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Winter is your lushest season for garden planning

by Timber Press on December 1, 2016

in Design, Gardening

Pond Garden

Beauty persists in the autumnal Pond Garden. All photos by Rob Cardillo.

With your garden dormant, the cold months are perfect for planning next year’s new landscaping projects and maintenance calendar. Pick up The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer to discover why Chanticleer has been called the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America.

Here are just a few of the many ideas and inspiration to take home from Chanticleer. You can find lush photos and vivid descriptions for creating new beds and pathways, using ribbons of grasses as unifying elements, incorporating a gravel garden, designing in bold colors like silvery blue or hot orange, and much more in The Art of Gardening.

Much of what we do at Chanticleer is easily transferred to the home garden. Not only is the garden filled with ideas and plants you can use at home, but the garden itself is divided into multiple “garden rooms” on a scale similar to residential gardens. The entire property is a demonstration of gardening applicable to eastern North America and beyond.


Semi-hardy perennials favored for spring are skillfully integrated in this summer bedding.

It is easy to love the Chanticleer site, with its 48 acres of rolling hillside, large trees, and meandering creek. The Chanticleer House stands majestically over a long, pastoral view sloping downward to the west. The Rosengartens kept the vista open and unobstructed. We follow suit by maintaining a long, uninterrupted swath of grass, and use adjacent plantings and beds to guide your attention toward the Pond Garden, Serpentine Garden, and woods. This rolling topography is typical of our part of the Pennsylvania Piedmont region, where the land drops to the coastal plain. We use organic methods to keep the turf healthy, and we make sure nothing is planted to block this view. From the rocking chairs outside the house, guests can see how big the property is and catch glimpses of areas inviting exploration. (The entire property measures 48 acres, but the public garden is 35; the remainder is in agricultural fields, service areas, and some staff housing.)


Curving patterns converge and lend symphonic harmony to Chanticleer’s diverse garden areas: the Chanticleer House Gravel Circle raked in concentric circles; blue camassias outlining the curvaceous contours of the creek; the tiled pathway mimics an unfurling fiddlehead fern, hence its name Fiddlehead Path; and the swooping winter rye at the Serpentine Garden.

The Parking Lot Garden is a low-maintenance area. It is not irrigated, and ground covers reduce weeds. The terraces at the houses feature exquisite plantings requiring a great deal of effort. The Tennis Court Garden, the Pond Garden, and the Long Border near the Entrance Pavilion are sunny perennial plantings that offer varying levels of exuberance and have differing maintenance requirements. Looking for low-water-usage suggestions? Visit the Gravel Garden.

In winter, each gardener has indoor projects, often in our wood and metal shops, where they design and create furniture, gates, bridges, fences, plant list boxes, railings, and drinking fountains. These handmade items give the garden a unique, personalized feeling and add sculpture to the garden although they are not really sculptures per se. Some of the items are unique designs and others are adaptations of what we’ve seen elsewhere. Our media include wood (often from the property), metal (iron and aluminum), ceramic, and stone.

Paper birch

Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) flourishes with sedges and ferns in the cool and moist oasis of the Moss Walk.

Do you have too much water? See the Pond and Creek Gardens. Shade plantings are in the woodlands and native meadows near the Serpentine Garden and the Ruin. We feature native plants in Bell’s Woodland and throughout Chanticleer. Containers with plants run the gamut from wet to dry, simple to complex. Some offer an ensemble of many plants and a few feature a single plant. Some of the containers require a great deal of water and care through the season, while rain alone is sufficient for those in the Gravel Garden. Some containers are simply filled with water and floating flowers—who doesn’t have space for that?

At Chanticleer, we are concerned about our environmental impact and the example we set. We reuse, recycle, and compost. Solar panels produce 20 percent of our electricity. Integrated pest management and organic fertilization of turf keep plants healthy. We are reducing mowed turf areas, and adding meadows of grasses and sedges. We are eliminating invasive exotics. Since 1990, we’ve planted hundreds of trees in the garden and along local streets. Our garden furniture is now made from wood cut on the property. New pathways are permeable and often include recycled, shredded tires.


Backlit by the evening light, the uncurling croziers of Dixie wood fern (Dryopteris ×australis) and the chalicelike Tulipa ‘White Triumphator’ pool at the base of the Ruin Garden ‘dining room’ window, which frames the young foliage of Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’.

Another guiding principle is to garden within your own personal budget of time and money. Much of gardening is maintenance, and regular maintenance determines whether the garden survives or not. Don’t design or plant beyond your ability, time, and resources to take care of your garden. A good design becomes worthless if not maintained. Plan ahead now.


Click an image for a look inside this book.


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