Drinking up beauty in Chanticleer’s Teacup Garden


Eight years ago, on a family road trip through Pennsylvania, I visited Chanticleer on a lark (I was planning to see Longwood Gardens but changed my mind at the last minute), and my understanding of what a garden could be changed forever. Not merely because the garden was beautiful. Beauty is on the surface. Chanticleer enchants because it reaches out to you through humor, creativity, the slow reveal of secret spaces, and even moments of darkness. Each space seems to tell a story.

Since that 2008 visit I’ve seen a few private gardens that transported me in this way (Bella Madrona and Bedrock Gardens come to mind), but Chanticleer remains the most vivid and wonderful public garden I’ve seen.


Earlier this month, on a Philadelphia-area garden-touring trip, my friend Diana/Sharing Nature’s Garden and I saved Chanticleer for last, following visits to Winterthur and Longwood Gardens. We held off partly because I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered, but mostly because the garden stays open late on summer Fridays, until 8:00 p.m., and I was eager to take advantage of soft evening light for photos.


But enough of all that. I know you’re here for the virtual tour, so let’s start at the entry. Chanticleer eschews the non-plant attractions of many public gardens, like a visitor’s center, gift shop, and cafe. It’s all about the plant combos and unfolding drama of the garden.


You enter on a small patio, where these tree-form yuccas make a surprising (for this area) backdrop to a bench…


…and you get your first look at the creative, organic designs of stair railings, water fountains, benches, and plant-list boxes throughout the gardens.


We entered the garden proper through the Teacup Garden, a sunny courtyard behind a house that once belonged to the Rosengarten family (the garden’s founders) but is now used for offices and classrooms. The entrance itself is understated, an open doorway in a stucco wall.


Two courtyards unfold before you. The first is quite small, enclosed by white walls and stuffed with containers filled with brick-red and hot-pink flowers.


In the middle of the space, a charcoal pot-turned-water-garden holds a floating bouquet of flowers and leaves.


Pink clematis. Golden euphorbia. I don’t know what the rest is, but so beautifully arranged!


The living clematis twines up a post nearby.


The hot color scheme echoes throughout the Teacup Garden in potted combos, cooled with contrasting silver foliage.


Colorful foliage, like that of a pink bromeliad, picks up the color scheme too.


A tile plaque greets you at the doorway to the second, larger courtyard…


…where the teacup fountain holds a reflective green pool that spills over the sides into a low basin. Surrounding it are plants in a golden, silver, purple, and olive-green color scheme…


…including the surprising punctuation of 4 small olive trees. Watch this excellent short video to hear horticulturist Dan Benarcik explain his design decisions for this space, which he changes every year. Eight years ago when I visited, it was dominated by silver agaves and palms.


Allium-bookended steps lead up…


…to a shaggy lawn where an old washtub (?) displays a brugmansia and bromeliad that continue the hot color scheme.


The meadowy lawn extends to the right, with a mown path down the center. Dark tropical planters draw the eye along the path to a flowering dogwood and a pair of orange Adirondacks.


Turning back to the house, though, let’s tour the rest of the Teacup Garden.


Vines clamber up the home, adding a sense of romance and age as potted plants crowd around doorways.


I love this combo, with orange flowers picking up the orange hues of the sedge and the terracotta.


Unique pot stands elevate a grouping of bronze dyckia.


Notice the tall chairs on the covered porch behind this container grouping?


They’re echoed on the other side of the courtyard. While these were made by Landcraft Environments, LTD, much of the garden’s furniture, bridges, railings, and other decorative yet practical objects are made by Chanticleer staff on winter break from the gardens.


From the sunny patio with the teacup fountain, you step down into a verdant shade garden, where the colors change to green and chartreuse, accented with bronze pots.


More beautiful metalwork — a stair rail resembling living plants.


A quiet bench offers shady seclusion.


Sago palm trunks were just sprouting new leaves after hibernating in the greenhouses all winter. Golden sedge and ferns brighten the ground layer.


Even the smallest details offer a fun surprise, like this tiny Japanese maple seedling tucked in a fringe of greenery.


Leaving the Teacup Garden, you pass under an enormous old shade tree, at whose feet a pretty mix of shade-lovers grows.


Let’s take that curving path…


…but first, a last look back at the house and that big old tree — one of many beautiful trees in the garden.

Up Next: The Chanticleer House Garden. For a look back at the Meadow Garden and fantasy treehouses at Longwood 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.
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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.

Those who play in glass houses: Conservatory and Indoor Children’s Garden at Longwood Gardens


Maybe Southerners don’t need conservatories because our winters are pretty green. Growing up in the South, I don’t recall ever visiting a conservatory until I started garden traveling to northern states. (We don’t have a culture of spring garden shows either, perhaps for the same reason.) Call me a conservatory philistine, then, but I have just never developed an appreciation for looking at gardens that are indoors. I always have a vague feeling of being in a mall. Plants should be outside!


