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Gardens Worth Visiting: Chanticleer

May 21, 2011

Tennis Court Garden at Chanticleer (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Chanticleer, a wonderful garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania, with Carolyn from Carolyn’s Shade Gardens and Jan from Thanks For Today. Chanticleer was originally developed in the early 20th century as the home and garden of Adolf Rosengarten, a pharmaceutical magnate. Rosengarten acquired adjacent properties as wedding gifts for his two children, and all three properties were eventually combined into the 37 acre garden that is now open to the public under the ownership of The Chanticleer Foundation.

In mid-April, the garden was a vision of spring dominated by spring bulbs and flowering trees, as you can see above in the garden that has been created from the former tennis court and below in this inviting area known as the Chanticleer terrace.

Chanticleer terrace in April (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Because the deciduous trees hadn’t leafed out yet when we visited, their shapes and sizes were particularly visible. I was amazed by this beautiful Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum).

Katsura tree at Chanticleer (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

Chanticleer is divided into many garden areas, each with its own distinctive beauties. This stand of bamboo in the Asian woods area provided both soothing sounds and beautiful movement as it was stirred by the breeze. chanticleer bamboo
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Carolyn (right) and Jan (left) confer over a plant identification (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) The curators of this garden have made a decision not to detract from the beauties of plant compositions with plant labels. They do have plant lists available for each area of the garden, but these can be a bit overwhelming; you need to have some idea what the plant is in order to find it on the list. Jan and I constantly called on Carolyn for expert help with plant identification. Unfortunately I didn’t take notes; and occasionally even Carolyn was stumped. As a result, I don’t know the identity of this beautiful grass that was growing in the Pond Garden.
Unknown grass in the pond garden at Chanticleer (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
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Chanticleer is not designed for plant study, but for sensual enjoyment. There are picnic areas and seating spaces for quiet contemplation scattered throughout the garden, and visitors are encouraged to use all their senses. On this fine spring Sunday, people were enjoying the garden in many ways; but one of my favorites was the sight of children rolling down this grassy hill.

Children enjoying a fine spring day at Chanticleer (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)Chanticleer is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., from late March until late October. During the summer (Memorial Day until Labor Day), the garden is also open on Friday evenings until 8 p.m. I imagine that it would be well worth visiting at any time from spring through fall. Most visitors arrive by car, but it is also possible to take public transportation (the SEPTA rail system) to the Wayne Train Station and then walk or take a taxi the last 1.4 miles. If you are going to be in the Philadelphia area, Chanticleer would be a garden well worth visiting.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2011 5:37 am

    So beautiful you post I wish could visit the garden. The labeling is a topic I reflex about very often, since for me is very important to know what I am photographing, I need to know in order to document. But I do also understand the distraction it may cause to the display; curators/designers take a great deal of time deciding what’s best, but there shouldn’t be a need for extra stress in the visit, even if the place is designed for pleasure and not for study! Beautiful the image of the grass

    • May 26, 2011 10:42 pm

      Lula, There are many wonderful gardens in the Philadelphia area, and somehow in all the years I’ve been living in Pennsylvania, I hadn’t managed to visit any of them. So I was very grateful to Carolyn for taking me to Chanticleer. I do wish Chanticleer had a somewhat better system for plant identification. Like you, I want to know the names of the plants I’m looking at. Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, which also doesn’t have plant labels, might be a good model for Chanticleer. Butchart has a little pamphlet with photos and identifications for the plants that people most often ask about. In addition, they have a staffed information booth specifically for plant identification.

  2. May 21, 2011 6:22 am

    Jean I will definitely have to make the trip when I get down that way again….and I would be rolling down the hill no question about it. Wonderful gardens and I love the grass…wonder what it is???

    • May 26, 2011 10:45 pm

      Donna, I didn’t get out there with the kids to roll down the hill — but it was tempting! No one has identified that beautiful grass. Chanticleer has an email address to contact them with requests for information. I should send them a copy of the photo and ask for a plant identification.

  3. May 21, 2011 9:05 am

    I enjoyed revisiting Chanticleer through your photos and words, Jean:-) I think we were all impressed by that amazing Katsura tree! The transformation that has occurred in the former tennis court is impressive, isn’t it?! It would be fun to re-visit in mid-summer and again in fall, for comparison purposes. Can’t say that will happen on my end, anytime soon…but Carolyn sure can manage it! We’ll have to depend on her for photos! I have so many photos to share and will, soon…but there are a lot of things happening in my own garden that I haven’t even shared yet! I’ve been spending more time IN the garden than ON the garden blogs. Balancing my priorities and managing my time hasn’t always been one of my strong points;~} I did have a wonderful time with you and Carolyn and will treasure our get-together for years to come.

    • May 26, 2011 10:48 pm

      Jan, I often write about my garden visits years afterwards, so I can be patient until you have the time for this. Like you, I’ve been experiencing some tension between time for blogging and everything that needs to be done in the garden. When we get some more rainy days, I’ll take time for blogging — but until then, the garden gets higher priority!

