Saturday, June 25, 2016

Chanticleer's Ruin Garden filled with magic and mystery...

I expected that Chanticleer would be the highlight of the recent garden trip I took with Pam Penick of Digging.  I'd heard of the amazing gardens and had done a little research, but I was in awe as each and every element of the garden unfolded before me.  On its website, Chanticleer claims to have been called "the most romantic , imaginative and exciting public garden in America."  They aren't kidding. It towers above all the other public gardens that I've visited -- not having missed a fling in 8 years -- I've toured a few! 
The Chanticleer estate was originally built in the early 20th Century by Adolph and Christine Rosengarten as a country retreat.  It later became their permanent home and they bought additional neighboring land to give homes to their two children as wedding presents. One of those homes now serves as the entrance and offices and the other is the site of the estate's Ruin Garden. In 1990, Adolph, Jr. left the entire property as a public garden and museum under the guidance of The Chanticleer Foundation.  Today, the garden employs 20 full-time staff, among them 14 gardeners and groundskeepers.

That said, I'll bring you through what I thought was the most innovative part of the garden -- the Ruin Garden -- for my first Chanticleer post.  
Chanticleer's Ruin Garden was built on the site of the original Minder house, which was given to Adolph Rosengarten, Jr. as a wedding gift.  Composed of three 'rooms' - the Great Hall, the Library and the Pool Room, it evokes an air of crumbling history with a macabre undercurrent.  The ruin isn't really a ruin at all, but cleverly created hardscape backdrops into which succulents and shade plants are creatively tucked.  Perched on top of a hill, it's barely visible until you come right up on it.

The Library is scattered with displays of slate books.
Stone acorns appear to be entombed in the pages of an open stone book.
Dominated by a 24-foot reflecting pool shaped like a sarcophagus, the Great Hall is mesmerizing.  
Every element in the room is reflected in the vast, dark pool. 
Succulents fill the mantle and provide little pops of color in the water's mirrored image.
The stillness of the water is enticing.  I didn't trail my fingers in the fountain, but enjoyed watching these two little girls prepare to test the waters.
The giant black water feature rests on a stone mosaic carpet.
Through the next stone doorway lies the 'Pool Room.'  
Here, polished marble faces rise up from the black depths to make themselves known to visitors.  Their garish, mottled faces are disturbing, to say the least.
Beaten down by the water sheers, the faces are trapped forever in the pool.

I'm not sure if the girls were intrigued or frightened, but they did approach with some caution.  The prospect of touching the cool water on a hot day won out over trepidation.
Next to the pool, a column lined with succulents seems sweet by comparison.

Delicate coral-colored succulents stand out along the post against the green and gray rooms of the Ruin Garden.

Stone acorns seem to be sprouting in a bed inside the Ruin Garden.
The plants and vines intricately woven throughout the walls of the Ruin Garden appear to have been there for centuries, however, this garden was created and opened to the public in 2000.

As we left the garden, a stone face peeked out from a bed of sedge, appearing to watch us leave.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Four acres of gorgeous gardens under glass at the Longwood Gardens Conservatory

Last week, my friend Pam, who blogs at Digging, and I embarked on a garden adventure unrivaled in my garden travels.  Nestled in the Brandywine Valley region of Pennsylvania, we toured three public gardens, Winterthur, Longwood and Chanticleer.

I took thousands of pictures (in part because the hot summer sun kept me adjusting my light settings). I'm sure I collected enough photos to blog about for several months!
 As a lover and collector of tropical and exotic plants, the Longwood Conservatory is high on my list of the gardens within the gardens of our trip.  It includes 20 different gardens (yes, all inside this giant conservatory), and more than 5,500 types of plants.  It was spectacular.  While it included all the typical plants you'd find in most conservatories, there was so much more -- an amazing array of plant combinations, beautiful design, and attention to detail at every step.  I can't even fit all of it into one post, but I've decided to just jump in and cover part of it as my first post of the trip.

The Conservatory was built in 1919 by Pierre S. du Pont, and was designed to be an indoor eden. The collection of conservatory buildings covers 4.5 acres.  (The entire garden covers 1,077 acres.) Yes, 4.5 INSIDE acres of stunning gardens, including the Fern Floor and Alcoves, seen here, the Patio of Oranges, Waterlily Display, Silver Garden, Orchid House, Mediterranean Garden, Bonsai Display, Palm Garden, Desert House, Cascade Garden, Banana House, Camellia House, Green Wall, Indoor Children's Garden (so amazing that this will get its own post soon!), Rose House, Tropical Terrace, East Fruit House, Garden Path, Peirce-du Pont House and the Exhibition Hall.

The grand entrance, pictured above, provides a preview of this massive sest of structures.  Beautiful and unusual bromeliads are given a place of honor in this section of the garden.

Many of the water features were surrounded by bromeliads, as well.

I have a number of bromeliads in my house and in the cabana in pots, but the volume and diversity of these was astounding.  Clearly I have a way to go in the collecting department!

And then there were the ferns.  I was taken by the Mexican Tree Ferns, delicate and ephemeral, yet strong and sculptural, all at the same time.

And then there were these stunning Staghorn-like ferns.

Of course, no prehistoric journey would be the same without cycads.
This male cycad was sporting a new cone.

I love this grey species.  It's a shame that the light prevents me from reading the tag that I photographed -- I'd like to find out if I can grow this one in my Zone 8b-sometimes 9 garden.
This gigantic Sago palm (though not a palm at all) dwarfs the sizeable Sansevieria below it.
I believe that these elephant ears are Colocasia amazonica - which means they are sure living up to their name here under the black bamboo.
I can't name this one, but I love the black stems which mirror the black bamboo as well.
 Great color combinations under this bamboo.
And, who can resist the appeal of this black bamboo?  It's so striking and exotic.

With 4.5 acres of conservatory gardens to cover, this will have to be it for your first peek.  Thousands more photos and lots of blog posts to come, about the conservatory and Longwood's other 1,000+ acres of outside gardens!