Chanticleer in Winter: Texture

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.

Chanticleer’s Teacup Garden in May

Chanticleer is a unique public garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania, U.S., which I have profiled in three 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.  The third, Chanticleer Part 3:  Through the Seasons, showed the gardens as they evolve through spring, summer, and fall.

The Teacup Garden in January

To complete my series on Chanticleer through the year, I received special permission to visit the garden during the winter months when it is closed to the public.  As you can see from the photo above, all the “toys” are put away and most of the flowers and foliage are gone.  But the minute I stepped into the garden, the word TEXTURE appeared before me as if it was outlined in neon lights.  I have never had such an exciting visit to this garden because I saw it in a whole new way, and I hope I can communicate that to you.

I always admire the elegant mature trees when I visit, but without their leaves or any flower gardens to distract me, they really stood out.

Texture was also provided by smaller plants, but not the way I expected:


Hardscape, always a huge part of Chanticleer’s elegance and beauty, really dominated my visit:

The attention to detail in the paths, always a hightlight for me, was easier to see and appreciate:

I decided not to add captions to the photos in this post, but if you want more information just run your cursor over the photo.  The location of the Lady in the Lake is secret so you will have to find her for yourself.

I want to thank Bill Thomas, Chanticleer’s Director, for making this visit possible, Fran DiMarco, Administrative Assistant, for arranging it, and Joseph Henderson, Horticulturalist, for providing some needed conversation in the sun so I didn’t freeze to death.  I have been promised a visit in the snow, and I might take them up on it if we ever get any of the white stuff.


Calendar:  If you would like to look at my photos all year round, please consider buying my 2012 calendar, available worldwide, 20% off through 2/3/12.  For details, click here.

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens now has a Facebook page where I can post photos and information that don’t fit into a blog post.  You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

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Nursery Happenings: To view the
2012 Snowdrop Catalogue, click here. I am currently accepting orders—snowdrops are available mail order.

Look for 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.

52 Responses to “Chanticleer in Winter: Texture”

  1. Stunning photos of fantastic textures just show that there is still interest in a garden, even in the depths of winter. Loved the shadows formed with the hard landscaping, very artistic!

    • Pauline, I was so set on going in the snow that I thought of my trip as only preliminary. But when I walked in I knew I was really onto something. I originally called the post Texture and Shadows but then decided texture covered both. I had a much better photo of the rill but used the one with the heavy shadows because I thought it was more interesting. Glad you agree. Carolyn

  2. Chanticleer in all its nakedness really does show the texture which you talk of, and I spotted the lady in the lake without highlighting. But, oh I was always told not to start a sentence with a but, ah well I’ve started so I’ll finish, (below the ruin garden chanticleer) what on earth is it, surely not Myras favourite grass Carex Buchananii.

    • Alistair, What I meant is that local readers will have to hunt around Chanticleer to find the lady in the lake—I am not going to disclose her location. I had been going there for 19 years without finding her. The grass is gorgeous, and its name totally escapes me. I will find out. It is featured in part 2 and part 3 also. Carolyn

    • nwphillygardner Says:

      I believe that is grass is Sporobolus heterolepis, a.k.a. Prairie dropseed. I read that Chanticleer does a controlled burn of this large slope of the Sporobolus which invigorates it. The appearance of the scorched clumps has been described in the recently published book about Chanticleer as the world’s largest convention of hedgehogs (as something like that).

      • Eric, I am pretty sure you are right. I remember hearing all about the burning too with the local fire department in attendance. I want to try this in place of my lawn but I worry that it might be too shady everywhere here. Carolyn

  3. Carolyn, what a wonderful post, I love visiting gardens in winter, better with blue skies, I do lije to admire the structure of the trees in full geometry. Coincidence: I am preparing a post for next week about a visit to a botanical in winter! thanks for sharing.

  4. Tish Iorio Says:

    Chanticleer is my very favorite garden. There is so much to see and find. Winter does look like a feast for the eyes also from your pictures. Thanks for your series

    • Tish, Chanticleer is definitely the garden that I know the best right now aside from my own. It is a truly magical place and a big part of its magic is the amazing horticulturalists that work there. Not only are they garden artists of the highest caliper, but they love plants and are eager to communicate their love to visitors. Every time I visit, my time there is enhanced by a discussion with one of the gardeners. Carolyn

  5. You were so lucky to have free reign over the garden. Chanticleer is one of those gardens that is on my list to visit someday. I never get enough of the beautiful images from that garden. Thanks for feeding my love for it even more…

  6. Very nice. Shows that a beautiful garden is beautiful all year round, even stripped of its flowers.

  7. I am so glad you said to run the cursor over the photos for an explanation. I always enjoy commentary with my photos. The Serpentine Garden photo is like wow with the bright red of the dogwoods? I don’t know how you keep up with your garden, your blog and still find the time to visit gardens. You must be full of energy! I am glad I can visit Chanticleer in the wintertime with you and don’t have to leave my house. Looking forward to meeting you in May as well. I am the plump white haired short lady with glasses. You can’t miss me. I am not staying at the fling hotel though but will be participating in most things. I’m so looking forward to it all. See ya there!