Aechmea ‘Blue Tango’

This notion is rubbish to my friend and traveling companion Diana/Sharing Nature’s Garden (not a native Southerner, mind you), who joined me in visiting Longwood Gardens, near Philadelphia, earlier this month. She loves conservatories, and so Longwood’s cathedral-sized glass house was our first stop.


Jaw-droppingly vast, the conservatory was constructed in 1919 by Longwood founder Pierre S. du Pont (Longwood was his summer home) and been expanded over the years to its current 4-1/2 acres (!) of gardens under glass.


Conservatories are all about tropicals, of course — plants that can’t be grown outdoors in cooler climates — but for us Texans, sago palms are regular landscaping plants.


Bamboo too, although this black bamboo is particularly nice, and I like how the hanging lanterns add a little Far East flavor.


I also admired the bonsai collection, which is nicely displayed against black-framed, translucent screens, with labels on some that date the beginning of each plant’s training. I’m always amazed to see trees miniaturized into tabletop potted plants. Here, for exampled, is a pomegranate, an ornamental tree that I grow in my own garden, and look — even the blossoms look tiny-sized. How do they do that? Does it set doll-sized fruit, I wonder?


Japanese black pine, whose training began in 1949 — 67 years ago!


A fairy-sized forest is created with a grouping of loose-flower hornbeams, mosses, and tiny ferns.


A bald cypress, whose majestic dimensions are somehow recreated on a miniature scale. It all looks perfectly in scale, even the bark, but magically made small. I really want to know how this is done.


Aechmea mulfordii ‘Malva’

Moving on, there were many other wonderful plants on display throughout the 20 indoor gardens of the conservatory.


But I confess, all I could think about was getting outside to enjoy the wonderfully brisk temps (in the 50s!) of a Pennsylvania summer morning, not walk around indoors in a humid 70-something degrees.


No doubt I would appreciate it more if I could visit in the winter, when all else is sleeping under snow.


But here’s something unusual in a grand conservatory — a children’s garden! As a half-dozen tots in strollers, pushed by their mothers, converged on the area, my interest was piqued. What a surprise to discover a beautifully designed indoor play area, with at least a dozen fountains and water features that encourage interactive play.


Bronze and cast-stone animals spit, drool, and spout water in hidden nooks throughout winding, narrow pathways that encourage children’s exploration.


Little ones and adults alike delight in spouting lizards…


…a bird family in a nest…


…a pair of ibis…


…and a pelican gobbling up fish.


Grand fountain rooms…


…with interesting tilework…


…contrast with subterranean-seeming niches accessible only to children or adults who stoop, like this seascape-themed tunnel with mosaic fish.


This one, tucked under a curving staircase, elicited a happy shriek from one little boy who darted in. A trio of fanged snakes coils along the ceiling, over a smoking pool of dry ice.


Scary fun


Another nook includes a stained glass window, with a couple of small chairs and and baskets of books to curl up with.


The secret heart of the garden is the Drooling Dragon fountain, with a red-lit roaring mouth and a crown of asparagus fern.


You know you’re getting close when you spot this slinking, scaly dragon stair rail.


A phoenix and viper locked in epic battle adorn a low window grate.


And steampunk-esque metal bugs rest on a wooden door. I was charmed by the indoor children’s garden and imagine it’s hugely popular with local families.

Up Next: A trio of top-notch treehouses, plus a native-plant meadow at Longwood Gardens. For a look back at the Rose Arbor, Italian Water Garden, and other formal spaces at Longwood, 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.

Foliage plants in bloom for Foliage Follow-Up


Even plants we grow primarily for the beauty of their leaves and their form will flower. On this Foliage Follow-Up, I’m sharing two bold-foliage plants that are adding a jolt of drama with surprising bloom stalks.

One is dwarf Texas palmetto (Sabal minor), a native Texas plant that I’ve never seen in bloom before. Boy, was I surprised recently to see a slender, pliable flower spike arise from the heart of one of my sabals. Inconspicuous, cream-colored flowers are held on branching stems along the top of the spike. This is as showy as they get. Later, small black fruits should appear on the spike.


Regular readers know that Moby, my whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), is blooming — a tree-like flower spike that shot up to 15 feet in a matter of weeks. Tiers of yellow flowers are opening from bottom to top, with the lower-tier flowers already faded and dropped. The topmost flowers are still in bloom for now.

As dramatic as the bloom spike is, it presages Moby’s death, since agaves bloom just once and then die.


Moby’s beautiful blue-gray leaves still look pretty good for now. The plant hasn’t begun its inevitable collapse. But in preparation for that day, I now have a new Agave ovatifolia waiting in the wings — a lovely gift from horticulturist Nathan Unclebach at Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery! Meet ‘Vanzie’, a wavy-leaved variety of the standard whale’s tongue, which will take Moby’s place when he dies.

This is my June post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is going on in your garden this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

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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