Chanticleer is a large pleasure garden on the outskirts of Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania, USA. Formerly home to the Rosengarten family and now an inspiring garden which manages to be a wonderful mix of excellent gardening, plants, art, craft and fun. I was lucky enough to spend a week living and working at Chanticleer in May this year but I think one could spend a lifetime at Chanticleer and still find something new. This is partly because the garden is constantly evolving; nothing stays still for too long at Chanticleer. The horticultural boundaries are pushed and as the garden team changes, so too do the different areas within the garden. There is a great creative energy at Chanticleer and a thirst for knowledge, all the gardeners are well travelled and have a vast understanding of plants and gardens around the world.
The Director and Head Gardener is Bill Thomas, who supervises seven gardeners, each responsible for designing, planting and maintaining an area of the garden. They are part of a team of fourteen full-time, year-round horticultural staff. Information and ideas are shared but there is also a healthy element of competition between the different areas within the garden.
The staff were so welcoming and a thoughtful programme had been planned for me during the week. I moved around the garden working with different section gardeners each day, having half days in different areas at times so I could see and do as much as possible. Everyone had time to show me and explain anything I asked. I was very impressed with the gardener’s knowledge, not only of Chanticleer but gardens and plants further afield. A week was definitely not long enough but what a week! I returned full of enthusiasm and a head full of new plant names. Working in another garden is a fantastic way to learn and during the week I used new tools, learnt new techniques, saw different machinery and ways of working, looked at the garden interpretation and learnt many new plants and planting combinations but best of all I got to meet a fantastic bunch of people!
Below is a selection of pictures from my working week at Chanticleer …
‘In the gravel garden with Lisa and David’
‘Pots and around the teacup garden with Dan’
‘In the Cutting garden; planting with Susan and Emma
‘With Doug around the entrance’
During the freezing, snowy winter months the gardeners turn their creative energy to indoor projects and on site there’s a forge and a wood shop. Dan is carpenter in chief whilst Joe and Przemek share the forge. Doug makes beautiful pottery which is displayed in the garden and used for flower arrangements in the house. Lisa is an accomplished photographer and spends some of the winter editing photos taken throughout the year and producing the Chanticleer yearbook. As always skills are shared and newer members of the team learn these crafts too.
Whilst I was at Chanticleer work was underway on a new elevated walkway … already something new for me to go back and see!
One evening we all enjoyed a walk around the garden with a mint julep in hand.
On my last evening a gang of gardeners went out to a nature reserve for a spot of botanising . There was so much to see; we were tripping over plants and spotting orchids but the loveliest sight I saw was Cercis (Redbud) growing wild, not just in the nature reserve but all over the state.
And every good trip ends with ice cream!
If you want to learn more about Chanticleer or plan a visit then have a look at their website http://www.chanticleergarden.org/ or have a look at Chanticleer’s latest book called ‘The Art of Gardening’, a very inspiring read and written by all the gardeners.