Chanticleer Part 3: Through the Seasons

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.

Close up of the teacup fountain in fall.

Chanticleer is a unique public garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania, U.S., which I have profiled in two previous articles.  The first, Chanticleer Part 1: A Pleasure Garden, gave an overview of this one-of-a-kind horticultural destination.  The second, Chanticleer Part 2: Garden Seating, focused on the huge variety of thoughtful seating areas in the Chanticleer gardens.  This post will show some of Chanticleer’s gardens as they evolve through the seasons, highlight some additional “hardscape” features, and focus on the attention to detail in one tiny garden that peaks in the fall.

The Teacup Garden through the seasons: clockwise from top, spring, summer, fall.  I highly encourage you to click on any photo to enlarge it for more detail especially the collages.

I hope that my first two posts have inspired you to visit Chanticleer.  However, if you live in the area, it is well worth visiting several times a year.  As you can see from the photos of the Teacup Garden above, the changes in some of Chanticleer’s gardens are very dramatic.  And even the less dramatic evolution of other areas makes each visit feel unique.  Here are a few more gardens from spring through fall:

Entrance courtyard: clockwise from left, summer, spring, fall.  The lavish and very colorful plantings in this area, where visitors check in, often have a tropical theme.

The gardens above the pond and below the ruin: clockwise from left, summer, spring, fall.

View of the Serpentine Garden from the gravel gardens below the ruin: clockwise from top, fall, summer, spring.  Although the changes are more subtle, they are no less beautiful.

Another more subtle change in the area below the ruin and above the Stream Garden: top summer, bottom fall.  A change in the seasons gives a whole different feel.

One of the many unique features of Chanticleer is the ingenious use of “hardscape” or architectural elements throughout the garden.  These elements are as important to my visits to the garden as the plants themselves.  They provide a dimension of experience not available in any other garden I have visited.  I have highlighted some of the hardscape in each of my posts, but here are additional examples:

The elegant gate at the entrance to the Teacup Garden.

Stone acorns in the Ruin Garden: Chanticleer has many beautiful stone sculptures, including the stone chair in my garden seating post, which has taken Pinterest, the online pinboard site, by storm.

Pattern in the floor of the Ruin Garden: at Chanticleer, it pays to look where you are walking because art is incorporated into the paths.  I have been inspired by my visits to add design elements to  my own woodland paths.

Lovely bridge with carved wooden railing below the Pond Garden.

Elegant bridge marking the entrance to the Asian Woods.

This creepy fountain of sunken marble faces is in a secluded alcove of the Ruin Garden—I love it!

I thought you might like to see close up photos of all the sunken marble faces in the Ruin Garden fountain.

My latest visit to Chanticleer was on October 21, shortly before the garden closed for the season at the beginning of November.  I was captivated by a small garden between the Teacup Garden and the back gate.  So much work had been put into the plantings and the seating arrangement to ornament the very short period when Chanticleer is open in the fall.  The eggplant-colored chairs perfectly echo the October-blooming and -fruiting beautyberries, toad-lilies, and other flowers behind them—now that’s attention to detail and that’s what Chanticleer is all about.

To finish out this series, I will need to visit Chanticleer in winter.  Because they don’t reopen until April 1, I hope to get special permission to visit off season.  Wish me luck!

I am currently putting together a Carolyn’s Shade Gardens 2012 Calendar featuring some of my favorite photographs from the past year.  If I am successful, look for an announcement here–it will make a great holiday gift.


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Nursery Happenings:
The nursery is closed for the year.  Look for the snowdrop catalogue (snowdrops are available mail order) in January 2012 and an exciting new hellebore offering in February 2012.  If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

60 Responses to “Chanticleer Part 3: Through the Seasons”

  1. Chanticleer looks like a really cool garden! I’ll have to check it out next time I visit PA, my son lives in Phoenixville, so maybe next year. That teacup fountain is pretty cool, and the marble faces are definitely creepy.

  2. The carved railing of the bridge below the pool garden reminds me that our bridge to the woodland strip needs attention – maybe I ought to carve a new railing for it ? But the wow for me were the aubergine chairs and the Callicarpa berries – such colour co-ordination – fantastic !

