The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer

The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer

by R. William Thomas

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Overview

The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer by R. William Thomas

“Delightful!” —The New York Times Book Review

Discover a world of beauty and creativity! Chanticleer has been called the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America. It is a place of pleasure and learning, relaxing yet filled with ideas to take home. And now those lessons are available for everyone in this stunning book! You’ll learn techniques specific to different conditions and plant palettes; how to use hardscape materials in a fresh way; and how to achieve the perfect union between plant and site. And Rob Cardillo’s exquisite photographs of exciting combinations will be sure to stimulate your own creativity. Whether you’re already under Chanticleer’s spell or have yet to visit, The Art of Gardening will enable you to bring the special magic that pervades this most artful of gardens into your own home landscape.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604697216
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/15/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 340
Sales rank: 744,006
File size: 31 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

R. William Thomas is the executive director of the Chanticleer Foundation. He served as executive director and head gardener for Longwood Gardens after twenty-six years in the education and horticulture departments. He holds bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin, is an avid plantsman, and writes about trees, shrubs, and vines.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction
For some, the words art and gardening never mesh. To them, art is something found in a museum, a theater, or a concert hall. Art outdoors might be a sculpture park, where the plantings are merely a background. But for the Chanticleer staff, art is an everyday experience. Our gardeners are artists in every sense of the word, and they work in all media from plants to paint, wood, stone, metal, and clay. Their artistic vision sees beauty in the plants, stones, water, and pavement as visual elements. They create a garden experience where scent, sight, color, sound, and texture combine to make three-dimensional works of art that continually grow and change. Their endeavors may be compared to a chamber orchestra performance, where a number of soloists come together to produce a single, unified piece. At Chanticleer, the conductor is the head gardener/executive director, whose role is to meld the exquisite work each gardener produces into one unified production: the garden. For the past twelve years, I have had the pleasure and privilege to be that conductor at Chanticleer.

This book aims to be a conversation between our staff and you. All of our staff have contributed in some way to the book, and many wrote individual sections explaining how they garden or design their areas. Their biographies are at the back of the book, if you’d like to learn more about them. Our garden exists to inspire and is filled with ideas to try at home. We hope this book leads you to garden more frequently and freely. Chanticleer is our research laboratory where we try new plants, designs, and techniques all in the public view. Our guests see our successes and our failures, although we try to rush the losers to the compost pile. Horticulturist Dan Benarcik calls what we do “gardening without a net.” You might want to do the same in your own garden. Try. And try again. Continue what you like. Move on to something else if you are displeased. Plant enough so the loss of one plant is not tragic.

What Is Chanticleer?
Some people don’t understand the Chanticleer experience. It’s true, we are not easily pigeonholed, perhaps because of our unique confluence of art and horticulture. We aren’t a typical botanical garden or arboretum. We’re not a park. And we’re not really a museum. We were once a private estate, and we like to keep the feeling of a private garden, but everything we do has the purpose of inspiring our guests.

One editor of a lifestyle magazine tried to figure out “what we are.” He asked me:
Do you rent the space out?
No.
Do you do weddings?
No.
Do you have functions?
Occasionally for horticultural groups.
So, what is this place? Why do you exist?
We are a garden; a place of beauty, pleasure, escape.
But, I mean, what do you do? Why would anyone come?
Indeed.

But on further thought, perhaps I could have said: If we were a restaurant, we’d be trying new taste combinations with lots of local fare. If we were music, we’d be a chamber orchestra, playing classical and contemporary works, with each musician a soloist yet part of the ensemble. If we were a painting, we’d be an impressionistic landscape with a bit of abstract expressionism thrown in. If we were dance, we’d combine ballet with contemporary dance. But we’re none of those. We’re a garden. I guess you could call us performance art.

We don’t rent out the property, allowing us to put all efforts into the garden for our guests. Instead of spending valuable staff time on events and rentals where the garden is merely a stage for the functions, we focus on the garden itself. We are called a “gardener’s garden” because we are run by gardeners, designed by gardeners, and exist for gardeners.

Our founder, Adolph Rosengarten Jr. (1905–1990), called Chanticleer a “pleasure garden,” and his description serves as our motto. The two words can be interpreted in many ways, but ultimately, we want our guests to leave in a better mood than when they arrived. People of all ages enjoy the property. Adolph Jr. commissioned a master plan that included one main path throughout the garden. Today, the path helps guests find their way, but we encourage them to leave the path, walk on the grass, and fully explore the garden.

