Friday, 29 July 2016

Chanticleer: a pleasure garden.

Chanticleer Garden
"We were once a private estate, and we like to keep the feeling of a private garden ... a place of beauty, pleasure, escape  ....  ultimately, we want our guests to leave in a better mood than when they arrived." 
R. William Thomas, head gardener and executive director at Chanticleer.*

These words perfectly sum up the mood of Chanticleer. Tucked away in a quiet suburban street, 30 miles north-west of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chanticleer with its slow-paced, welcoming atmosphere was the loveliest garden we visited.

Chanticleer's founder, Adolph Rosengarten Jr. (1905-1990) described the garden as a 'pleasure garden' - an old fashioned phrase I remember my mother using to describe a park which once existed on the banks of the Lane Cove River not far from where David and I now live in Sydney. She talked of  Sunday afternoon picnics with groups of friends in their early twenties. It was the 1940s and they would arrive by ferry to a world filled with music, laughter and young romance. I imagine that Adolph Rosengarten,Jr had something like this in mind when he created Chanticleer as a place for visitors not just to visit, but most of all to enjoy.

Unless you live near Philadelphia you have probably never heard of Chanticleer? I hadn't!  It was a complete unknown - an attraction we stumbled across on the internet and we were so glad we did. With only 35 acres open to the public, Chanticleer is a world away from the larger, busier public gardens we visited at Longwood and Winterthur.

Rather than a purpose built visitors' complex with cafes, ticket windows, information booths and other facilities, Chanticleer's entrance consists of a single table, hand-crafted by one of the gardeners, a couple of chairs and two delightful ladies who went out of their way to welcome us. Armed with maps, directions and advice on where the prettiest corners were, we set off along the main path. In its relatively compact size, Chanticleer has delights and surprises at every turn. It is easy to miss things though. If you ever find yourself at Chanticleer here is a list of things to look out for: -


Chanticleer Garden
Chanticleer had flowers everywhere.
Chanticleer Garden
Can you see the yellow chairs under the tree? Chanticleer has lots of places to just sit and take in the view.

The Ruin

The most fun part of the garden, Chanticleer's 'ruin,' is not a ruin at all - just built to look like one. The story goes that late last century the garden's director declared  'no garden is complete without a ruin,' and since ruins were conspicuously absent in the area, he had one built.  Although Chanticleer's ruin is on the same site as an old house almost nothing remains of the original building. Stand back and the ruin looks like an ancient castle with vines stretching up the abandoned stonework as if nature is reclaiming its own. Look more closely however and you will see clues to the ruin's modern origin - books in the library sculptured from stone, ornaments in the shape of human skulls peering out from the walls and a sarcophagus shaped fountain in the great hall.

The ruin at Chanticleer
The Ruin
The Ruin at Chanticleer
The Ruin, again


The Teacup Garden

The Teacup Garden is easy to miss. Look for it tucked away near the Tennis Court Garden. Don't expect actual teacups. The only nod to its name is in the occasional teacup shaped pot. I naively thought we might get afternoon tea there but rather than refreshments, the Teacup Garden's drawcard is the tranquility of a secluded courtyard brimming with eruptions of colour.

Artist painting at Chanticleer Garden
A local artist capturing the scene in a quiet corner.
Teacup Garden, Chanticleer
The Teacup Garden

Chanticleer House

We were lucky enough to be given an unscheduled tour of Chanticleer House - one of the small advantages of being bloggers. After our exhausting tour of the mansion at Winterthur we were reluctant to commit ourselves to another house tour, even an unscheduled private one, but Chanticleer House turned out to be entirely different. Small by comparison with the other historic houses we have visited in the U.S, this was a house we could imagine living in - comfortable and practical, while still managing to invoke the grandeur of a bye-gone era.

Chanticleer Garden
More flowers.
Garden chairs at Chanticleer
Chanticleer has lots of quiet spots to just sit and enjoy the surroundings.

The Wollemi Pine

The Wollemi Pine is one of the world's oldest and rarest trees. Discovered in 1994 not far from Sydney, by a National Parks and Wildlife Officer bushwalking on his day off, the pine belongs to a plant family 200 million years old. Less than 100 trees are known to exist in the bush.

Not long into our visit we got chatting to one of the gardeners. When he heard we were from Australia (actually he worked it out pretty quickly from our accents) he announced that one of Chanticleer's newest acquisitions was a Wollemi Pine, and he offered to show us his prize. The problem was, the Wollemi was discovered only a couple of hours away from where we live. Pine trees are pretty boring at the best of times, and all the media fuss over the discovery of the Wollemi had turned us off the plant completely. Besides, while the location of the original trees is kept secret to protect them from vandals, there are endless opportunities to see their progeny growing in botanic gardens at home.

We politely declined his offer to see the tree, assuring the gardener we had seen Wollemis at home. Now, back in Australia, I am not so sure. Have we seen a Wollemi Pine or have we just seen signs leading to them? Finding one, even in a botanic garden, always seems to involve a lot of hiking uphill on hot days without enough water. I don't think we have actually seen a Wollemi. Oh well, we will just have to go back to Chanticleer - that has to be easier than hacking through the bush to see one in Australia.

Succulent plant at Chanticleer
I don't have a picture of the Wollemi Pine we didn't see, so I thought I would show you this instead. I have no idea what it is but it is lovely, don't you think!
Chanticleer Garden
Last but not least, the ponds were beautiful.