  3. It is very nice garden,i wish i live close just to visit it,picture s are professional and amazing,
    Thank you

  4. Hello Carolyn,
    How fortunate you are to have such a lovely garden nearby with this mix of great planting and sculptural/hard elements. Last time I was taken by the images of the stone sofa, this time by the stone acorns, and then the heads in the fountain, which I thought was inspired. Strangely we’ve just taken some of our work to a small art/craft exhibition where I encountered the work of Susan Hanna for the first time, who concentrates on ceramis forms of the head, influenced by masks and forms from throughout the world. The link is :, if you’re interested, but I found her sleeping heads in black and white fascinating, and its given me ideas for perhaps a wooden form in the garden. Thanks again for showing us this beautiful garden,

  5. I’ve never been to Chanticleer, but if I found myself in the area, I’d certainly go. I love their use both of hardscape, and color. I really adore the gate to the teacup garden. We need to build a permanent gate under an arbor than leads to our orchard, but I’d hate for it to just look ‘functional’ and austere. This might be the inspiration I need. Maybe we could so something creative with Manzanita or Madrone branches that are growing on the property so it blends in with the landscape a little better, but still has an element of charm.

    BTW, I can’t wait to see how the calendar turns out, I’ll be watching for the reveal!

    • Clare, I wish you would find yourself in the area so you could come to Carolyn’s Shade Gardens! I have to admit I love my photo of the Teacup Garden gate. The same design but evoking local CA trees would look great at Curbstone Valley. As you know, the calendar is kind of an ordeal for me, but with your help I am plugging along. Thanks, Carolyn

  6. Hi Carolyn,
    Wonderful photos and kind words. Thank you for featuring us!
    Best, Bill
    R. William Thomas
    Executive Director
    Chanticleer Foundation

  7. Those paths and stone acorns are the best. I wonder how they make the acorns? Too cool. Good luck on visiting in the winter. I bet they’ll give you permission no problem. Take care and enjoy your holidays!

    • Tina, The Ruin Garden has a lot of sculptures big and small. There are several stone books, which I think are quite cool. My favorite sculpture at Chanticleer is the stone pear in my first post. I know you are taking a break from blogging so enjoy your holidays too. Carolyn

  8. How interesting – love the beautiful bridges. The marble faces under water was quite something! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Those are some big acorns.

    I thought this when I first saw the ruin fountain in pics, and seeing them again, it just confirms it. Creepy. Like people drowning. But I’m sure this is just me.

    • Susan, The Ruin Garden is designed to evoke a feeling of death, dying, and decay. The plantings consist of plants that would seed into an abandoned structure and slowly demolish it. The main room is mostly filled with a giant sepulchre. I think the faces are supposed to be creepy and probably do represent dead people. However, if you enlarge the collage, they don’t look tortured and some of them are smiling and the center one looks peaceful. It’s about the natural evolution of life. I hope the designer/sculptor doesn’t read this because I could be all wrong. That’s just the feeling that the place gives me when I visit. Carolyn

  10. Your photos are spectacular from close-up of the tea cup to the gate and the bridge. I even find the purple chairs uniquely beautiful. The berries must have something to do with it.

    • Thanks, One. I am not very confident in my photography so your compliment means a lot. The photograph of the purple chairs does make them look slightly overdone but that’s just because I didn’t really capture the scene. If I had had time, I would have gone back to try again. Carolyn

  11. Nice series Carolyn. I really have to get back there sometime, it has been far too long since I visited. Such a lovely place to take photos, too. Nice idea on the calendar too, I am sure it will be successful.

    • Donna, You can visit Chanticleer when you come in May. Even if I can’t go south, you can stop on your way and stay here. Clare from Curbstone Vally has been helping me with the calendar. If it weren’t for her, I would have shot myself by now. Carolyn

  12. I have to visit these gardens…I love the garden art…amazing..that teacup garden is wow!!! Perhaps a side visit when I finally get down there…I wanted to experiment with making a calendar too…love to know how it comes out..