    • Tina, I didn’t put in the captions because I wanted readers to focus on the texture, but I wasn’t going to leave you high and dry. The red in the Serpentine Garden is actually some kind of braided willow tree. Looking forward to the fling. Carolyn

  8. So much to really see at this time of year, much that would not be noticed otherwise. I bet it would be beautiful in fresh falling snow. It is beautiful now, but the form of plants in snow is lovely. It was nice you made these arrangements to visit the gardens. I enjoyed the winter tour.

    • Donna, OK, I will definitely head over if we ever have snow on a weekday (or at all). I was working outside today cutting back some of my hellebores because it was so warm. The flower stems on some are so far above the leaves that I figured it wouldn’t matter. Carolyn

  9. Carolyn this is such a gorgeous place no matter the season…i must make a visit…I also have to put together an order…happy to see you on FB!

    • Donna, I wanted to get my blog consolidated before I tried something new. I am excited to be on Facebook because it allows me to post single photos and short garden tips that wouldn’t merit a full blog post. Now I just have to keep up with it. Carolyn

  10. I’m actually a little surprised this garden closes in winter. There is always something to see in a garden no matter the season and can be a quiet space to walk and have some solitude. Your trip there now certainly shows there was plenty to see and enjoy at this time of year.

    • Marguerite, Chanticleer is open April through October. They have been so nice to me as I visited and wrote posts all year that I don’t want to start bothering them about being open in winter. But I am sure area gardeners would enjoy it. I need to pick a local garden to profile for the coming year. Carolyn

  11. You are indeed a lucky woman. Too bad the snow wasn’t there.

  12. What a beautiful place. I would Love to be able to be there in person… your post certainly whets the appetite! How long was your visit? It would be difficult to have to rush!!

  13. What a treasure trove for the imagination!

  14. Carolyn, brilliantly droolingly enticing images. …..and yes, texture personified. This winter light is very kind for showing up hard landscaping and nude trees.

    • Catherine, I think I really learned something about photography that day, and it is just what you pointed out. I always try to photograph when it is overcast so the colors of the flowers won’t get washed out. But when the colors are greens, and browns, and grays with lots of contrast from shadows, the bright winter sunlight really worked out. I was there from 11 am to 1 pm. Carolyn

  15. patientgardener Says:

    What a wonderful garden. I think you can tell a good garden by how good it looks in winter. The hard structures and the skeletons of trees are quite striking. I do like the lady in the lake

  16. Carolyn I love posts like this pictures speak for themselves, I love the shape of trees in their nakedness and these are beautiful, love the patterns of walls and paths and the way you have caught the fence around the waterwheel, the grass blobs made me think of jellyfish out of water 🙂
    thanks for sharing, Frances

  17. I am particularly struck by the sculpture of the sleeping lady with her winter grass hair! January is a great time to appreciate texture, form, and hardscapes, and Chanticleer is clearly blessed abundantly with all those. If ever i am in that part of the country I will certainly want to visit, no matter the season!

  18. What a fabulous set of images, and proof of the fact that if the bones are good they will hold the whole garden together year-round. So many great ideas for hard landscaping there, even if most of us will never be lucky enough to have trees as magnificent as those.

  19. Hi Carolyn – Hope consolidate means “establish” rather than “wrap-up”. It’s probably no surprise that I don’t do Facebook but it’s the way to go along with Tweeting and Google+-ing, guess it helps having young sons in the know.

  20. Carolyn,
    I’ve enjoyed all of your posts about Chanticleer, will definitely add it to my list of places to see. Thanks for sharing, going to check out your FB page now.

  21. There’s something magical about the symmetry of bare tree branches. I have awarded you the Versatile Bloggers award. See

  22. Beautiful photography, Carolyn. I really enjoy visiting gardens in the wintertime; good design really shines for the foundation that it is.

  23. Hello Carolyn!
    Your blog is fabulous – the photography is amazing. I look fwd to your future posts.

  24. Carolyn, I enjoy your blog so much that I want to give you a Versatile Blogger Award. I’ve announced the award and linked to you on this post, which also has instructions on passing the award on if you wish to:

  25. Carolyn, This is a great post. These are the conditions in which a garden’s structure are really visible. I loved the details in the walkways.

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