There is no need to segregate kids into a children’s garden here. We invite children to run from bench to bench, trying each one, to search for fish, frogs, turtles, and snakes by the ponds, and to roll down the Great Lawn near the main house. Teenagers appreciate the romance, the privacy, the just plain over-the-top quirkiness of the place. Spouses dragged here by the family’s garden-lover find we aren’t stuffy and it’s actually not a bad place for a walk. Do-it-yourselfers enjoy the staff-made benches, chairs, gates, bridges, handrails, drinking fountains, and even our plant list boxes, which hold plant-identification handouts (in place of garden labels). Others find it is a good place for a date, to read a book, and even to find solace.

Chanticleer has been called the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America. It is a contemporary garden within a historic setting. It is filled with colorful foliage and flowers—a learning garden demonstrating almost any type of gardening one might do in the region. We want our guests to feel welcome and relaxed, to find pleasure in the visit, and to return.

Chanticleer, the Estate
Adolph G. Rosengarten Sr. was the grandson of a German immigrant who started a pharmaceutical business that eventually became part of Merck & Co. in 1927. In 1912, Adolph Sr. and his wife Christine purchased 7 acres in the western suburbs of Philadelphia that featured magnificent American chestnuts and a commanding view. The Rosengartens hired architect Charles Borie, a University of Pennsylvania classmate of Adolph Sr., to design their country retreat. The house was finished in August 1913 and the family moved in, returning to their Philadelphia home each winter. In 1924, they added rooms and converted the house into their year-round residence.

Landscape architect Thomas Sears laid out the terraces that remain essentially the same today, although with drastically different plantings. Soon after purchasing the property, the family lost most of the chestnut trees to chestnut blight, and planted the oaks, pines, and beeches we enjoy today. Chanticleer’s oldest trees may be the black walnuts lining the walkway leading to the Potting Shed. They were large when the family moved here and Adolph Jr. believed they dated to the 1880s.

The Rosengartens named their home after Chanticlere in Thackeray’s 1855 novel The Newcomes. Adolph Sr. enjoyed Thackeray and sympathized with the owner of the fictional Chanticlere, “mortgaged to the very castle windows [but] still the show of the county.” Chanticleer is also a French word for rooster. Playing on the name, the Rosengartens incorporated rooster motifs throughout the property.

Adolph Rosengarten Jr. credited his interest in gardening to his mother and to his growing up at Chanticleer. His mother encouraged her children to plant a World War I victory garden at the site of the present-day swimming pool. Chanticleer’s rolling hills, winding streams, and tall trees developed his artistic eye and inspired in him a desire to be a landscape architect. His father had a different idea, however, and told him the family needed a lawyer, so to law school Adolph Jr. went.

In 1933, Adolph married Janet Newlin, a serious gardener in her own right. They moved into neighboring Minder House (minder meaning less or small in German) and began creating their own garden. He wrote, “Lately my great interest has been in horticulture and landscape design.” This interest was probably strengthened by his serving in World War II, stationed in England at Bletchley Park. Bletchley was a large estate with great lawns and stately trees, and no doubt strengthened his love of Chanticleer’s rolling lawns and splendid trees.

Adolph Sr. and Christine gave each of their two children houses on adjacent properties as wedding gifts. Adolph Jr. and his wife’s house, Minder, which they lived in until their deaths, was taken down in 1999 to build the Ruin. The senior Rosengartens built the house at today’s Entrance to the garden for daughter, Emily, and her husband, Samuel Goodman, in 1935. After Mr. Goodman died, Emily married Orton Jackson Sr. Emily’s House is now used as our administration and education building. Her three children and a granddaughter serve on the board.