Tips and Tricks and Things to Know: -


Where is Chanticleer Garden and when is it open?
  • Chanticleer's GPS address is 786 Church Road, Wayne PA 19087-4713. If you think you are in the wrong place then you have probably found it. As we turned off the road, David and I were concerned we were entering a private driveway. It was only once we saw the carpark that we knew we had arrived.
  • Chanticleer is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm from Wednesday to Sunday. From May until Labor Day it doesn't close on Friday evenings until 8.00 pm. It is closed from November to March. For up to date information on opening hours click  - here.
  • Chanticleer House is open at 11 am every Friday and Saturday for tours, or Wednesdays through Fridays for group tours by reservation.
How much does it cost to visit?
  • Adult admission (13 years and over) is $10.00
  • Children 12 years and under are free.
  • Tours of Chanticleer House are an extra $5.00.
  • For the full range of prices including concession prices and season passes click - here

My tips!
  • Parking can be tricky. The parking area only has 120 spaces so try to avoid peak times - weekends and Friday evenings.
  • Bring a picnic. Chanticleer allows and even encourages picnics but check here for picnicking and general garden etiquette.
  • The greater Philadelphia area is known as America's Garden Capital with more than 30 public gardens within 30 miles of the city. If you want to explore a few more you can find them all at this link americasgardencapital.org.
Have you ever been to a pleasure garden?

* The quote at the beginning of this post is from 'The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer' by R.William Thomas, head gardener and executive director at Chanticleer Garden.


I will publish a new post every Thursday/Friday (depending on your time zone). If you want to follow our travels check back each week or enter your email address in the 'Follow this blog by email' box in the right hand sidebar just below my profile picture.

For all the posts so far on our north-east USA road and cycling adventure click - here

Note: David and I received complimentary entry to Chanticleer.



34 comments:

  1. How lovely! Even fake ruins can be very pretty, we saw one in Vienna that was quite nice.

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    1. I love fakes and this was a particularly good one. There is nothing like a folly to brighten up an afternoon.

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  2. The Chanticleer Gardens look like a restful spot with beautiful scenery. I like the local painters taking it all in.

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    1. Painting in the gardens seemed to be something of a local past-time. It was so nice to see people using the garden.

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  3. How beautiful. I love gardens - I always think "photo opps!" haha :)

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    1. My all time best photos are of gardens in flower.

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  4. I love the painting photo. It's so cute!

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    1. The artist just looked so content I had to capture her capturing nature.

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  5. The Chanticleer Gardens look like a wonderful spot to explore. So beautiful. Most of all I like the DIY ruins. I'm off to see what I might construct in the backyard. :)

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    1. Haha - you can borrow some of our ruins. We seem to have rather a lot of them.

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  6. That's fascinating that they have a Wollemi pine! Plus sort of amusing your after thoughts of have you actually seen one. What a beautiful and serene garden, would be lovely to a walk and just soak up the beauty.

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    1. I know there are Wollemi Pines in the Mt Annan Botanical Gardens south of Sydney. I'm just going to have to drag David down there to see one now - on a cool day, carrying plenty of water - lol.

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  7. I love a gorgeous garden. How pretty. It sounds like there are some amazing plants.

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    1. Haha - especially the Wollemi Pine which we didn't see - Oooppps!

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  8. we spend a lot of time in Philadelphia -- it's 2 hours away from us -- and you're right. I didn't know about this. It looks worth a stop on our next trip. What a find!

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    1. You should have a look at the website for Americas Garden Capital. I am sure you would find some other gems in there.

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  9. I don't live close to Philadelphia so obviously I haven't heard of Chanticleer. It looks like a great garden and it reminds me of the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, which also started as a private estate. Thanks for joining me for #TheWeeklyPostcard, Lyn.

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    1. I know you are the wrong side of the U.S. - a bit like living on Australia's east coast and reading about something on the west coast. It is a long way - but maybe next trip across the country.

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  10. Have to admit this is a very lovely place! It reminds me of a garden I visited in Vancouver (Van Dussen). My mom lives in Pennsylvania and I think she doesn't even know about these gardens. I would like to visit (and visit other places in the state).

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    1. Tell your mum about the America's Garden Capital website. I have yet to meet a mum who doesn't like gardens. My mother loved them.

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  11. Very nice, there is nothing like a beautiful garden to wander around

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    1. Especially on a holiday when a bit of serenity is just what you need.

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  12. Very cool! I used to live in Philly and had no idea this place existed. Thanks for sharing. #wkendtravelinspiration. What other hidden gems in Philly do you recommend?

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    1. We stayed at Wilmington, about half an hour south of Philadelphia, and really enjoyed wandering around the old town at New Castle. Isn't it weird how you can live in a place and never even know about some of the best attractions. Since I became a travel blogger I have started to make an effort to explore my own city more.

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  13. Wow! It is in my home city, and I did not know about Chanticleer Pleasure Garden. Thanks for sharing this. It will go on our list for a Spring excursion.

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    1. I am sure you will love it as much as we did. Tell them I sent you - lol!

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  14. You made me laugh when I read that about the picture of the Wollemi Pine that you didn't see. I was curious about this place because I sometimes go to an outlet mall west of Philadelphia and it would be interesting to visit.

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    1. I think we went to the same outlet mall - and bought far too much stuff!

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  15. Nothing can make me feel so peaceful and happy as a garden like Chanticleer. All these flowers which greet you around every corner are most beautiful. We always try to visit botanical gardens on our travels. The last one was in Scotland.

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    1. David and I love gardens and when we are away we have so much more time to appreciate them.

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  16. This garden looks like a real hidden gem! I love exploring gardens and the Ruin and the Teacup Garden look especially charming (even if the former isn't quite authentic). I've been to Pennsylvania a couple of times - never in the Philly area though. If I'm ever in that area I'll have to check this out!

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    1. The fact that the ruin isn't authentic added to its charm. There is something quaint about a gardener deciding to build a folly for no reason other than that he thought the garden needed one.

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