  4. May 22, 2011 7:49 am

    I like the description of this garden being for enjoyment. It reminds me of the botanical garden I used to volunteer at. People were encouraged to walk on the grass and use the space as they saw fit. Yoga classes and walking groups were held there. Rather than having a museum quality these gardens become interactive and fun for everyone, not just avid gardeners. I think it’s so important to spread the love of gardens with people who wouldn’t normally enjoy them and this is a great way of doing so.

    • May 26, 2011 10:53 pm

      Marguerite, Chanticleer really does a wonderful job of encouraging people to enjoy the garden while still being respectful of the plants and the other visitors. There were lots of other people in the garden when we were there, but there were only a couple of times when I found them intrusive. (Once was when a woman walked into the middle of a planting — definitely NOT encouraged.) I particularly liked the way that they had seating scattered around everywhere — mostly in small numbers to encourage quiet conversations and contemplation rather than big groups.

  5. May 22, 2011 8:25 pm

    Chanticleer goes on my bucket list. How fun and informative to have visited it with fellow garden bloggers.

  6. gardeningasylum permalink
    May 23, 2011 5:27 am

    Ditto Joene! To see it with other plant people is my idea of a wonderful day!

    • May 26, 2011 10:55 pm

      Joene and Cyndy, Chanticleer hadn’t been on my list of must-see gardens — but it should have been. My two favorite ways to visit gardens are alone (I will often spend a whole day and look at every plant at least once!) and with other gardeners. This was indeed a wonderful day.

  7. May 23, 2011 9:44 pm

    Jean, So fun to relive our wonderful day together. You really caught the spirit of Chanticleer: it’s for pleasure. As I said in my post, one of the things I treasure about Chanticleer is that I don’t know all the plants, including the beautiful grass in your photo above. I too usually don’t have time to look it up or can’t find it on the list, but I often ask the extremely friendly and knowledgeable gardeners what the plant is. I will have to try and get back there this week because I promised to go in May. Glad you captured the children rolling down the hill–my own children always did that. Despite being so elegant, Chanticleer is very child friendly. Thanks again for a great day. Carolyn

    • May 26, 2011 10:59 pm

      Carolyn, I’m never very good about seeking out staff to ask questions, but I will email Chanticleer to ask what that grass is. I’ll add it to this post when I find out. Thank *you* for taking us to Chanticleer — and for inviting us to visit. Let me know when you’re going to be in Maine; maybe we can find some time to get together or for a garden or nursery visit.

  8. May 23, 2011 9:56 pm

    Chanticleer is on my top five favorite gardens list! I enjoy their web site where they list the plants – it is a treasure trove of names and if you have the time, great to review before you go!

    • May 26, 2011 11:02 pm

      Jayne, How smart you are to visit the Chanticleer web site before you go. This visit came at a very busy time in my semester, so I didn’t do anything to prepare — just put myself in Carolyn’s very capable hands. I’ve been visiting the website after the fact to add to my understanding of the garden.

  9. May 25, 2011 12:23 am

    With a name like “Chanticleer” I was expecting something more formal, more uptight. But I found your photos to show it as an altogether comforting and welcoming destination. I’ll have to check back to see if someone IDs that grass for you. It’s stunning.

    • May 26, 2011 11:10 pm

      James, There is definitely nothing uptight about Chanticleer. The garden is informal, welcoming, and includes touches of humor. I’ve emailed the Chanticleer staff to ask about the grass, and I’ll add the ID when I hear back from them.

  10. May 25, 2011 11:56 am

    Very nice garden. We’re planning to visit many gardens in PA this year and one of those is Longwood garden in Kennett Square. We added this garden in our garden tour schedule. Thank you for sharing.

  11. May 25, 2011 12:28 pm

    One of the head gardeners from Chanticleer gave a presentation to our garden group and it made me want to visit there. Reading your post bumps it even higher up on my list of ‘must-see’ gardens!

    • May 26, 2011 11:13 pm

      Starting a Garden and Arie-El, Longwood Gardens is definitely the most famous garden in the Philadelphia area and has long been on my list of gardens to see (along with John Bartram’s garden, which I’d like to see because of his important role in the history of gardening). Chanticleer is a more hidden gem; I had never even heard of it until I started reading about it in others’ blogs. I’m so glad that I had an opportunity to go there; it’s very much worth the visit!

  12. June 7, 2011 9:09 am

    What a wonderful-looking place. I wish I’d known about it on my trip to PA a few years ago. Next time!

    • June 9, 2011 9:20 pm

      Barbara, I don’t think Chanticleer has the kind of national/international prominence that someplace like Longwood Gardens does. I had never heard of Chanticleer until several blogs I read featured it in posts. So I was delighted when Carolyn proposed taking us there; it is really a gem.

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