    • Donna, I just replied to the other Donna that you will both have to visit chanticleer in May whether or not I go south with you. The calendar process is quite frustrating. I just don’t find anything about the site intuitive, but Clare at CVF says it’s the best for quality. Will let you know. Carolyn

  13. Ok, I’m inspired. And I am endlessly fascinated with pictures over time. That the garden changes so much right before our very eyes is neverendingly entertaining to me. I’m seriously considering getting a plantcam for next season 🙂

    • Jess, I am glad you liked seeing Chanticleer change through the seasons. I was lucky to find enough areas that I had taken repeat photos of because I wasn’t planning this post last March. Plantcam—it would really have to speed up the “action”. Carolyn

  14. These have been very inspiring posts… I’ve always wanted to visit Chanticleer as I am really impressed with all I’ve seen of it over the years… perhaps someday! Larry

  15. I am so far away, I may never be able to visit. Thank you for sharing Chanticleer so beautifully!

    • Alison, If you can’t come in person I am glad you enjoyed the virtual tour. Chanticleer’s Executive Director, Bill Thomas (his comment is above), is going to arrange for me to visit during the winter so there will probably be one more post. Carolyn

  16. It is indeed an amazing place! And one that warrants repeat visits.
    For those not lucky enough to live in the area, remember that there are “secret” gardens everywhere. Philadelphia has many, both public and private, tucked away in quiet corners of the city.

    Rural areas abound, too, with bits of nature that have been “tamed” just enough to distinguish them from Wilderness. Storm King sculpture park is 500 acres of Art and Nature an hour north of NYC. There is a Secret Gardens tour in New Orleans, but they are everywhere, and with a bit of sleuthing, I bet readers can find one in their own back yard- or at least a neighbor’s!

  17. Thanks Carolyn. You really stress the importance of careful observation and hardscape;very educational.

  18. Paula Burns Says:

    Hi Carolyn! Beautiful pictures! For anyone in the area, the Narberth Garden Club is having a program on Chanticleer Thursday evening, December 1, at 7:15 at the Narberth Municipal Bldg on Haverford Ave. It will be presented along with a recent book about the garden.

  19. Louise Thompson Says:

    And something else to encourage local folks to visit Chanticleer several times a year is that it costs only $5 – yes, five dollars – to enter! Louise

  20. I absolutely love the teacup fountain / garden, through all the seasons. I was very taken with Chanticleer in the last post you did on it already. But if I am being very honest, I don’t like the creepy heads. Just a personal thing, the rest of the gardens are beautiful!

  21. Am sold on Chanticleer with your 3 reviews. What a joy to follow in your footsteps Carolyn and enjoy this marvel of a garden through your lens. Love the quirky design elements but the simpler change of textures in paths grab me. Your calendar will be a stunner

  22. Carolyn,
    I love your opening shot and seeing the succession plantings in your collages. Beautiful. I agree that it is the attention to detail that sets this garden apart from other gardens, especially public gardens. Someone clearly enjoys living and making garden art there. I am in the process of getting their new book, Chanticleer: A Pleasure Garden, to learn more about it.
    Wonderful post!

  23. Amazing garden, really very well planned and artistically executed. Very beautiful, your photos are wonderful too.

  24. Great job displaying the look of the gardens in three seasons … Those sunken faces are creepy, though everything else is lovely. I particularly like the gate to the teacup garden …

  25. Darlene Long Says:

    Chanticleer always takes my breath away. I live close but rarely take the time to go. Shame on me. Loved your touch of “snow” on the post.

    • Darlene, This series of articles has gotten me to go to Chanticleer about once a month. I used to go a lot when my children were young because it is a very child-friendly place, and they loved it. I didn’t realize my blog was snowing. I did that last year, and I guess my blog host just turns it on again. I am still feeling very fall like right now so I don’t know what I think about snow!!! Carolyn

  26. I do wish I could see Chanticleer in some other season than high summer, but at least then all the tropicals they use are at peak. Spring and fall, both, must be stunning there.

  27. nwphillygardner Says:

    I am always so impressed at how much change happens each year at Chanticleer. While your post references the natural changes over the three growing seasons, Bill Thomas & his passionate staff seem to continue to both broaden the scope of planted areas on the ground as well as undertake substantial re-planting of established areas. These botanical changes appear to be not just a matter of improving horticultural problems & weaknesses, but it is change for the fun of it. So returning year after year remains a fresh experience.
    Although not intensively publicized, Chanticleer seems to have become known quite widely (internationally) for it’s creativity. Many out-of-town speakers at the recent Perennial Plant Conference made reference to how special they found Chanticleer gardens.

    • Eric, My photos show both the seasonal changes near the ruin and the serpentine and also the changes to which your refer. The teacup garden and the entrance courtyard are both highly managed–whole plantings are removed and replaced during the season to produce a whole new look. The hillside above the pond also tends to change on a regular basis with perennials and bulbs added and removed. This does indeed add to the value of repeat visits. Carolyn

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