Adolph Jr. took over ownership of the Chanticleer House and surrounding land following his mother’s death in 1969 (his father had passed away in 1946). He used the house for entertaining but never moved into it, and kept it as it was when the family lived there. The house is in the center of Chanticleer, the public garden, and is our spiritual beginning. Adolph Jr. specified in the Chanticleer Charter that the house is to be kept as a museum. We now open the house regularly for tours. During the 1970s, some of the surrounding estates were subdivided and sold. Janet and Adolph Jr. were strong proponents of preserving the property. Adolph Jr. wrote: “It seems a shame to break up what is now the most pastoral residential area in America into condos and future shopping malls. This beautiful countryside should be treasured.” He continued, “One of the great joys of my life has been gardening. It’s a wonderful way to express yourself. To create a garden is to search for a better world. Every gardener is like Oscar Hammerstein’s Optimist, for the very act of planting is based on hope for a glorious future.”

Adolph Jr. and Janet continued to develop Chanticleer and plan for its future. They oversaw the planting and maintenance of the trees and enjoyed a huge vegetable garden. Even though they had grounds staff, both enjoyed gardening. Janet was responsible for the flowers; her husband, the trees and shrubs. He received an award from the American Horticultural Society as “one of the foremost gardeners in the country.” Adolph Jr. believed “a good garden is never static.” Realizing he could not control the garden from the grave, he created a foundation in 1976 for the property and trusted the board and staff to guide its development. Chanticleer’s executive directors have embraced the garden’s history, but have not been limited by it. The garden is allowed to evolve and to be continually reinterpreted.

Our mission was spelled out by Adolph Jr. in the Chanticleer Foundation charter:

  • Operate the property as a beautiful public garden,
  • Maintain the Chanticleer House as a museum, and
  • Educate amateur and professional gardeners.
Chanticleer History in Adolph Jr.’s Own Words
In 1913, the only useable structure on the property was a small pre-Revolutionary dwelling to which father added a bathroom, now 810 Church Road. It was assigned to the chauffeur and his family. Nearby, a stable was built, with two stalls, spaces for three carriages and two automobiles, a hayloft, and a manure pit. A studio apartment was tacked on the back for a gardener or a groom, who would board with the chauffeur. This complex is now 812 Church Road.

The appearance of the property made it obvious that even rudimentary maintenance had not been a concern of the previous owners. The then fashionable landscape architect Thomas Sears was called in. His plan for “the big picture” centered on the magnificent American chestnut trees that had attracted my parents. Ten years later, the blight had killed these chestnuts. One feature of Sears’s plan for the “little picture,” the area nearest to the house, remains. On the south side, to match the roof, the architect put a wide slate terrace, from which the ground fell away. On the east the ground rose, ending in a knoll. This was dug into, and by extensive grading, a level area was made into a garden with beds, paths, and grass plots next to the house. Thanks to Sears, the formal garden at Chanticleer still appears to be an uncontrived extension of the house, while the house at times seems simply to belong to the garden. Without a house, a garden is merely a species of the genus museum; when taken together they form a holistic entity.

The work begun by my father and mother, who loved the place, was continued by my wife, whose indefatigable interest and impeccable taste not only furthered the enterprise, but also saved me from some horrid follies. My wife and I founded the Chanticleer Foundation for education of people from the city on how to landscape and keep places beautiful and attractive. People who move out from town don’t know that if you put a Norway spruce in front of a window, it will grow up and you can’t look out window.

Gardening is the most wonderful way of refreshing yourself. I have always loved horticulture, gardening, and improving. I am favored by providence with good health and a certain amount of wealth and I want to give back. Aesthetics in this part of the world have great attraction, an attractive rolling county with trees. I want to keep open space, to preserve this beautiful ground as much as possible.

A century ago, the property was a small farm, which must have been worked with difficulty for the ground undulates. Now the sheds and fields are gone, replaced during the last seventy years by lawns, flower and vegetable gardens, an embryonic meadow garden, a wild flower garden, a rock garden, and a stream-fed pond. On the north, two groves, one of native oak, ash, poplar, and walnut, the other of white pine and hemlock, serve as a screen.

A century later, when the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, as its part in the Bicentennial, put on a series of symposia, we were honored when Chanticleer was chosen as a site for the fifth in the series. Many of the symposium participants joined the tours—despite the heat of a Saturday in mid-August—and many later wrote complimentary letters about the gardens. This brought home to us that sharing our enjoyment in the garden with others has its reward.

