Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Pleasure Garden: Chanticleer

What makes this place so tantalizing?

Chanticleer, outside Philadephia, calls itself a 'pleasure garden.'  It is the former estate of Adolph Rosengarten, whose pharmaceutical company eventually merged with Merck, the now giant drug company.  It was originally a weekend retreat, then a permanent residence for two generations of the family.  Rosengarten's son worked with the first director of Chanticleer to estblish it as a public garden and, thankfully, it is well endowed.

The garden is a bit of fantasy, a bit of whimsy; traditional gardening is here, but often with a twist.

And, there are no plant labels, which both delights and enrages me.  (Plant lists are available in artfully designed boxes tucked here and there in the garden, and on their website )

Look at the textures of the Seussian succulents against the ruin above, a folly itself.  Chanticleer is a fairy tale that takes you back to childhood's mysterious wood or enchanted forest.

The gravel garden, below, with chairs like stone thrones look out over the scene below. It's a lovely vantage point.

Gravel garden in October 
Below is a view from this past May, looking up the hill toward the ruin.  The stone chairs are just out of sight to the left of the Yucca rostrata near the top of the hill. It's a bit romantic and unruly in charming way.

We should all consider a gravel garden; it is a chance to stretch the plant palette (think Agaves, yuccas, cactus, succulents, steppe plants, bulbs) and, as I have discovered, many plants I am  already growing (or trying to) thrive in a well-draining, leaner soil.  With 60 some inches of rain by September (in most of the Mid-Atlantic), 20 inches above average annual rainfall, it's time to move beyond a garden end to end in soil rich in organic matter. Carve out your gravel garden and experiment.

In Spring the garden comes alive with bulbs.   With the ruin as a backdrop and a brooding sky above you get a Wuthering Heights kind of feel.

Originally, the plan was to create a ruin from an existing house on the property, but when that wasn't structurally feasible, the then director, a Brit, decided to raise the house and create a 'new' ruin.  It seemed out of place at first, but now, softened by plants, seems less severe.

There are little miracles throughout the garden --vignettes that stop you in your tracks, to notice the striking  plant combinations, innovative use of materials and methods that can transform.

I love these twisted willow trees; they seem to yearn to 'reach out and touch somebody,' whether for a caress or to strangle, I'm not sure.  As this area often displays plants tied to agriculture or a practical function, the oft woven, bent, coiled, and generally pliant willow fits right in.  But how often do we display their twistiness while whips are still attached to the tree?

Gardeners are, of course, behind all this horticultural theater.  They are encouraged to experiment, have opportunities to travel or study a new skill, and they 'own' their respective territory -- that is they are assigned to an area and are responsible for its care, maintenance and design for several years until they trade off again.  There's a bit of competition between gardeners --I have heard several of the horticulturists give talks about their work at the garden -- but it only seems to spark more creativity.

I think it's the second year for this meadow of hot-colored annuals (foreground).  It 'reads' more meadow in person than in the photo, but maybe it's time to move on to something else, a more defined planting, perhaps.  

Chanticleer's layout maintains some of the traditions of an early 20th century estate garden, such as this cutting garden above and the vegetable garden near by.   The most formal areas remain close to the houses (Rosengarten built a house on the property for each of his children though one has been raised,)  and the garden grows wilder as you get farther away from them.

'Wave Hill' chairs based on a Gerrit Rietveld design 
Aside from the beautifully grown plants, there is also wonderful craftsmanship in the chairs, ironwork, fencing, cut flower displays and other artwork.  I think most of the chairs are made at Chanticleer, certainly Dan Bernacik, one of the horticulturists,  has kept the 'Wave Hill' chair alive with his workshops and they are well represented throughout the garden.  I suspect he has made some of the other chairs as well. 
Note the lovely ironwork below the pots
Dahlias float in the big bowl 

There are many places to sit at Chanticleer, visitors seem encouraged to linger.  During warmer months the garden is open late on Fridays when people are allowed to picnic in the garden.  It has become a popular evening.  You can spread a blanket on the lawn or sit tucked away in some sheltered nook in the woodland.   This is a garden people want to spend time in and they do.  

The garden is a satisfying balance of  small intimate moments and larger landscape views, revealing topography and tying the garden to the landscape at large.  

An old coal cart re-purposed as a planter? 

