Rosengarten family, of pharmaceutical fame. Named after an estate in Thackeray’s novel The Newcomes, Chanticleer was originally the family’s summer home.  They spent a pretty penny readying the house to become their full time residence. The name consequently came from a line in from the novel, “mortgaged to the very castle windows but still the show of the county.” In addition the family played on the fact that Chanticleer is the name of the Rooster from the Nun’s Priest Tale in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  Over time, the rooster became a kind of mascot for the estate.

Chanticleer’s website explains that “everything is carefully orchestrated…” in the garden. This truly describes the enchanting impression that Chanticleer left with us.  I would add to it, “thoughtfully, with love and appreciation.” The ambiance at Chanticleer is like being in the presence of a person who celebrates each tiny detail of life’s rhythm, the vast variety of beauty in plants, and the special qualities that make people individuals.  The stories of the landscape, of the family, and of each structure, inspires awe wrapped in a feeling of affection. Creativity abounds.  Beautiful patterns are revealed in furniture, banisters and container gardens. No pattern is repeated yet everything fits.  In this way, Chanticleer is like walking in a tangible dream.

The garden design seamlessly mixes old and new.  This allows guests to imagine they had walked into another time, but still feel right at home. Chanticleer aims to be ‘a pleasure garden.’ Forgoing plant labels for plant lists hidden in beautiful boxes, each one is creatively constructed by one of Chanticleer’s staff.  One gets the feeling that the Horticultural staff members are like elves, displaying their secret talent for detail as metal artisans, master wood workers and florists all over the 37 acre garden.

The first frost was predicted for the evening of our visit, so the staff was hard at the more practical work of covering, moving and preserving the plants in the outdoor tropical displays.  We were gifted with a special tour by Chanticleer’s director, Bill Thomas.  He wove the story of Chanticleer, revealing a philosophy of generous freedom and trust in his staff.  In addition, working at Chanticleer sounds delectably creative and full of opportunities to grow.  Each member of the staff is encouraged to “take their time,” knowing they are a part of “the important garden experience.”   Chanticleer believes in doing a job well to start because it will last longer in the end.

The garden shed mimics a carriage house and has always stood that way.  The vegetable garden is filled with charming cultivars, especially the hardy Kiwi—a juicy snack for an observant, hungry passer by.  A restroom facility was recently built in the Asian Woods (the point furthest from the entrance.) Designed to look like a Japanese Tea house it’s humorously and unofficially called the “Pee House.”  Featuring stonework and artwork by staff and friends, this project gives opportunity to artist, horticulturist and facilities manager alike.

Chanticleer is lovely from start to finish, magnificent, splendid, special and not unlike Chaucer’s description of the Rooster…

 …There was not his equal in all the land. His voice was merrier than the merry organ that plays in church, and his crowing from his resting place was more trustworthy than a clock. His comb was redder than fine coral and turreted like a castle wall, his bill was black and shone like a jet, and his legs and toes were like azure. His nails were whiter than the lily and his feathers were like burnished gold.

-The Nun’s Priest Tale, Canterbury Tales

 

Chanticleer, a Pleasure Garden

August 19, 2011 – Chanticleer, PA
(written by Quill Teal-Sullivan, photographs by Nate Tschaenn)

The third destination for the First Year Fellows’ summer fieldtrip series was Chanticleer, a 35-acre estate garden along the Philadelphia mainline.  Once the home of the Rosengarten family of Philadelphia, the house and surrounding grounds became a non-profit organization with the death of Adolf Rosengarten, Jr. in 1990.  While the house is preserved to illustrate how the family may have lived during the early 1900’s, the grounds are not maintained according to historic records. In keeping with the founder’s wish, the grounds are intended to be pleasure gardens designed and kept to the standards of the talented garden staff.  Chanticleer’s vision is to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, while creating the intimacy and comfort of a private estate.  And this they do quite well. The moment we pulled through the gates it was as though we had fallen through a rabbit hole and landed in a world of horticultural wonder, where tranquility and sensual stimulation are perfectly balanced.

We were greeted by Bill Thomas, Chanticleer’s Executive Director, who was dressed in work boots as though just in from the dirt.  He led us to the open-air welcome pavilion, nestled in a tropical extravaganza of banana trees and elephant-ears, its roof dripping with a tangle of passionflower and Dutchman’s pipe. The pavilion was crowned with a statue of Chanticleer himself, a proud rooster who shares the namesake of the garden, and can be found perched here and there atop a fence or column.  Bill subsequently sent us out into the gardens to explore at our own pace, so that we could develop our own unique interpretations.

The gardens at Chanticleer are comprised of a series of vignettes, each with its own character, charm and mystery. Each could stand on its own, yet they are gracefully strung together by the common thread of horticultural whimsy. I found myself drawn to the Ruin Garden, which sits on the footprint of what was once an original estate house. The ruin itself is not authentic, but it certainly elicits the allure of crumbling farmhouse in the Irish countryside.  Traces of human habitation and order are combined with the wildness of nature overtaking an abandoned structure. Vines creep up the walls.  Echeveria adorns the mantle like an overgrown arrangement. A tree bends through the opening of a window. Ferns take the place of a fire in the hearth. This play between human function and nature’s prowess is a reoccurring theme at Chanticleer. But it is orchestrated with such intention and elegance, a testament to the gardener’s creativity and skill.

