Chanticleer rocks a Gravel Garden


I’m excited to show you the Gravel Garden at Chanticleer, a Philadelphia-area “pleasure garden” I visited with my friend Diana in early June, as it’s one of my favorite spaces. Planted on a long, open slope overlooking the Pond Garden, the Gravel Garden reminds me of Austin in many ways, although the surrounding lush scenery and tall conifers remind me that I’m not in Texas anymore.


Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) with upturned pink petals flourishes here.


A few droopy, white-petaled purple coneflowers add variety — maybe Echinacea pallida?


I love them all.


The hillside is planted like a wildflower meadow, a pollinator’s paradise.


I didn’t find ‘Husker Red’ penstemon on the plant list, but I believe that’s what this pale-pink, burgundy-leaved penstemon is.


It looks wonderful with the purple coneflowers.


A living bouquet


One more


Bees loved the penstemon too.


As you climb the slope, you’re at eye level with the flowers, surrounded by their beauty. Turning around, you get a nice view of the Pond Garden.


But let’s keep going up, climbing granite-block steps…


…and stopping every foot or so to admire blooming plants.


At the top, a gravelly meadow opens to view on the left — incongruously bordered (to my Southwestern eyes) with a golden-hued Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’). Japanese maple and desert-friendly Yucca rostrata — the tall, spherical-headed plant in the background — don’t usually appear together in Texas gardens, after all, but here apparently anything is possible.


The meadow in early June was frothy with white lace flower (Orlaya grandiflora), crimson poppies, and Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima).


One of the yuccas was sporting a bloom spike.


Feathergrass and white lace flower


Prickly pear cactus and orange poppies, a classic dry-garden combo


A narrow path leads through the small meadow to a pair of stone-slab benches tucked under a redbud. On the left, a silver-blue Agave americana is surrounded by blue fescue ladies-in-waiting.


American agave, ‘Elijah Blue’ fescue, autumn sage (Salvia greggii), and Mexican feathergrass — all familiar to Austin gardeners except the blue fescue.


From the benches you can admire the agave’s muscular form and steely blue color.


Diana got a few shots of it too.


A bright blue sky smeared with white clouds, Yucca rostrata, feathergrass, and poppies — gorgeous!


Another meadowy garden spreads out at the feet of a big old shade tree. The Ruin looms behind. Constructed on the site of the estate owner’s house, which was torn down after his death (it was one of three houses on the property; two remain), the Ruin is a folly “overgrown” with young trees and vines and evoking a sense of mystery and history. I’ll show it in my next post.


Like furniture that’s been dragged outdoors to air out, a stone sofa and two armchairs sit just outside the Ruin and make surprisingly comfortable seats.


Diana and I enjoyed our picnic dinner here (on Fridays in summer, the garden stays open late and allows picnicking), having the couch and chairs all to ourselves — and the glorious view.


Occasionally a few other picnickers wandered over to admire the stone seats and exclaim over the stone remote control on the sofa’s arm. What’s on TV tonight?, joked more than one person.


I lifted my arm at the surrounding garden. This.

Up Next: Chanticleer’s mysterious Ruin Garden. For a look back at the Cut Flower/Vegetable Garden and magical Bell’s Woodland, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Chanticleer’s Flower/Vegetable Garden and magical Bell’s Woodland


During our full day at Chanticleer Garden in the Philadelphia area last month, Diana and I left for lunch around 1:30 pm and returned two hours later with full bellies plus a picnic dinner stashed in our bags. On Friday nights in the summer, the garden stays open late — until 8 pm! — and allows visitors to picnic on the grounds. I wouldn’t have missed the chance to photograph the garden in the softer light of evening, and being able to bring in dinner was a bonus. (If you’re considering it too, arrive no later than 4 pm in order to get a parking spot. There are only 120 spots. Once those are filled, people are turned away.)


Re-entering the garden, we headed opposite the Teacup Garden in order to see the sections we hadn’t visited that morning. The Cut Flower Garden, with willowy arches and frothy flowerbeds, soon came into view.


I was more drawn to the Vegetable Garden, with its diagonal lines and lathe tuteurs resembling oversized carrots half-pulled from the soil.


Another view


As in other parts of the garden, Chanticleer provides a plant list in a charming, handcrafted box. (Plant lists are helpfully available online too, although only a few star plants are accompanied by photos, making it challenging at times to find the plant you’re looking for.)


The estate’s old stables now function as a garden shed. Bellflower (Campanula medium ‘Champion Pink’) shows off prettily in front.


A closer look


Pink sweet pea climbs a downspout.


