Archive for March 2010

Chanticleer in the Spring

March 6, 2010
Chanticleer Garden, sculpture

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.


Chanticleer Garden

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, Chanticleer Garden

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.


Nectoscordum, Chanticleer Garden, allium

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.

Chanticleer gardens, Camassia

Camassia in bloom in May near the stream at Chanticleer.

And the poppies! Don’t get me started.

Poppies and iris

Salmon poppies and Iris siberica on the hillside in spring.

Chanticleer Garden, primulas, hostas

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.

Chanticleer, Minder Ruins

A fringetree in bloom outside the Minder Ruins

Chanticleer Garden, 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.

Chanticleer Garden, meconopsis, Himalayan blue poppy

Meconopsis (Himalayan blue poppy) in bloom at Chanticleer in the spring.


My Favorite Thing

March 3, 2010

As I’ve been known to confess to fellow landscape designers, I would probably rather photograph gardens than design them.  It’s my “favorite thing.” And in most of my blog posts, photographs occupy as much space as words – if not more.  So I was enormously flattered when Deborah of Kilbourne Grove invited me to take part in a Favorite Photo Meme. Deborah’s photo of her beloved dog Piper, who now lives with a friend, is wonderful – intimate, humorous, it produces an immediate emotional connection between the viewer and subject.

Well, that’s a tough act to follow, especially since gardens don’t have kissable noses like Piper. I’ve been privileged to photograph a number of extraordinary public and private gardens for some time, and I probably have at least a dozen “favorites.” Pick just one? Impossible. But after giving it a lot of thought, I decided to share my favorite photo of my own garden, and save the other favorites for posts on other places and topics.

My front yard in early summer morning light

I like this photo because of the wonderful quality of the light (I took it about 6 a.m. on a July morning) and the area of the garden it shows. My front yard consists of a very steep, hilly area. At the top of a long series of stone steps and retaining walls, you reach a landing that serves as a bridge to the final steps to the front door. There, I placed a small seating area with a four-foot wooden bench under the embrace of an old crabapple tree. Hydrangeas (Annabelles in the background, ‘All Summer Beauty’ in the right foreground) thrive in the north-facing site, and there is a Daphne odorata in front of the bench. A very peaceful place, where my older son often sat to study when he was in high school (while I, of course, was busy elsewhere in the garden, most likely weeding). This isn’t the most technically proficient or inspiring garden photo I’ve ever taken, but it speaks to me like almost no other.

Now I would like to invite four other bloggers whose work I admire to join in the exercise:

First, Cyndy of Gardening Asylum in Connecticut . Her blog posts always lift my spirits and I love, love, love her recent photos of her Garden Muse, complete with randomly-curled metal wire. She has a good photographic eye and lots of good material to work with from her own garden. And Jean, of Jean’s Garden, recently posted some stunning photos of a pink and white amaryllis in bloom that I would loved to have taken.

Charlotte at The Galloping Gardener and Britt of The Photo Garden Bee both do what I long to do – on a regular basis, they travel to and photograph gardens all over the US (and the world), sharing photos with us so we can visit vicariously and fill out our “to see” list for vacations, retirement, or simply our dreams. Both are first-rate photographers.

If you haven’t visited any of these sites,  I hope you do so immediately. And I’ll be eager to see what each of them shares with us!

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: