Between the Rows: Chanticleer gardens provide inspiration, knowledge

  • One of the riotously flowered hillsides at the Chanticleer gardens that attracts pollinators, butterflies and touring gardeners. FOR THE RECORDER/PAT LEUCHTMAN

  • In the shade of the Ruin Garden water is an important element, as well as places to sit and be cool on a hot day. FOR THE RECORDER/PAT LEUCHTMAN

  • One of the thoughtful features of the gardens are the plant lists placed in protective containers, like that of what seemed a large mushroom growing along a path, or some other artistically created container. FOR THE RECORDER/PAT LEUCHTMAN


Monday, January 15, 2018

The Chanticleer gardens were created by the Rosengarten family beginning in the early 20th century; in 1993 it became a public garden and is considered one of the grand gardens of our country. On these frigid and snowy days, I am happy to share my memories of a great garden on a blistering summer day last June.

The Master Gardeners of Western Massachusetts arranged a tour for those gardeners who are always looking for more knowledge and inspiration. Chanticleer provides all of that and more.

It seems to me that how a tour begins is a good indicator of how it will reveal itself. We arrived at the house and got off our bus. After making use of the handsome restrooms, we walked on and around the terraces, struck by the beauty and variety of potted plants, exotic and familiar, fountains, walking from sun into shade. That was our experience all afternoon, going from sunny gardens like the Tennis Court garden, filled with riotous color, perennials and shrubs, that gave no hint of its prior life as a tennis court, and into the shady woodlands.

Soon, we were on a sinuous elevated walkway that took us down a steep hillside, all abloom with plants like Queen Anne’s Lace, poppies, cone flowers and many more that turned the hill into a fairy tale meadow. That walkway was also a lesson in caring for the environment and the visitors. First, the walkway is beautiful with sculptured railings that are works of art, a permeable surface that allows rain to drain off the walk immediately instead of sending a river of water down to the bottom of the hill. In addition, a drinking fountain was placed at a viewing spot on the walkway. A drink was very welcome on that hot day. How long has it been since you have seen a public drinking fountain outdoors? The Chanticleer staff seems to have given careful thought to the needs of its visitors; there were more artistic drinking fountains in other garden areas.

The names of some gardens like the Ruin Garden, the Pond Garden and the Gravel Garden are self explanatory, but they do not begin to explain the effect and mood. The Ruin Garden looks like the remnants of a (small) stone castle garlanded with vines, plants growing up and between paving, and small trees adding to the shade of the stone walls. There is even a large stone “tank” possibly suggesting a water source for the castle, or possibly built just because water is such an important feature of any garden.

The Gravel Garden is just that, planted with miniature bulbs that bloom in the spring, with butterfly weed, lavender, cone flowers, daisies, poppies and all manner of perennials blooming in their own season. Stone steps lead down another hill from which there is a wonderful view of the Pond Garden and the Serpentine, a graceful path of arborvitae hedge leading to “an almost pagan semi-circle backed by upright gingko trees — a marriage of stone and wood, dedicated to Flora.”

On that hot day you can image how happy we were to wander in any, or all, of the named woodlands. The Asian Woods and Bell’s Woodland are very different in their plantings, but both are wild shady spaces with trickling streams. The Asian Woods features native plants from Korea, Japan and China, but the feel is very much of an American woodland. We learned that this is the one garden that concentrates on a particular type of plants.

Bell’s Woodland focused on native plants, and I was fascinated by the practical path which was made permeable by the use of shredded tires.

The design of the woodlands and gardens made it very easy for the visiting gardener who is already thinking of what ideas or plant suggestions they can take away with them to use in their own gardens. One of the thoughtful features of the gardens are the plant lists placed in protective containers, like that of what seemed a large mushroom growing along a path, or some other artistically created container. For those of us who wish we had bought a list while we were visiting, the Chanticleer website, www.chanticleer.org, provides all the plant lists for each garden.

The website also provides a bloom list, so that if you are a person who loves bulbs you can check when your favorite are blooming. Or any other favorite type of plant, for that matter. The Bridge of Flowers also has a bloom list on its website, www.bridgeofflowersmass.org, and I often wish that visitors from away would use it. I feel sad when I get an email in mid-October asking if the roses are still in bloom.

Chanticleer is a grand garden maintained by a skilled and creative staff. Most of us do not have grand gardens, or a staff, but summer garden tours can open our eyes to new approaches. We see details that we might borrow, even if we have to do some tweaking. Now that snow is falling and wind is blowing, I am remembering and thinking about my own summer garden.

Chanticleer is in Wayne, Penn., 30 minutes from Philadelphia. It opens Wednesday, March 28, and closes Nov. 4. Adult admission is $10.

Pat Leuchtman has written and gardened since 1980. She lives in Greenfield. Readers can leave comments at her website: www.commonweeder.com.