One of the most attractive ramps I've seen, making the garden accessible to wheelchair users. 

You don't have to be a gardener to enjoy this place or want to return.  It has just enough magic to keep people coming back whether they know what the plants are or not.  And, thankfully, because it is a living breathing garden it is never the same.  

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Anne's Exuberant Garden

 It might look like plants have a free-for-all in this garden, but not really.  Yes, there is a lot of self-sowing going on, I'm a little bit envious of how much, but Anne edits them when they show up in unwanted spots.

Hibiscus coccineus

I love the exuberance.  While editing happens, plants are also allowed to seek their own equilibrium.

self-sowing Salvia coccinea

I think even some of the Acorn squash may have self-sown themselves.  How nice!

Cleome, Spider Flower

Helenium amarum (?), Dwarf helenium

Iris domestica, Blackberry Lily

Salvia 'Black & Blue'
This beautiful Salvia usually comes back for Anne.  It's in a fairly protected site in front of her house with lots of sun. 

And she is a seed collector.  Lucky me, I got some poppy seeds.  She has some beautiful colors, though I think the seed heads are quite attractive themselves.

Anne's Asters were just starting to come on when I took these photos about 3 weeks ago.  They are probably glorious now and I'll have to go back for the show as she has quite a collection.

water collection -- can waste the rain! 
Another handsome Helenium

Helianthus tuberosus is a prolific yellow composite and, of course, you can eat the tubers, though I don't really know what to do with them.  Anne says "One of my books says it 'may be difficult to eradicate.'  There's no 'maybe' about it.  After they bloom I yank them out.  I have two -- the wild one and one that grew out of a Jerusalem artichoke from the grocery store.  The difference is in the root.  The grocery store one has nice bulbous roots, like knobbly potatoes, the wild one has thick fleshy roots --like thick fingers--that break off when you yank them."

Yes, the plants are even allowed the cracks in the driveway.  The tall plant (below) is an Artemisia, which to me smells like Santolina.  The appealing, pungent aroma is released each time Anne backs out of the driveway and over the plant.   Now that's  a tough plant and a gardener who knows how to appreciate them!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Surfing with Sharks on Cape Cod

Here's Newcomb Hollow Beach this past Thursday evening.  We were on this lovely Welfleet, Massachusetts, beach for a friend's neighborhood pot luck and bonfire.  Sadly, a young man died as a result of injuries from a Great White shark attack in the middle of the following day on this same beach.

Newcomb Hollow Beach looking north

Arriving around 5:30 pm, we scratched our heads, watching dozens of surfers in the water at shark 'feeding' time.  The invincibility of youth?  The pictures don't show it, but a group of  a dozen or more surfers and a few paddle boarders were clustered together.  Supposedly there is some safety in numbers, or so I've read.  

Generally, sharks tend to hunt in the late afternoon, evening and early morning.  Yet this most recent shark-related fatality -- the first in 80 some years-- happened in the middle of the day.   

I imagine local officials are reeling from the news and the varying reactions from tourists and locals.  The sharks have always been present, but as the seal population has exploded -- they remain on the endangered list -- shark sightings are increasing.  I suspect there is also more tracking going on than ever before.  It's not uncommon to see planes circling overhead at an ocean side beach as pilots try and spot Great whites from above.  And the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's "Sharktivity" app  has enabled thousands to follow shark sightings.   

Fisherman push to to cull the seal population (some scientists say it will have little or no effect) as they resent the competition, where as tourists resist any negative impact on the seals.   Meanwhile, sharks are benefiting from the resurgence of blubbery seal meat.  
Surfing at around 6pm.

I think this young woman came out and stayed out of the water while others carried on in the waning light.   

It was an absolutely beautiful evening.  

A NOAA scientist who spent twenty years on the Pacific in California before moving to the east coast offers this perspective: 

[In California] “There’s kind of a piece to it where people have come to accept, this is the reality of living in my environment, like a tornado or earthquake or hurricane,” he said. “I totally respect people’s fears about it, but I wonder whether, just because it’s novel here and Jaws is the bogeyman of Cape Cod, that this creates a particularly heightened awareness and cultural sensitivity.”

Can Cape Codders come to accept Great Whites and learn to co-exist?  It is a tough question when the loss of life is so fresh.  Time will tell.