Up on Chanticleer’s elevated walkway and Asian Woods Garden

From the formal House Garden at Chanticleer, the garden path steps off into space — or rather, onto the new elevated walkway that provides an accessible, curving descent down a sloping meadow of foxtail lilies, feathergrass, bee balm, coneflowers, and other sun lovers.

I visited Chanticleer, a theatrical “pleasure garden” in the Philadelphia area, in early June. For my traveling companion Diana, it was a first visit. For me, it was a long-anticipated return after 8 years. In the interval, I visited the home garden of Berkeley, California, artist Marcia Donahue, whose rooster-combed bamboo sculptures adorn the upper part of Chanticleer’s elevated walkway garden.

“Cockadoodle Booooooo,” one sculpture proclaims — another play on the Chanticleer name (i.e., “rooster”).

I’ve seen Marcia’s ceramic bamboo pieces in several gardens over the years, including at Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead, Texas. They’re very recognizable.

The walkway doubles back on itself like an “S” to descend the slope, offering lovely views across the main lawn, eye-catching with mown stripes. In the distance, a pair of Adirondack chairs occupies the middle of the lawn, and I saw people lounging there for quite a while.

No lounging for us though. There was just too much to see, like these tangerine foxtail lilies (Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Cleopatra’)…

…dainty orange lilies…

…and star-shaped red (and a few pink) flowers, whose name eludes me.

Along the path, the estate’s old apple house still sits on the slope, turned into a burrow-themed playhouse for kids.

The meadow garden in early-summer bloom, with soft-textured Mexican feathergrass making a chartreuse river

Another look

Knautia macedonica and Monarda bradburyana, aka eastern bee balm

One last look up-slope, with the elevated walkway visible at upper-right

At the bottom, a spiraling seat wall and stone path make a focal point for the transition.

At this point, the day was getting warm, but as we headed downhill we soon found a handcrafted water fountain, one of Chanticleer’s many utilitarian-items-turned-work-of-art. Notice how water fills the leafy carvings in the stones at its base.

Now we entered the cool, green shade of the Asian Woods garden. Here’s my visit from 8 years ago.

Groves of bamboo create a tranquil mood with their soft rustling.

Adirondacks, painted to match, are dwarfed by tall culms.

A restroom tucked behind a stand of bamboo resembles a Japanese house, and inside a pretty art tile continues the Asian theme.

I imagine the staff, just before opening each day, as garden fairies darting here and there to float flowers in water bowls, like these dogwood blossoms in a hollowed-out stone.

Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus)

Chanticleer doesn’t clutter the view with plant labels. If you want to ID a plant, you can look around for one of the whimsically crafted plant-list boxes, made during the garden’s winter closure by multi-talented staff members. Notice the little hand-shaped latch.

Likewise, an artfully constructed stair rail of wriggly branches

‘Forest Pansy’ redbud, I think, arching over a stepping-stone path through a mossy glade.

A bridge with an organically “footed” wooden railing spans a small stream. From here, the nearby Pond Garden in all its exuberant floral glory beckoned, and off we went.

Up Next: Chanticleer’s colorful Pond Garden. For a look back at the formal House Garden, click here.

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10 Responses

  1. I have enjoyed the highlights you have photographed. I see that tall bamboo and shudder. I remember the big bamboo around the Biltmore that seemed to be taking over the grounds along streams etc. I hope these are the non runny types. I like the look but would be afraid of the upkeep. I love all the little details in the garden.

    • Gosh Pam, thank you for these tours of Chanticleer. I have wanted to visit for a while now and your photos cement that idea for me. I think this to be a very personal garden with many heart-felt touches. Love it.

      • Pam/Digging says:

        Tamara, you should go! The director has said in his excellent book, The Art of Gardening, that he wants it to feel like a personal garden, not a generic public garden. All the artistic touches and great plant combos definitely do that. —Pam

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Bamboo can be very invasive here in Austin too, where in older neighborhoods it was planted for screening and then took off. I only choose clumping bamboo for my own garden, but those aren’t generally cold hardy enough for your part of the country, Lisa. I think the ones Chanticleer has are runners, but I guess they have the staff to keep them in bounds. —Pam

  2. I enjoyed tagging along on your visit to the beautiful Chanticleer Gardens. Your photos are lovely and catch the whimsy of the this special place. I will need to add these onto my list!

  3. Kris P says:

    I love the meadow-style gardens that edge that wide expanse of lawn. The stair handrails made of branches also appeal to me. I can tell from your posts on Chanticleer that I could easily get lost in this garden for a week.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      We spent an entire day there, Kris, and could easily have spent more time. Not that it’s a large garden; it’s actually pretty small. There’s just a lot of detail to enjoy, plus all those chairs to sit in and take in the views. —Pam

  4. Diana Studer says:

    that branch arching over the glade is utter perfection!