Just outside of Philadelphia is a magical garden estate in Wayne, Pennsylvania, known as Chanticleer. Built in the early 1900s, the estate’s 35 acres of rolling land and gardens are open to the public to explore for a small fee.
What is unique about Chanticleer is that there are multiple, themed gardens within the estate, once home to the wealthy Rosengarten family. Each garden is linked seamlessly by winding paths that bring you from space to space through areas such as the orchard, the Ruin Garden, Pond Garden and bulb meadow.
The gardens are breathtaking on both a large and small scale. Sprawling gardens with scenic views are balanced with secret garden follies and sculptures that you can discover in meadow coves and forest pockets. The transitions between spaces are elegant and smooth, allowing you to experience the gardens individually and as a whole.
If travel is on your wish list this year, consider visiting these historic gardens, which are a 4.5-hour road trip from southwestern Vermont or about 7 hours from the Northeast Kingdom. For visitor information, including a guide to the various gardens, check out chanticleergarden.org.
I was lucky to visit one year in early spring, when the gardens came alive.
Magnolias, azaleas and other leafless trees and shrubs celebrated their long-anticipated awakening with dazzling flowers, their branches bejeweled with purples, pinks and whites.
In spring, thousands of daffodils curve in and out under a canopy of flowering crabapples and Japanese cherry trees, enclosing you in a flower-filled oasis. Just out of sight is an open vista of gently sloping lawn framed by trees with the faint sounds of a bubbling brook and fountain in the distance.
Chanticleer is in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 7a, which means that there is a vast variety of plant species on the property. From flowering trees to groundcovers, the garden is a colorful show of ornamental trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs, changing with each season.
When planning your trip, you may want to check out the “What’s in Bloom” section on the website, which includes highlights, by week, for past seasons. Keep in mind that the warmer climate in southeastern Pennsylvania means that many plants are flowering weeks ahead of bloom time in northern New England.
Chanticleer also is known for its garden artistry and sculptures. Just outside the woodland garden, a custom stone and wood drinking fountain releases water at its base through a series of grooved, sculpted rocks, directing the water into the garden bed beyond.
Beautiful marble faces, kissed by a soothing stream of water, emerge from the pool of a water fountain in the Ruin Garden.
Near this garden, a life-size sofa and armchair made completely out of stone masonry invite you to sit and take in the view.
The sofa’s armrest is complete with a stone remote control with colorful gems for buttons, with no TV in sight, suggesting perhaps that nature is all that we need for entertainment.
Benches and chairs are strategically placed around the entire estate, in sometimes surprising places, inviting you to linger in the magic of the gardens wherever you are.
Plants, water, stone, art and topography are combined in an incredibly creative and joyful celebration of the senses at the Chanticleer gardens. It is a place to get lost in the details, where you will want to return as often as you can to see what new things you can discover.
Bonnie Kirn Donahue is a UVM Extension Master Gardener and landscape designer from central Vermont.