Thus, 1976 was the turning point [the year that Adolph Jr. wrote the charter for the Chanticleer Foundation], and thereafter our predilection for private life, gradually, but within limits, declined. We began to receive numerous requests to tour Chanticleer. We do no “marketing,” believing that most people come voluntarily to learn about plants, landscape design, and good gardening practice, others to obtain the emotional satisfaction one gets from looking at a good painting, while the optimists hope for both.

The Evolution of Chanticleer Garden
The garden has changed greatly since 1990, when Adolph Jr. passed away and the Chanticleer Foundation (and therefore its board) took over management of the garden. When the garden opened to the public in 1993, we continued and expanded on Adolph Jr.’s basic plan. Under the visionary eye of the first executive director, Christopher Woods, the staff began developing garden rooms throughout the grounds. Chanticleer gained a reputation for gardening without rules and for expanding the boundaries of what “could” be done in the Philadelphia area. Magnificent trees and lawns remain as a living testament to the estate era, and newer plantings pay tribute to the love of gardening.

The change from a pleasant, green estate to a colorful, dynamic, and contemporary garden has taken years of evolution. Great trees continue to define, enclose, and frame the landscape. We plant more trees each year, regularly inspect all trees for pruning needs, and use extraordinary measures on the most significant trees including lightning protection. In today’s world, damage to roots and to bark are the biggest causes of tree death. We avoid soil compaction, changes of grade, and root competition. Our groundskeepers carefully mow around trunks, using bladed trimmers less likely to injure bark than string trimmers.

Historic buildings and terraces likewise are important. We are conservative about changing an original physical structure. The Chanticleer Terraces, outside of Chanticleer House, remain much as they were when the Rosengartens lived here, except for the addition of a reflecting pool to the east and a new balustrade, matching the existing balustrades, at the overlook. At Emily’s House near the Entrance, terraces retain their walls and an enclosed feeling, but a lean-to greenhouse is gone. The Teacup Garden fountain, probably brought back by the Rosengartens from Florence, Italy, in the 1920s and originally on the Chanticleer Terraces, is the focal point of a design that replaced a lawn. The Potting Shed, near the Cut Flower Garden, which is used for potting and storage, looks much the same as it did when the garden was opened to the public, but now has rot-resistant siding and a new cedar roof. The nearby cold frames were slated for removal, but thanks to horticulturist Doug Croft’s woodworking skills, they feature new masonry and sashes, and gardeners once again vie to use the space.

The biggest structural change was created by taking down Adolph Jr.’s Minder House to build the Ruin. The Ruin is what is called a “folly,” built simply for aesthetic pleasure and looking as though the original house had fallen into disrepair. Adolph Jr. explicitly stated his parents’ home was to be kept as a museum but didn’t say anything about his own home. His will left no doubt that the garden was of utmost importance. He himself razed nearby houses to make way for future garden expansion, and now his own residence has become a central feature of the garden, a tribute to his vision. He was a connoisseur of trees and shrubs and even wrote an article on ornamental pruning. He would love the way we train rare maples to look like vines climbing the walls, and how the delicate quinces and winter hazels are espaliered to highlight their early spring blooms.

Chanticleer Runs Much Like a Private Garden
Chanticleer has seven horticulturists (or gardeners; we use the terms interchangeably). Each is responsible for designing, planting, and maintaining an area of the garden. They are part of a fourteen-person, full-time, year-round horticultural staff. Everyone does winter projects when the garden is closed, ranging from making furniture to sowing seeds. Key additional members of the team are seasonal groundskeepers, assistant horticulturists, interns, volunteers, and guest gardeners from other organizations, all rotating through the various garden areas.

The Chanticleer staff has a wide variety of backgrounds. Some started gardening early in life, planting vegetables and flowers at their parents’ homes, and studied horticulture directly out of high school. Others came to the plant world indirectly, first pursuing anthropology, history, business, or art. They studied horticulture as a second career at a university or at a public garden such as nearby Longwood Gardens.

My own path to horticulture was similar to Mr. Rosengarten’s. I started gardening when my parents felt their ten-year-old son needed to be constructive with his time. They assigned me the vegetable garden, growing plants that bear produce I previously had refused to eat. I grew bush beans, beets, lettuces (growing a head of iceberg was a goal I never achieved), and tomatoes but not corn, because we were surrounded by fields of sweet corn and our half-acre lot was “too small” for corn. That first season, I carefully followed the instructions on the seed packet, which said to thin the beets and discard. I dutifully discarded. My parents were displeased. They had looked forward to eating the young plants as beet greens. I quickly learned garden “rules” were open to interpretation.

