One Last Summer Trip

It’s embarrassing to realize this trip and these photos are all already a week old, but no matter.  Visiting a garden like Chanticleer, just outside of Philadelphia never gets old, and after a summer of ‘wait, I have to be around for this… and that… and I wish it would rain…’ it was great to get away for what might be one of my last summer trips, and always fun to be out and about with garden stuff from dawn to dusk!  Here are a few impressions from the day.  Check out their website and other links for better photos and video, it’s such an awesome garden to visit and I tried to rush through in under two hours so…

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The entry area is always a tropical planter paradise.  Note the leaf stalk of the Titan arum (corpse flower, Amorphophallus titanum) on the far right.  Am I the only person who couldn’t care less about the smelly bloom, yet loves the massive single leaf which they produce?

Hmmm.  Since it was such a rapid race of a visit maybe this should be a quick post, so here goes.  The ‘teacup garden’ is always my first and favorite section to visit.  It’s like a tropical conservatory out for the summer for a Pennsylvania country vacation.

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Look at all these foliage goodies, and the hanging blooms of the Brugmansia are just summertime awesome!

Wander down to the tennis court next.  It’s been entirely re-done and although it’s lost the ‘tennis court’ vibe I like the new Netherlands-France rolling hedge vibe.

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There’s a soft spot in my heart for neatly trimmed hedges.  Another year to grow in and this one will be perfect, plus a patch of my favorite giant reed grass (Arundo donax) doesn’t hurt either.

The cutting garden also underwent a re-do.  More vegetables, more paths meandering through, a little more controlled.  Personally I like a garden of chaos in September, but maybe deep down inside realize that this is a better look… hahaha just kidding.  I like it but miss the tsunami of towering blooms and grasping vines of years past.

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Orange marigolds seemed to be a theme through several of the gardens this year.

I skipped the woods but not before realizing the large magnolia wasn’t really a magnolia.  It was an American pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) with plenty of fruit on its way to ripening.  I’ve never had one, but word is they’re delicious with their custardy-goodness.

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American pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) with a cluster of almost-ripe fruit.

I rushed through the meadow filled with full-bloom prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), a beautiful spot but I just don’t like the “popcorn” scent of this grass, and then cut through the ruin garden to get to the gravel garden.  I love the gravel garden.  It was a full-sun, 90F (32C) morning and I was still standing around with that dumb look on my face, smiling at the succulent planters and running my hands through the grass like a real weirdo.  I’m so glad that finally, after 50 years, I finally grew out of that caring what other people think stage.

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Not the best picture, but the gravel garden is an open spot filled with full-sun, drainage-loving Mediterranean-type plants which don’t seem to mind a couple months of hot.

Down around the ponds to visit the koi and admire the lush, water-loving stuff, and then quickly through the Asian woods and serpentine plantings, and finally to the main house.  The house is always surrounded by too many pots which are too big and overfilled with too many goodies.  Many of the plants are too cool.  The only way I didn’t spend another hour in just this section was because I was alone and because of that didn’t need to start pointing out and naming and babbling on about every single thing.  I will only share a few photos 😉

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The mangave cult is alive and well here.  It’s a big plus they’re not as spiny and poky as they look.

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Sometimes I had to put both hands in my pockets to fight the urge to take cuttings. Everything seems grown to perfection which is not easy to pull off in such mixed plantings.

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The pool area. There are bananas and other tropicals all along the walls. Such an awesome sight although it makes me feel a bit guilty for killing mine… again…

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Yeah. Just awesome. Red mandevilla and some yellow leaved jasmine.

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Hmmmm. Passionflowers are pretty cool and maybe I should have more than just one…

A visit to Chanticleer is a good choice at any time of year, but I might have to admit to an ulterior motive for my visit.  Surprise lilies (Lycoris) have been interesting lately and I knew there were a few plantings here and there in the gardens, so why not make up an excuse to drive two hours to go see them?

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I think these were yellow Lycoris chinensis with a few white Lycoris longituba mixed in, but since there was a fence and a few yards between me and them I couldn’t really get as close as I wanted.  

I might have been “interested” in some of the hardier Lycoris for a few years now (many of the nicest are tender and only thrive in Southern gardens), but based on their embarrassing performance in my own garden, I really didn’t want to admit it.  I guess it’s out now though.  My name is Frank and I grow Lycoris poorly.

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Lycoris squamigera floating above the grass of the bulb meadow.  These will be joined by the early colchicums in just a few more days.

I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with these bulbs.  They’re often referred to as surprise lilies or magic lilies, and although some people claim it’s because of the way they burst out of the soil and into bloom in just a few days, I believe it’s because each year it’s either a surprise or plain magic that they actually lived or even bothered to bloom for you.  It doesn’t help when you see them growing best alongside a burnt out building or abandoned farm or hear some old gardener complaining about how they take over their beds and there are just too many in their garden.  Based on this apparent finickiness I’m going to say there’s a better than good chance mine are dying out of spite.

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Maybe a paler form of Lycoris chinensis up near the ruin gardens?  Just like all the others these appear to be settling in happily… unlike my little jerks…  

If I wanted to give myself a true dose of reality I’d look up how many years ago it was that I first planted my earliest bulbs.  ‘They’ say it takes a few years for them to settle in, but the difference between settling in and dying out is a distinction I’m having trouble with… so in the meantime I will continue admiring them in other peoples gardens.  A garden where they are doing much better in is my friend Paula’s.  Her garden is not an abandoned farmstead, and she is not an old gardener, but they are still doing well for her even if a few were just a little past prime for my visit.

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A trio of excellent hardier varieties of Lycoris.  From left to right, ‘L x haywardii’, ‘Hiaro Blue’ (a selection of L. sprengeri and I think the same as ‘Blue Pearl’), and ‘L x incarnata’.    

As is typical with many of my garden days, by the time it was wrapping up the sun was pretty much set, so sorry about not having photos of the rest of the lycoris in back, but the best thing I learned on this visit was ‘just move them’ if they’re not thriving.  For as obvious as that seems it was kind of a break through for me.

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A closeup of Lycoris x haywardii.  I would like to grow this one well enough to see this show in my own garden… and that’s an understatement based on the twitching I feel when I look at it!

So with a rushed visit to Chanticleer and a twilight garden tour with Paula, you might be thinking I stopped for a sit down lunch and dinner, or maybe wasted my time with some other nonsense, but the truth is I was digging daylilies.

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“I have a few I could share, stop by if you’re in the area” said a friend…

The back of my car was quite full of plants for the ride home.  There was even a gifted sprig of tuberose which perfumed the ride through the mountains.  I was quite pleased.

So I was kind of joking about the daylily farm, but with a whole side-of-the-house lawn destroyed by construction I figured what the hey, it’s better than replanting grass.  I’ve been pickaxing stones and trying to amend a driveway of fill ever since.  Have an excellent weekend and maybe this foolishness will help put your own into perspective 😉