Chanticleer 2013

Last Thursday I made a trip down to Chanticleer Gardens, a “pleasure garden” located just West of Philadelphia PA.  I’m glossing over much of the history, but basically it’s the 1913 former summer estate turned full time home of Adolph Rosengarten and his wife Christine.  As family members passed away and moved on the Chanticleer Foundation was formed and the property became a public garden.  This year marked the 100th anniversary for the property, but the public incarnation is still relatively young, having been formed in 1993.  I don’t have many garden visits under my belt, but Chanticleer ranks as one of the best public gardens in the US and I could really see the reasons why.

Here we go!  After a drive of just under two hours, please excuse me for making the restrooms my first stop.attractive courtyard at chanticleer

Even the restrooms are a plant lover’s treat with unique varieties, creative uses and just plain artistic furniture and pottery.  I had plenty of room for myself since the hot, muggy, overcast weekday didn’t really bring out a stampede of garden visitors.  Good thing too, since I made the trip alone and my stupid grin and plant touching probably would have had me escorted out on a crowded day.

The first official garden was the ‘teacup’ garden.  It fills the patio right off the house and I love all the gate and bench details leading into it.chanticleer courtyard gate

The teacup garden is named for the central fountain.  Each year this garden is redone with a totally different feel and this year seems to be leaning towards an orange theme.chanticleer teacup garden

There are so many special plants here, and orange never looked better.  Many of these are tropicals and if you look closely you might notice the upright orange leaves producing a small pink pineapple near the front.   chanticleer teacup garden

There’s so much texture and subtle color going on.  One of the many plants I loved was this melianthus (honeybush).  I feel a little foolish for letting my little 6 inch seed grown plant die outside last winter, had I seen the real thing first I probably would have found a winter home for it.melianthus honey bush

I don’t think I could have found a spot for this big pot of variegated New Zealand flax.chanticleer potted new zealand flax

Few of the plants have labels in this ‘pleasure garden’, it really is meant to be enjoyed, but I did scare myself realizing how many things I recognized…. apparently I spend way too much time on the web looking at plants….

Check out the railing here -and the container plantings aren’t too shabby either.  The banana growing up alongside the house is the (I think) surprisingly hardy musa basjoo which even I can even overwinter in my much colder zone.  The tall white variegated grass (arundo donax) is also hardy.  I have both in my own garden, of course they look nowhere near as well grown or well placed 🙂chanticleer artistic railing

Continuing around the house are beds just flooded with cool tropicals and hardy perennials.  Here’s number two cool plant leaf that I want, it’s the rice paper plant (tetrapanax).  Big leaves that start out fuzzy, what’s not to love?chanticleer rice paper plant tetrapanax

More foliage along the path.   I have no idea, but the yellow veins of it matched the ivy creeping along the ground.  Fancy.  You can also see some of the many seats scattered around the grounds.  In my opinion gardens are always best viewed from a comfortable seat!chanticleer path

Here’s another nice seating area.chanticleer seating area

I believe the three dark green plants along the walk are samples of the infamous breadfruit tree.  Maybe it’s just the result of a few too many childhood viewings of “Mutiny on the Bounty” (The 1962 Marlon Brando version) but I think this food staple of the Pacific is a fascinating plant.  This plant was the reason Captain Bligh was commissioned to sail to Tahiti in the first place, and this is also the plant thrown overboard when the mutiny takes place.  chanticleer variegated boston fernBesides Captain Bligh’s survival story, the story of the mutineers and their descendants on tiny Pitcairn island is also quite a tale.  They still live on today as a British territory.

Less contentious is the yellow-green underplanting of variegated boston fern, hakonechloa grass, and others.  I’ve heard people say you shouldn’t mix variegated plants, but here I think that theory expires.

Oh, and if all that’s not enough, the glass topped table is actually a terrarium 🙂chanticleer seat with terarrium

Ok, so that might be enough for today since WordPress has locked up twice and both times I had to redo what was lost.  Next stop is the former tennis courts….. tennis has never looked so good.

April showers bring May cacti?

Even though it feels even less like spring than last week, I lugged all the deck succulents and cacti out for an April shower.  Temperatures should be above freezing for the next few days and skies shoud be cloudy so it’s a good time to get them used to fresh air and sun again.  After nearly six months indoors with little light and even less water I bet they like the change. cacti and succulentsThe pencil euphorbia and the purplish euphorbia in the back (I have the names somewhere…) hate my winter abuse, the rest don’t seem to care much.  If temperatures drop to freezing I’ll push them up against the house, if temps go down into the 20’s I’ll either cover them up or bring them back in for a couple nights.

There’s a reason this collection is growing.  They do fine in the heat, don’t mind my hit or miss watering, and look good from spring to fall.  All are planted in a mix of 75% potting soil/25% sandbox sand, terra cotta pots, and topped with a light layer of garage sale aquarium gravel on top.  I’ll admit there have been casualties (overwintering casualties) along the way but for the most part it’s been easy-peasy.  If anyone is interested I’ll put up a list of what I have…. if not we might just visit them again in August to see how much they’ve grown!

A day late and a dollar short

I go back and forth on overwintering tropicals and summer bulbs.  Last year was an up year.  I planted a bunch of cannas, elephant ears, dahlias, and banana plants in a new bed over at my mother in law’s.  The tropicals plus a number of tasteless, gaudy, bright annuals were all right up my alley.

tropicalismo garden

A little bit of tropicalismo in my Pennsylvania garden

The annuals were all seed grown and the tropicals were all little bits and sprigs that I keep over from year to year.  I overwinter the lazy way and some are ok with that while others…..

In short, the good gardener will check up on them around early February, add water to the dry ones, remove the rotted ones, air out the damp ones, just give them a general once over to carry them through the rest of the winter.  If you are not of the good gardener type you can still save most of your tropicals if you check on them around March 13th and give them a once over.  I think the yellow, crispy asparagus ferns may still pull through, now that they got a bit of water.

overwinter succulents

Tropicals hiding from the cold

The aloes and jade plant snuggled up against the dim (slightly heated) garage window are troopers and don’t need a drop all winter.

These are the bulbs and roots and tubers that I threw into bags and buckets.  I’m hoping for the best, but it’s tricky to walk the line between keeping them dry and cool enough to keep them dormant vs everything else that could go wrong.  Too wet, they rot.  Too dry, they crisp.  Too warm, they sprout.  Too cold, they freeze……

overwinter cannas

The ugly truth of my overwintering process

I guess I do just kinda throw them in a pile and hope for the best.  To do otherwise would go against my natural laziness.

Here are a few bigger pots, just rolled into the garage and allowed to go dry.  You wouldn’t think it but many tropicals will just “hang out” in the dim, cool garage until spring  (I did throw some water on these about a month ago).  The only one giving real problems is the fig which decided to sprout once it got water.  I really should have left that one outside.

overwinter tropicals

Geraniums….. probably shouldn’t have bothered.

overwinter geraniums

I won’t make you look at the coleus cuttings.  They’ve been in water on the windowsill since October and look worse than the geraniums.  In a week or so I’ll pot them up, take some geraniums cuttings and see what we can do with them.  It should have been done now, but I’m always running a day late and a dollar short.