In the process, I discovered that my vegetables were tasty, and I stopped being a picky eater. I began to plant flowers and then roses, using organic gardening techniques. I devoured the two horticultural books in the local library and back issues of the only two periodicals, Flower Garden and Better Homes and Gardens. I didn’t realize there were other gardening magazines or that estates and public gardens existed. Although I didn’t grow up on a country estate like Adolph Jr., my midwestern hometown had towering trees and my love and respect for trees grew strong. My parents weren’t thrilled when I majored in horticulture at the University of Wisconsin, but luckily, my father disliked law and lawyers even more. The job at Chanticleer is the culmination of my dreams.

In a private garden, the owner makes the decisions. At Chanticleer, the executive director serves as the owner’s representative as well as the head gardener, coach, overseer, and benevolent dictator. The board members are closely involved with the garden, giving excellent advice, but they concentrate on policy and finance. The gardeners design, plant, and maintain the garden without an advisory committee and with no long meetings discussing color combinations. This efficient system saves money, avoids bureaucracy, and encourages creativity and good morale. This approach to management may be the biggest single factor in making Chanticleer what it is today.

Each gardener knows her or his area better than anyone else, but may go weeks without visiting the other side of the garden. As leader, I see the entire garden daily, giving me a unique feel for what is essential about the place. We keep the feeling of a private garden, preserving vistas, avoiding signs, and paving as little as possible. We strive to keep the garden looking spectacular every single day. Beds being renovated need to look good for every guest. Hoses still need to be put away when not in use.

Adolph Jr. began each day with a walk around the garden accompanied by his corgi. He greeted the staff, encouraged them to work hard, grabbed a snack at the Apple House, and reviewed the property. I, too, begin each day with a walk around the garden, with my corgi. It’s much more than a lovely stroll. It’s an inspection tour, a remembrance of what the property was, and most important, a meditation on what it can be.

I stop frequently, looking both up close and into the distance. What does this part of the garden look like to a first-time guest? Is it as good as it can be? How will the area look in a month? In three months? A year? In a decade? Could this bed be better? Is it time to try something new? Should this path be moved? Is that tree going to block the view in twenty years? Would a tower draw guests up the Bulb Meadow, the hill above Asian Woods? Can we eliminate steps to improve accessibility? Do all the garden areas hold together as one garden? I also pull a few weeds, clear the spillways, prune an occasional branch, pick up litter, and check the restrooms.

During these daily walks, I meet with as many of the staff as possible. The horticulturists present their ideas, and if we agree, we implement them. If not, we think about it and discuss it more. Most discussions occur in the garden with plenty of hand waving, while more complicated designs are drawn on paper. Garden hoses, flags, ropes, and even sand poured on snow show where new bed edges will be. Always, there are lists of plants.

Following storms, we all assess damage. I usually walk along our creek, called Bell’s Run, to see where there was flooding, where we have erosion, and how the volume of water changed the creek. Sometimes the waterway widens, and elsewhere it may be constricted by a newly formed sandbar. We have built up the banks with rocks, organic matter, and plantings to reduce erosion. We’re surrounded on three sides by roads, so a great deal of runoff enters the property during heavy rains. Drainage basins capture water coming in from Church Road and from the parking lot. Cisterns hold nearly 50,000 gallons of rainwater for irrigation. Since we’re near the top of the watershed, every gallon of water we stow in a storm is a gallon not going to someone’s home downstream. We recently exposed a tributary of the creek that was buried in a pipe in the 1930s. Such “daylighting” (or bringing to the surface a creek previously underground) improves the stream’s health and reduces flooding. We found frogs and even a salamander living in the stream within the first year of its being aboveground.

There is no shortage of suggestions from others. Do we listen to them? I joke that the best way to ensure something will not be added to the garden is to suggest its addition. But comments are welcomed. They may come from first-time visitors, regular guests, other horticulturists, people interested in art, my close friends, and of course from the board. We take each criticism seriously and listen to what people say, what journalists write, what bloggers comment.