We walked down this path…


…and I gasped in surprise. I missed this fallen-tree bridge — and Bell’s Woodland, which starts here — the last time I visited Chanticleer, back in 2008. (Maybe the bridge is new since then?) It would have been easy to miss this time, as the path is hidden in a back corner and on the quieter side of the garden. But we didn’t, and so began another exploration of delight.


Hanging realistically from a tree branch, a plant-list box in the shape of a hornet’s nest — complete with a few hornets! — sets an almost fairy-tale mood.


You can’t help using a cautious touch as you open it up.


The bridge is a marvel of verisimilitude as well. It’s made to resemble a fallen, partially decayed beech tree, and you enter through vine-draped roots.


The “decayed” portion is open to sunlight and, just as a real fallen tree does, supports the growth of colonizing plants.


Moss, rocks, and a mason bee house are tucked along one side of the “log.”


Delicate flowers spring out of a mossy bed.


More plants growing over the old fallen tree


A wider view shows the planted sides and jagged, “broken” end of the tree bridge.


And here’s how it looks from the outside. Isn’t it wonderful? You feel rabbit-sized as you walk through it.


Chairs are tucked into the woodland garden here and there, inviting you to sit and enjoy the peaceful scene.


I took a seat and discovered a stone representation of an old tree stump — like petrified wood — complete with moss and other colonizing plants inside.


Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) was showy in the shade.


Clematis too, its upper half reaching for the sun.


From the shady woods we emerged into a glade of curving green lawn bisected by a sunken, stone-walled stream: Bell’s Run Creek.


Bridges cross here and there, allowing you to explore both sides of the creek.


A dogwood was blooming at the edge of the woods.


An old waterwheel that once pumped water up to the swimming pool still turns, although it’s no longer in use.


A long view to the waterwheel and dogwood. In the foreground, the stream widens around a weir of stacked stone.


Carnivorous pitcher plants grow in the moist soil.


An oval reflecting pond offers a tranquil spot to pause and take in the view.


Along one side, a stone frog spits water into the pool.


Another beckoning bridge


Sticking to the edge of the garden, I rediscovered several wonderful slate paths and tiny patios.


This spiraling path of slate pieces laid on edge is one of my favorite artistic features at Chanticleer, and it was one of the inspirations for my own sunburst stone path around my stock-tank pond.


Pure magic, a surprise element that invites you into a secret-seeming space


Farther along the path, a stone-and-slate starburst suddenly appears at your feet, giving you a reason to slow down, not hurry on through.


Stars within stars. I love unique paving materials like this. Paths can be art too!


One more — a whorl of slate laid on edge for a tiny patio, with two small benches angled for conversation.


On a pine tree, a skull haloed with barbed wire is one of the few non-functional pieces of art I noticed in the garden, and it has an incongruously Southwestern vibe. Still, I liked it too. How could I not like anything at magical Chanticleer?

Up Next: The dry and hilly Gravel Garden, one of my favorite parts of Chanticleer. For a look back at the white and gold Tennis Court Garden, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Need shade? Read my article about native vines in Wildflower


It’s summer. It’s Texas. And we all know it’s only getting hotter. That’s a line from an old radio ad, but truer words were never spoken. If you need shade in order to enjoy your yard at this time of year, how about giving a native vine a try? (Southern gardeners, do wait until planting time rolls around in October.)


In the summer 2016 issue of Wildflower, the magazine of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center here in Austin, I’m writing about native vines for shade. My picks are focused on vines for the South and Southwest, but for a California perspective, I interviewed Bay Area designer and author Rebecca Sweet, who shared her favorite native vines for shade. Oh, and that’s my photo of native wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) too.

I’ll post a link when it’s available. In the meantime, consider subscribing in order to get articles and beautiful photos about native plants, plus news about the Wildflower Center and native planting efforts across North America. All you have to do is join the Wildflower Center. Your membership also gets you reciprocal membership to many botanical gardens around the country, a perk that comes in handy if you travel.


Speaking of the Wildflower Center, I dropped in for a quick visit a couple of weekends ago and enjoyed the gardens around the cafe. The grotto pond was looking terrific with a supersized Jamaican swamp sawgrass (Cladium mariscus ssp. jamaicense), a wetland sedge native to the Gulf Coast region, and a hibiscus (H. moscheutos) with flowers the size of salad plates.


Jamaican swamp sawgrass


Hibiscus moscheutos


The view from the cafe windows


And the iconic cistern tower, which stores rainwater from the roofs. An interior stair segues halfway up to an exterior stair, which leads all the way to the top for a bird’s-eye view.


Coneflower and mistflower in the meadow


Bouquets of native flowers and grasses from the garden adorn the cafe tables, offering an up-close view of these beautiful plants that connect us to the natural landscape we inhabit.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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