IMG_3189The Tea Cup Garden in the entry courtyard combines flowers and vegs

IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO SAY which is the most spectacular aspect of Chanticleer: The sun-soaked garden built around the romantic stone ruins of an old house?  The spirited and unusual borders set in a former tennis court? The coolly exotic Asian woods? The terraces surrounding the 1913 French Provincial-style house, filled with imaginatively planted containers and oversized hanging baskets? At this time of year, all 35 acres seem to be experiencing their finest hour.

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The Tennis Court Garden

My friend Nancy and I have embarked on a three-day trip to the Philadelphia area, where there are some 30 historic gardens and arboreta, intent on cramming as many horticultural visuals into our heads as possible. Today we visited Chanticleer in Wayne, PA,  a few miles west of Center City. The estate was home to the Merck pharmaceutical clan until 1990, when Adolph Rosengarten, Jr., died and endowed his family’s property for the education and enjoyment of the public.

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Tennis Court Garden again

Those in charge — a team of a dozen very talented gardeners and groundskeepers — have done the job brilliantly. Chanticleer’s tag line is “A Pleasure Garden,” and indeed it is: sensual, romantic, and altogether inspiring.

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Speedwell and poppies on the Great Lawn

The use of color stands out: chartreuse/yellow is juxtaposed with purple/maroon in infinite combinations. The containers and hanging baskets are outstanding, some including lettuce, parsley, and red chard as ornamentals.

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The Pond Garden

As always, I looked and swooned and made note of ideas I could implement in some small way, like using ajuga (which I have plenty of) as edging, or putting ferns (have lots of those too)  in hanging baskets.

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Tall primroses amid tufted grasses

Hopefully, the bigger picture is implanting itself in my brain, too — the way things are layered and composed and contrasted.

Chanticleer is some wonderful way to get a garden education.

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Inventive paving mixes cobblestones with asphalt