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The Road to Chanticleer Garden

by Jenny

Agave americana.
Agave Americana: In the gravel circle at Chanticleer House. This design feature is raked afresh every week to give visitors a unique entrance to the Chanticleer House.

10 Tips for your Pilgrimage to Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, PA

By: Christopher Freimuth

So, you’re thinking of going to Chanticleer Garden. You read about it in a magazine, or your friend tweeted about it after her most recent (#OMGI’mInHeaven!!!!) visit, and now here you are serendipitously reading this blog post. A sign from the gods, perhaps? Well, yeah. I don’t know if you’ve gotten the memo, but the gods actually live at Chanticleer. It’s time to make a pilgrimage to Wayne, PA, and here are a few tips to help you make the most of your trip:

Bells Run.
Bell's Run: A community of Sarracenia, a water-loving, carnivorous plant in one of the garden's bog habitats.
  1. Go to Chanticleer anytime, but especially certain times. Chanticleer is open from early April through late October, Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. But here’s a little-known (though fully publicized) secret: the garden stays open until 8 p.m. on Friday evenings from May through August. Go then. The evening light multiplies the garden’s beauty by about a million, and in the early part of the year the fireflies are magic.

  2. Don’t hurry, be happy. It doesn’t matter what season you visit Chanticleer- the garden is differently gorgeous every single day of the year. What matters is that you plan a whole day for the garden. Arrive at 10 a.m., walk the grounds for a few hours, go into town for lunch, and come back for more hanging. Many people visit Chanticleer with just enough time to see the amazing spaces, but not enough time to actually relax into them. There are benches and chairs and nooks all over the place. Hang out and read for a few hours. Do some plein air painting. Have a little quiet time with your journal. Heck, if it suits you, plop yourself down and dive into a video game on your iPhone! I don’t care what you do, just don’t rush yourself. This is a pleasure garden, after all.

  3. Camassia leichtlinii.
    An impressive river of this spring-flowering bulb flows through Bell's Run each spring.
    Pollinator hotel.
    This pollinator hotel is an experiment in creating various pollinator habitats and observing who shows up!
  4. Eat Great Food Near Chanticleer. Downtown Wayne is about a three-minute drive from Chanticleer. For food, you have three and a half options, as far as I’m concerned. The first is vegetarian pizza at the American Pub. The second is sushi at Margaret Kuo’s. The third is literally anything on the menu at White Dog Café. To top off any of these options, go to the Wayne Coffee and Ice Cream Bar and get an affogato from one of the adorably cheery teenage baristas. Note: The Wayne Bar is right next to the American Pub (not to give away my bias, hint hint).

  5. Cut flower garden.
    Clematis climb arches of woven grape vines in the Cut Flower garden, where staking is at its finest and seasonal successions creates waves of interest throughout the year.
  6. Don’t freak out if it’s raining or overcast. In fact, rejoice. Colors in the garden really pop in filtered light, and water makes everything more attractive. Bonus if it’s pouring: you can borrow a fancy Chanticleer umbrella from one of the sweet visitor services staff.

  7. Floating flowers.
    In various niches throughout the garden, visitors will find ornate flower arrangements, including floating flowers, bouquets and other sweet surprises.
  8. Try to find all the plant list boxes. If you have kids (including the inner kind), you can make this one into a game. Most of the garden areas at Chanticleer have an ornately-decorated box containing plant lists. Try to find them all! And when you do, leaf through the plant lists and see what you recognize in the garden. My favorite box: the bee hive by the fallen tree bridge.

  9. Chat with the brilliant Chanticleer horticulturists. Emma Seniuk, a friend and (brilliant) horticulturist who worked at Chanticleer for four years, likes to say “Great gardens are made by great people.” She speaks from experience. Ask what the weirdest plants are in their gardens. Ask if there are any particularly fragrant flowers or foliage at the moment. See if you can get them to describe what their garden looked like 3 months or 3 years ago.

  10. Verbena bonariensis.
    Verbena bonariensis: A close-up of this well-loved perennial, which can be found in many sections of Chanticleer. It is one of various flowers whose repetition throughout the various sections of Chanticleer serves to tie the entire garden together, creating a feeling of fluidity and cohesion.
  11. Take a million pictures, but also don’t. You know what I mean? Give yourself a photo quota – every other hour you’re allowed to take photos, and every other other hour you have to shove that camera in the bottom of your bag and just delight in what you see in the here-and-now. It’s called self-control. Just because I can’t do it doesn’t mean you can’t.

  12. Check out the furniture, etc... Much of the wooden furniture at Chanticleer is hand-made by staff. Same with the bridges down by the creek. And those funky metal handrails and fences you can run your fingers along. And the stonework, including the stone seating in the gravel garden. Did I mention these folks were brilliant?

  13. Chanticleer house.
    Chanticleer House: A reflecting pool rich with large, foliar tropicals.
    Pond garden.
    Hibiscus and Rudbeckia look out on an aquatic field of lotus in Chanticleer's wild and colorful Pond Garden.
  14. Head to the pond around 2:30 or 3:00. That’s when they feed the piranhas. I mean koi.

  15. Get off the beaten (read: eco-friendly, porous paving) path. Yes, you can walk on the grass. Yes, you can sneak down those really cool secret-looking trails whose openings are barely visible to the unobservant guest. Yes, the stuff that is not on the main paths is totally worth checking out. Like the pleached ginkgos at the end of the serpentine. Or the towering bigleaf magnolias across the creek in the Asian Woods. Or the – wait, I’m not gonna give away all my secrets! Go explore!

Ruin Garden.
Ruin Garden: Verbascum stands guard in front of the Ruin Garden, a mysterious folly with plenty of room for exploration.

Christopher Freimuth is a horticulturist and designer based in New York City. To connect, visit or follow him on Instagram at @cfgardens.