At lunchtime, we gathered at the terrace gardens beneath the pool pavilion for sandwiches and sweet tea with Bill Thomas and Ed Hincklen, the facilities manager and general contractor. Afterwards, they lead us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the new projects underway, so we could see first hand the incredible amount of work that goes into making such a garden so pleasurable. The first stop was Bell’s Woodland, Chanticleer’s newest addition to the gardens that exhibits flora of the native east coast forests.  A winding path throughout the woods is made from rubber mulch, an innovative new material of recycled tires, quite convincingly made to look like natural mulch but with a spring underfoot. A feature of Bell’s Woodland will be a bridge resembling an abstract fallen beach log, which, when finished, will be dripping with ferns an moss.

Chanticleer is very conscious of energy consumption and is working to be as gentle on the environment as possible.  This effort is seen in their recent solar panel installation atop the equipment garage, which produces 20% of Chanticleer’s energy needs. Ed showed us the “numbers rolling in” on the megawatt meter, a sight that makes an energy-wise facilities manager proud. The major capital project at the moment was the construction of a new greenhouse big enough to over winter a menagerie of tropical plants. The new greenhouse features radiant floor heating and all American made building materials, 98% of which are recycled. In another effort to reduce energy use, Chanticleer is minimizing turf by replacing areas with plantings of mondo grass, ferns and fescue mixes. It is clear that the staff of Chanticleer takes pride in their environmental initiatives both big and small. It is inspiring to see that innovations in environmental responsibility are approached with the same enthusiasm as innovations in horticultural display.

Our tour came to an end at the Entry Courtyard, which boasts containers planted with vegetables in the most inspired ornamental arrangements.  The elements of color, texture and form were each considered carefully in stunning compositions. We said goodbye to our generous hosts amidst urns ripe with kohlrabi and cascading cucumbers.  And away we went, the image of a crowing rooster disappearing in the distance. Each First Year Fellow dreaming of their next visit to the beautiful gardens of Chanticleer.

A Pleasure Garden

(Photos by Ashby Leavell)

On August 20th, the First-year Fellows arrived at Chanticleer in Wayne, PA, by 9:45am.  By 11:45am, it was one of my favorite gardens.  Ever.

What was it about this place that put it a cut above many beautiful gardens in my mind?  It might have been the highly detailed vignettes blended into wide-open views of lawn and woods, the intimacy and yet the expansiveness of it.  It might have been the tasteful combination of well-crafted furniture and artwork with solid horticultural knowledge.  It might have been the philosophy of the place: “To make each visitor feel like a personal guest of the Rosengartens’,” in the words of Executive Director Bill Thomas.

Open to the public since 1993, the Chanticleer estate was left in trust by Adolph Rosengarten Jr.  Without many restrictions on the development of the gardens, Chanticleer’s identity as a pleasure garden could be expressed in continually evolving ways: in exuberant tropical plantings around the house, creative container arrangements, unexpected paving designs, and idyllic seating areas with brightly painted Adirondack chairs.  No signs and few plants labels detract from the private garden feel; trashcans are nowhere to be found.

The garden itself unfolds gradually.  We were given ample time at the beginning and end of our visit simply to wander and discover.  At first look, you see a basically pretty landscape, colorful and thriving even toward the end of a tough summer.  Trees cast deep shadows over sloping lawns, and perennials and shrubs fill out planting beds.

Look longer, and stroll further in, and you begin to see why Chanticleer is so especially beloved of garden lovers.  Feathery sweeps of meadow grasses direct you up to a vine-covered “ruin,” inhabited by succulents planted in wall pockets, a reflecting “pool” table, and slate “books.”  The naturalistic Asian Woods are nonetheless dotted with the signs of human creativity: a rough stone holding a floating flower arrangement, hand-crafted bridge railings, an iron trellis guiding a vine up a tree trunk.  Leaning over a bridge to stare into the stream flowing beneath, you’re likely to see something like a leaf-shaped boulder in the water.

Chanticleer’s unique beauty is a tribute to the skill and creativity of its multi-talented staff members.  The seventeen full-time, year-round employees include seven horticulturists who spend the off-season (November to March) practicing various wood-, stone-, and metal-working crafts, the results of which are put to good use throughout the garden.  In addition, the horticulturists have a fair amount of autonomy to design their respective garden areas, drawing on inspiration gathered from traveling abroad, and sometimes helped along by serendipity.

Not for nothing is Chanticleer included in many “Best of” garden lists, including Tim Richardson’s Great Gardens of America.  On beautiful days, we were told, getting the last guests out after closing time is a challenge.  We were certainly reluctant to leave it behind ourselves, even knowing that we’d all be returning for another visit, and soon.