Ideas Abound at Chanticleer for Your Home Garden
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.
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. 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? For plant geeks, we grow over 5,000 taxa, or types, of plants, and these are just the ones we have accessioned into our plant record system. Many more are here for less than a year and not recorded in our database.

Chanticleer is a learning opportunity. Whether guests actually come to learn about gardening, they may find ideas here to replicate at home. We encourage dialogue between staff and guests. There is so much more to know about a plant than just its appearance and its name on a label. Serious gardeners enjoy our plant lists and photos, which are available online for use at home. We offer courses, workshops, and symposiums, giving more opportunities to learn and interact with our staff. Internships, scholarships, and staff exchanges help shape the careers of garden professionals.

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.

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.

What Makes Chanticleer Special?
Chanticleer emerges from the site, taking advantage of the topography, views, and trees. The process of planning and caring for the garden is equally integrated. The designs are done in-house by the people who do the planting and maintenance and who also make the furniture, gates, and bridges. The garden evolves organically and continuously rather than as a major landscape plan imposed upon the site. The garden is dynamic and fun, changing greatly from year to year and even season to season. Every design can be made better. No matter how good it is, something new will at least be different, presenting another concept. It is a garden for the sake of being a garden. We encourage creativity in all aspects of the operation.

Some garden areas change more often and more completely than others. We redesign entirely the terraces at the two houses twice a year. Permanent plantings are in the minority, so the terraces are blank slates for a spring planting and then a summer planting. The Serpentine Garden celebrates the beauty of agricultural crops, ranging from tall sunflowers and tobacco to bold, colorful kale and rapeseed to fine-textured wheat and rye. As a consequence, the area undergoes a total change every time a crop matures.

The Cut Flower and Vegetable Gardens produce flowers for arrangements and food for our dining tables. The Cut Flower section varies in how much it changes annually, depending on the ratio of annuals to perennials. When horticulturist Emma Seniuk started in November 2012, she dug up every plant in the area, hand-turned the soil, added compost, and then replanted. In 2013, she relied more on annuals than had been done in the past. Digging it all up allowed her to see what actually was there and, perhaps more important, to learn what the soil is like. Hand-digging, especially when incorporating compost, results in better soil than achieved with a rototiller.

The Tennis Court Garden, the Ruin, the Gravel Garden, and the Pond Garden rely more on perennials and so they change more gradually. The Tennis Court (imaginatively named, since it replaced the estate’s clay court) is a perennial garden featuring foliage, with some annuals and bulbs added for accent. Each year, we study what is working, what is not, and make replacements. Dan Benarcik became responsible for the Tennis Court Garden in 2013. Although not shy about shaking up designs (he drastically altered the look of the Teacup Garden that first year), he took his time to familiarize himself with the Tennis Court. This slow and steady approach makes sense, since the permanent plantings needed a full year of observation.
The Pond Garden surrounds the ponds on the western edge of Chanticleer. The area has evolved from a clipped lawn in Adolph Jr.’s time to a boisterous area of tall, bold perennials. A few years ago, horticulturist Joe Henderson felt it needed more continuity, so he began renovating large areas (again, digging by hand), increasing the repetition and flow of color through the area. When Chanticleer opens in spring, the Pond Garden area is bright and open in feeling, with only a few shrubs giving height. As the season progresses, the perennials soar, enclosing the area. Views are framed by the time the lotuses bloom in midsummer. As the white blossoms of baccharis appear in autumn, the center of the area feels like a secret garden, not at all like mowed turf. Ten years ago, the Ruin was still starkly new. Now, horticulturist Lisa Roper is cutting back vines and espaliers to allow more of the Ruin’s stone walls to show. Asian Woods and Bell’s Woodland become visually stronger each year, as the masses of ground covers expand, making these areas alive with textural contrasts and various shades of green.

The garden will never be “finished,” but will continue to grow and evolve. We build structures to last so their future maintenance costs are reduced. Garden designs morph over time, with occasional complete makeovers. Even with seasonal changes, we feather new plants in, rather than stripping the entire space to bare soil and replanting. We want the grounds to look spectacular every day. The age we live in considers the more than two-decade existence of Chanticleer Garden to be a long time. Thanks to Adolph Jr.’s vision and generosity, we think in terms of centuries. Chanticleer is a long-term project and should be beautiful and open to guests for centuries to come. 
 

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