A mysterious stone sculpture wreathed in honeysuckle and nestled in prairie dropseed grass at Chanticleer, near the Ruin Garden.
The time has come to talk about Chanticleer.
Many gardeners among you may already know about Chanticleer Garden. But in addition to being a mecca for garden lovers, it is also a photographer’s dream, regardless of the season. Located in Wayne, Pennsylvania, not far from Philadelphia, Chanticleer is a lesser-known treasure open to the public from April through October. A special bonus for photographers is that on Friday evenings from May through August, the garden stays open until 8 p.m., allowing you to photograph during the “sweet light” of late afternoon. Tripods are welcome although you need to sign a release that photographs will be used for editorial or personal purposes only.
Formerly an estate belonging to the Rosengarten family, Chanticleer Garden is comprised of 32 acres with a lake, an Asian Wood, a Teacup Garden, a Tennis Court garden, gravel garden, artificial ruins, a cutting garden, and countless other areas to lose oneself in. Scattered throughout the garden are handmade chairs to sit in (repainted yearly), mysterious bits of sculpture, and bridges, water fountains and small structures or artworks custom-designed and crafted on site or especially for the garden.
I first discovered Chanticleer in July 2004 on a visit to Mt. Cuba Center with some friends. Since then, I’ve been back for a number of garden photography workshops as well as on my own. There is always something wonderful to discover that I haven’t seen before, and the garden areas change yearly. Last year, I collected my favorite photos, published a book on it, and sent it to Chris Wood, the Executive Director of the garden, who loved it. What a thrill!
Here are some photos of it in the spring. The first is a favorite from a May 2006 photo workshop. We were allowed onto the grounds at 6:30 a.m., a treat since the garden doesn’t open to the public until 10 a.m. By the time we stopped shooting, around opening time, the light was getting harsh.
This part of the garden has changed so although the “floating lady” is still there, the foreground plantings are not.
This sight captured my eyes and heart the first time I saw it. Sadly, the plantings around the "lady" have changed so the composition is gone.
The Pond Garden in the spring, with the Pond House in the foreground.
Unlike many other public gardens, plants at Chanticleer are not labeled (although tucked away here and there a visitor can find wooden boxes with plant lists for the area of the garden one is in). However, during one spring photo workshop, Brent Heath was there to help identify bulbs we didn’t recognize.
Nectaroscordum siculum and allium at the Pond Garden
Brent identified these fabulous beauties as Nectaroscordum siculum. I thought they looked perfect with the alliums. Apparently some people think their fragrance is offensive, but I didn’t detect anything. What a great combination!
Other bulbs setting the scene were Camassia, one of the few bulbs I know of that can tolerate (and even enjoys) damp sites.
Camassia in bloom in May near the stream at Chanticleer.
And the poppies! Don’t get me started.
Salmon poppies and Iris siberica on the hillside in spring.
Primulas and hostas, also breath-taking, in a sea of equisetum near the Asian Garden at Chanticleer.
The Minder Ruins, above the Gravel Garden, is one of my favorite parts of the garden to photograph. Although these are artificial “ruins,” they are both beautiful and mysterious.
A fringetree in bloom outside the Minder Ruins
A doorway in the Minder Ruins is reflected in the black pool.
I could write forever about this place. And I promise at least two more posts, one about the garden in summer, and the other about it in fall. But before I close, here is the quintessential spring flower photo, from my very first May photo workshop there. Visit Chanticleer soon, if you can.
Meconopsis (Himalayan blue poppy) in bloom at Chanticleer in the spring.