Tuesday, September 6, 2011


In July I had the opportunity to visit once again the renowned public garden in Philadelphia called Chanticleer. The temperatures were in the 100's, but the gardens still managed to wow me. Here are a few pictures and why they are of gardens that impressed me. 

The above picture is of the ever changing garden in the old tennis court. I am particularly impressed by the composition of this very informal planting. It is easy to execute a formal design by laying things out in their rigid geometric configurations. A design such as the one above takes an entirely different talent. Not only is it a challenge to conceive but also to install, maintain and sustain season long interest.

 While not a design or gardening feat this little setting speaks to Chanticleer's awareness of the spaces in their garden that are most comfortable for visitors to linger. This bamboo grove is shady and enveloping, just the place to linger. The chairs are perfect and the addition of the planter wonderfully reinforces the sense that this is living space.

Artificial waterfalls are a dime a dozen. I get tired of seeing them, but seldom do I get to see this careful composition not so much of the falls as of the water line and the pond edge beyond.

I was walking along the path next to the creek and noticed this pleasant albeit unremarkable vegetation. As I looked carefully I realized that what I mistook for a mix of natural growth and a few introduced species in this out-of-the-way spot was actually a complete construct. This attention to details amazed me. While the planting was not particularly glorious right now, I am sure throughout the season it has its high points. I was amazed at how naturally the composition went together, how much attention was paid to this otherwise innocuous location, and how successfully the diversity of cultivated plants were merged into a successful community of horticulturally interesting plants.

Chanticleer has a lot of money, and this image demonstrates that fact, in part. They tore a house down, for example, to construct the ruins garden featured in this photograph. Unlike other wealthy gardens, however, Chanticleer is more about gardening than conspicuous consumption. Sure the pool must have been hugely expensive but isn't it glorious, and the pool isn't (to my mind) the feature of this photograph. It is the wall hanging of succulents, and that is gardening skill, not a display of money.