Chanticleer Part 1: A Pleasure Garden

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Asian mayapple, Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’

I recently visited the gardens at Chanticleer in Wayne, Pennsylvania, U.S., with garden bloggers from out of town.  In March, I went with Jill from Landscape Lover’s Blog, and on Sunday, I returned with Jean from Jean’s Garden and Jan from Thanks for Today.  Although I visit Chanticleer frequently, looking at the gardens through their eyes gave me a renewed appreciation for just how magical and amazing it is.

March color at Chanticleer, clockwise from upper left: paperbush, Edgeworthia chrysantha; Iris species; Sedum ‘Angelina’; spring-blooming hardy cyclamen, Cyclamen coum

Chanticleer calls itself “A Pleasure Garden” and that title perfectly reflects the unique feeling the garden conveys.  Although it is open to the public, it has an intimacy found only in a garden designed by individuals who are both artists and plantspeople.   Plants are used for their pleasing horticultural attributes, but also as objects in design for color and pattern.  Serious garden elements abound, but whimsy and the element of surprise are just as important.  I have been going to Chanticleer since it opened to the public in 1993, and I have never left without numerous ideas for my own gardens.

More March color at Chanticleer, clockwise from upper left: Iris species; Amur adonis, Adonis amurensis; twin-leaf squill, Scilla biflolia; Kuma bamboo grass, Sasa veitchii

Chanticleer was the country estate of pharmaceutical magnate Adolph Rosengarten and his wife Christine.  The Rosengartens built the original house in 1913 and hired landscape architect Thomas Sears to design the terraces surrounding it.  Additional homes were built for their children in the 1930s.  Adoph’s son left the 35 acre property to the public in 1990, and it opened to visitors in 1993.

March view from the Gravel Garden towards the Serpentine Garden showing the willows being trained and woven to resemble ancient olive trees.

The same view as above in April showing the beds that will be filled with a single annual plant to achieve the serpentine pattern visible from several vantage points in the garden.

Although Chanticleer has many amazing features, the primary attraction for me, and something I find unique to this garden, is the incredible attention to detail both in the big picture (see two photos above) and also in the smallest elements (see top photo).  Although you read this about gardens all the time, Chanticleer takes the concept to heights never approached by any public garden I have ever visited.  To give you a sense of the thoughtfulness displayed throughout the garden, I have decided to organize my photos starting with landscape shots and ending with individual plants, from macro to micro.  In doing this, I hope to convey a feeling for what Chanticleer has to offer.

The long views and big picture landscape design at Chanticleer are gorgeous:

The Gravel Garden contains plants that like hot, dry, Mediterranean conditions, and they are allowed to self-seed to give it a natural unkempt look to link it to the adjoining Ruin Garden.

At this time of year, you can see the “bones” of the Pond Garden, which will shortly be obscured by flowers.

Looking back up the hill from the pond area towards the Ruin and Gravel Gardens.

Back terrace of the Chanticleer house

View from the front terrace of the house to Minder Woods.

Individual gardens are equally as enchanting:

The entrance courtyard garden is filled with colorful annuals and bulbs.

The Teacup Garden is always changing.  Right now it is planted with edible plants, including the different lettuces above used to make blocks of color.

The Gravel Garden extends out to the hill below the ruin and is filled with unusual bulbs.

Spring flowers in the Pond Garden

The gravel in the front courtyard of the Chanticleer house is raked daily to produce a circular pattern, this time of year overlayed with falling cherry blossoms.

The containers at Chanticleer are spectacular:

Entrance courtyard

Teacup Garden

Plantings in the railings leading to the Tennis Court Garden

Some containers display a single plant to perfection, Asian mayapple, Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’.

The artistic elements are very unique, from hardscape to furniture to sculptures:

Marble heads immersed in water in the Ruin Garden

Minimalist containers in the Teacup Garden

Stone pear in the Pond Garden

Each individual plant is grown and displayed to perfection:

Katsura tree, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, in the Cut Flower Garden

Royal fern, Osmunda regalis, in the Pond Garden

Chanticleer is one of the few gardens I visit where I find shade perennials that I can’t ID.  Jean and Jan stumped me with this one: Chloranthus japonicus (no common name) in the Asian Woods

Another plant that stumped me: thick stemmed wood fern, Dryopteris crassirhizoma, in the Asian Woods.  Thanks to Lisa Roper, section gardener for the Asian Woods, for the ID.

Chinese redbud, Cercis chinensis, along the walk from the parking lot

I have tried to give you a sense of how unique this garden is.  I hope to return to Chanticleer monthly and write articles every other month featuring its gardens as they progress through the seasons.  For now I leave you with a photo of my two new friends:

Jean (on the left) and Jan under a winterhazel, Corylopsis, with cameras in hand, of course.

Goodbye for now, Chanticleer, it was indeed a pleasure!


Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.), just click here.  I have added Chanticleer to my sidebar under Places to Visit so you will always know where to find it.

Nursery Happenings: My second annual Great Hosta Blowout is going on right now.  For details, click here.  Look for Carolyn’s Shade Gardens at the Bryn Mawr Farmer’s Market on Saturday, May 7, from 9 am to 1 pm .

68 Responses to “Chanticleer Part 1: A Pleasure Garden”

  1. What a lovely visit! How fun to go to a beautiful garden with two garden-lovers. A true meeting of the minds, I am sure.

    The raked gravel is not something I have seen outside of a formal Japanese garden… and not usually so large. Beautiful landing spot for the petals.

    Thanks for this post, Carolyn!

    • Julie, It was fun to visit Chanticleer with two plant fanatics. Every time I walk through the gravel courtyard I look for footprints disturbing the gravel but I have never seen any so I assume they rake it every day. It’s quite beautiful. Carolyn

  2. Cynthia Kardon Says:

    Chanticleer is one of my most favorite spots in the world. Always changing (I love the fields of red poppies). I took my mom there many times.

  3. It does look like a beautiful and interesting garden. And it must have been a pleasure to have such wonderful gardening company!

  4. Carolyn, thank you for the virtual tour of Chanticleer. I can appreciate each garden room that has been created. I loved the teacup garden with the color blocks of lettuce and its touch of whimsy. You forgot to include a picture of yourself though!

  5. What a lovely tour the three of you had, I am so sorry to have missed it. The images you took really capture the spirit of the place at this time of year. Beauty in all seasons. I do like the photo of your two friends, smiling and having a great time. No email today and slow as a turtle internet makes visiting posts a real pain today, but I had to see yours.

    • Donna, I am so happy you liked the photographs. All I have is a point and shoot (which I could override if I read the camera directions) so landscape shots are challenging. I was happy with the way they turned out and got inspired to put together a post. Carolyn

  6. That must be a fun get together.

    The Teacup Garden and the stone pear really caught my attention. Beautiful!

  7. I’ve so enjoyed my walk through Chanticleer, so unique and so beautiful even in early Spring. I look forward to coming again!

  8. Thanks for a spring tour of one of my favorite gardens, one I have only seen in late July. It is indeed an amazing place. Perhaps the most inspiring part of it to me is the ruin garden, but it is all wonderful. Even my non-gardening family had a good time.

    • Les, I don’t think I have ever been to Chanticleer in July. I mostly get there in the fall, not even the spring, and it is wonderful then. I am surprised by your comment about the Ruin Garden if you mean the actual ruin area. That is the part of the garden that I am the most equivocal about as were Jean and Jan. I love the Gravel Gardens below it and all the plantings around it, but I don’t know what to think about the ruin, especially the “sarcophagus”. You should come visit my nursery this spring and we could go to Chanticleer together. Carolyn

  9. What a beautiful trip you took – the best part is that you shared it with us! 🙂 Thank you.

  10. patientgardener Says:

    It is definitely interesting to visit a garden you know well with people who havent been before – if re-opens your eyes.
    I love the teacup garden

  11. Sharon Halpin Says:

    Friends & flowers & foliage & lovely weather & time to revel in it all — a perfect combination! Many thanks for the virtual tour, Carolyn. Stunning! I hope to visit Chanticleer this summer. Looking forward to your next Chanticleer post!

  12. Such a beautiful garden with treasures around every corner and path. I am smitten with the Asian mayapple and would love to have the hillside Mediterranean garden. It’s just a lovely place and I hope to visit sometime. gail

    • Gail, When you say “around every corner” you captured the essence of Chanticleer—surprises abound! I love the Asian mayapple, but I just came into the house from taking photos of our native mayapple, and its coloration gives the Asian variety a run for its money, and it is expensive. Carolyn

  13. Carolyn, what a wonderful day you must have had. Beautiful weather, new friends and so many lovely things to look at. I’m quite taken with that stone pear. What a magnificent sculpture to have in the garden.

  14. NWPhilly Eric Says:

    Another fun but quirky thing I look forward to at Chanticleer are the creative cut flower arrangements in the public restrooms near the Tea Cup Garden (men’s and women’s room are known to have completely different flower/foliage combinations.
    And there’s also lovely floral compositions floating in a large basin in the porch off the main house. I never seem to get to Chanticleer in time to see the Magnolia and daffodils…..I’d better hurry or I’ll miss it again.

    • Eric, I was going to start my post with “Chanticleer is a garden so beautiful that even the bathrooms are gorgeous, ” but I thought readers might think it was a little weird. The new bathrooms in the Asian Woods are worth a visit in and of themselves because they are so imaginatively incorporated into the garden, and the flower arrangements are amazing as you say. I have never gone on the porch. I will next time I am there. Thanks for participating in the Sustainable Living Project. Your suggestion was great. Carolyn

  15. Carolyn if I ever do get down for a visit I may have to twist your arm to make yet another visit to these incredible gardens…wow

  16. I wondered where the three of you would end up. How fun! Looks like a perfect garden spot. I love the diversity and the variation between the gardens. I especially enjoyed the teacup garden. Some of the containers remind me of the colanders of mixed greens I harvested this morning.

    • The diversity incorporated into a relatively small space for a public garden is amazing. The Teacup Garden is the hands down winner of favorite photo in this post. So funny because it is so simple. The container holding the lettuce plants was a colander I think. Carolyn

  17. Carolyn, Thanks again for a wonderful day on Sunday. I’ve uploaded the gazillion pictures I took to my computer, and I will get to sorting them out soon. One of the fun things is that I often made quite different photo choices than you did. (I didn’t photograph the heads in the ruin because they looked to me like drowning people. But they look pretty happy in your photograph; maybe they were just swimming under the waterfall. :-)) -Jean

  18. It was great to do this tour with you Carolyn – so many different aspects to one garden. Loved the gravel garden of which I can only dream and the tasteful containers and art.

  19. How very wonderful to be able to visit Chanticleer with two new blogging friends!

  20. Thank you for the beautiful tour. Chanticleer looks to be a very special place.

    I have to admit I am very taken with the Asian Mayapple!

  21. thank you for the wonderful photos and details! Looks like is was a beautifully wonderful day!!!
    PS how fun to meet other bloggers you interact with!

  22. You write such interesting posts, its hard to take it all in. I was interested in the Mediterranean garden and the method of choosing plants that will selfseed creating a garden that changes from year to year or even season to season. I’m trying something similar myself. I also like the Cersis – such amazingly strong coloued flowers. Christina

    • Christina, I try to write each post like it is an article in a gardening magazine. The flowers on the Chinese redbud are much more densely clustered than those on our U.S. redbud. Even so I prefer our native. The change provided by self-seeding plants is something that I encourage in my own garden with amazing results. Carolyn

  23. Dear Carolyn, Taking a virtual tour with you at Chanticleer, and seeing what a good time you three gardeners had there, makes me doubly sorry I missed this trip. But I loved ‘gardening’ with my grandsons and had a great, but exhausting, week. Your photos are wonderful, and I’m glad you are planning more posts from this fabulous garden. P x

  24. Chanticleer does indeed seem like a great place to spend a few hours. The thick stemmed wood fern, very unusual, wouldn’t mind getting a hold of that one. Your garden never gets sunshine, just as well you don’t suffer from s.a.d Carolyn.

  25. Carolyn, What a lovely tour and how fun to share it with Jean and Jan. I love that Mayapple and the Marble heads in the Ruin garden. The stone pear is wonderful too. There are so many wonderful details as you say. What a wonderful time to be there. Beautiful photography. Great photo of Jean and Jan too!

  26. Beautiful tour! I was especially taken with the Chinese Redbud. The native Eastern Redbud is one of my favorites.

  27. Beautiful! And even more special as you were able to share it with fellow garden bloggers. The cherry blossoms are gorgeous, and their ephemeral quality just just adds to their appeal. I love the gravel in the courtyard. I can’t say if it would be a meditative thing for me to rake something like that daily, or if it would become a dreaded chore! How fortunateat for you to have such wonderful gardens close by with so much to offer through the seasons. I look forward to your future posts on Chanticleer.

    • Deb, I too love the gravel courtyard. I think I walk through it every time I am at Chanticleer just to see if it has been raked so everything is right with the world. It would definitely be a chore for me though. I am very lucky to live in the mid-Atlantic where the weather is conducive to northern and southern plants and amazing public and private gardens abound. Carolyn

  28. Carolyn, I’m in love with the Asian Mayapple. Thanks for sharing all this beauty and your delight in it. Now I think Chanticleer has to go on my list of gardens I want to see.

    Now I’m off to read about the Chinese redbud. I’m afraid I’m only familiar with our regular native one, and now you’ve got my curiosity up. 🙂

  29. Hi Carolyn, thank you so much for giving me the chance to visit Chanticleer with you.

  30. I am glad to hear you are going back, I’d love to see the visual progression through the seasons.

  31. Carolyn,
    I’m surprised I haven’t left a comment by now, as I’ve read this post numerous times and know I emailed you & told you I enjoyed it. Your point and shoot did a wonderful job…it would be difficult to not get fantastic photos of Chanticleer as the gardens would look lovely no matter what camera was used;-) It was a joy to visit with you and Jean. I will be re-visiting this garden many times, in my mind and through your post…and those of Jean, and hopefully, my own as I have many of the same photos (!) & will add a post soon. Thanks for a splendid day…it was so much fun, all the way around.

  32. Wish I could have joined you three! Beautiful photos you came back with. Thanks for sharing!


  33. Louise Thompson Says:

    I’m ashamed (because I’ve lived in Philly and been a gardener for a couple decades) that I’ve only been to Chanticleer in the late summer. Your blog nudges me to go back much more often. I too have gotten ideas for my own mostly-shade garden from Chanticleer. But one of the things I also like there, is that even the hardscape is beautiful: all the little bridges are like pieces of sculpture, and the stone living room, at the top of the hill under the big trees, is fabulous on a hot summer day. Keep it coming!

  34. Spectacular visit-essay and very nice to see fellow bloggers in one of the images!

  35. Loved your pics of Chanticleer! It is my favorite garden to visit and I’ve been to a few.

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