July 4, 2013

Two Gardens

At the end of June I toured two amazing gardens -- Chanticleer, which is a public garden in Pennsylvania, and a private garden in New Jersey that is featured on the blog View From Federal Twist.

This is a long post, so if you think you might be interested, go get your coffee cup refilled.

Chanticleer has been well documented for a long time, including in Donna's wonderful series of posts on Garden Walk Garden Talk. I can't add anything to the inventory of sights she has captured. Yes, we took hundreds of pictures too, but they look just like what others have photographed and in fact the day we visited was hot and very humid so there is a haze in all the shots.
Chanticleer
And I don't want to replicate photos of Federal Twist that have been shown already in the extensive history of the garden that the owner, James Golden, posts on his blog. We took hundreds of photos here too, but he documents the look and feel and design of his own garden so much better.
Federal Twist
So rather than posting a chronology of pictures to show you what we toured, I want to tell you how I felt in these two places. Both are beautifully designed, large gardens that must be walked through and lingered in, not just looked at.

Chanticleer is a series of separate spaces, each designed and maintained by a different staff member, so there are distinct areas -- a woodland walk, a square lawn-and-border sunken garden, a pond, a ruin garden with whimsical hardscape, shady arbors, much more. The plant material is artfully selected and blended.

It is closest to what I am trying to do, mostly because the look is one of open lawn and curving border, patios with containers, and stately trees as anchors in the lawns. The plants chosen are exactly what I have planted, including their fantastic bottlebrush buckeye stand (Aesculus parviflora) which shows what mine will look like some day.

They even had some of the more obscure plants I have chosen, like a beautiful 'Snow Fairy' caryopteris divaricata, which I also have, and stands of Indian Pink, spigelia marilandica, which I have just planted.


So at Chanticleer I felt a comfortable reinforcement.

Yes. This is what I am designing too. Ah, the same look and feel, only my space is much smaller. It all solidified a feeling of familiarity.

To get out of the heat I sat for a long while in a rocker on the veranda under an immense linden tree, looking out over the lawn and soaking in the view of the borders and the woods beyond that. That's exactly what I do at home, although my views are much shorter, my tiny patio is no veranda and I have little shade yet. But it's close, at least in my mind's eye.


They deliberately don't do plant collections at this garden. They design the spaces using pleasing flowers, shrubs and trees in combination. There are some provocative spaces, like the Serpentine Garden which is planted in a different agricultural crop each year to show the beauty of food plants (this year it was kale), but the emphasis is on design and flow, not on plant accessions.

They used some unusual plants like dramatic variegated giant reed (Arundo donax) that looks like plumes of corn in a mixed border, but there was a very traditional, old fashioned feel to the garden, with painted palettes of coneflowers and other pretties.
I felt serene, calm and at home at Chanticleer. It looks like what my home garden wants to look like in its dreams.

In contrast, at Federal Twist I was excited. This is a completely different garden, with no lawn, no painterly curving borders. It is a wild but controlled space with plants seeding themselves around, reined in by gravel paths and stone walls and small pools. Balls of boxwoods and spires of dark arborvitae punctuate prairie colonies of waving pink filipendula and giant towers of rudbeckia maxima.

There is an exquisite tension in this garden.


It is heightened by the fact that you enter through the house, something unheard of when a private home is on a garden tour. From the house you look out at a pleasant sitting terrace, then down into the garden below.

I was greeted by the owner, and he graciously took me through the entire garden, and together we marveled at interesting plants, observed the aggressiveness of some, and talked about how to use different plants. He gardens in a heavy, wet area, and experiments with what will grow there.

Inula racemosa grows too well here and has to be constantly pulled out, although scattered up and down the paths it has a strong architectural presence, and he leaves a lot to grow. Silphium spreads, but unlike Cup plant (S. perfoliatum) this type of silphium, or prairie dock, behaves. It still captures rain in little cups around its stem, though.
This garden is naturalistic, but it takes editing to get the balance right. He works hard at keeping the intricate mix of plants looking the way it does, planting new ones, taking out the wrong ones and moving stuff. In this garden it is less about a particular plant as a specimen to admire, and more about the whole experience of the place as a complex community.


He says it is more like farming than gardening. Because it looks so effortlessly untamed, visitors complimented him on building a habitat for wildlife, but this is a space designed for beauty. For humans more than bugs and birds I think.

At Federal Twist I felt excited as we went from sun to dappled shade and then back into sunshine, or turned a corner and saw a surprise, or looked over and noticed a sculpture or painted logs or a pool.


There is no question that you are in this garden. Leaves tickle the legs as you walk the paths. Chairs for sitting along the way are nestled into the plants so that when you sit, the garden encloses you.

He is using many of the same trees and shrubs at Federal Twist that I have, like my favorites, dusty blue zenobia pulverulenta, and viburnum prunifolium grown as an upright tree.

At both places I clearly saw how the same plants that I am using can be grown in beautiful settings and combinations, so there was much reinforcement and lots of inspiration from each of these gardens.

But at Chanticleer it all felt familiar and comfortingly predictable, while at Federal Twist it felt unfamiliar and excitingly unpredictable.

Although I was seeing the same plants that I grow in the same climate at the same time of year, being in these two gardens felt completely different. I ended the day understanding that it isn't enough to have great plants in your garden and interesting things to look at. There must be something that pulls it all together.

Design matters.

 

30 comments:

  1. It is amazing how the same plants in other plantsmen's hands make a whole different feeling. This is why I love to tour other gardens. I enjoy seeing and feeling the difference of how plants are arranged. Sometimes you see a common plant in a whole new context and appreciate it even more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, I agree. I love to tour public gardens professionally managed, and then see how private gardeners interpret their own designs. Such variety!

      Delete
  2. Chanticleer is such a fabulous garden. My favorite parts(naturally) are the tropical borders and containers up by the house and pool. The last time I was there we had alot of fun poking around the ruins. Too bad it isn't closer. Thanks for the heads up on Federal Twist. I've come across it once or twice in my blog reading travels but will now bookmark and try to follow it.

    Open Days can be treasure chest for garden afficionados. Whenever possible we work them in to our annual garden trip and did visit two in the Hamptons a couple of weeks ago. In CT we are fortunate to have so many Open Day gardens and dates. After visiting great gardens I usually come and tweak my own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sue, the ruins were entertaining -- very creative! Each area in Chanticleer had its own unique attractions. We tried to go back in the evening (they are open till dark on Friday nights) but thunderstorms and pouring rain held us back.

      Delete
  3. This is an excellent post! I've enjoyed reading your thoughts on two fine gardens.... sounds like it was a wonderful opportunity to appreciate other's garden accomplishments... Larry

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Larry, thanks. It really was a great chance to experience two very different gardens.

      Delete
  4. I really enjoyed reading this post. Hearing your thoughts on the design of both and how they affected you was so much more interesting than just seeing a long catalog of ideas and pictures, or, as some do, one picture because the blog writer doesn't really have time to put in the effort.

    Thanks for putting together such a thoughtful post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alison, thanks for reading and "getting" what I was trying to communicate!

      Delete
  5. Laurrie, I think that the difference in these gardens is
    that the Chanticleer garden has many gardeners, everyone does its part of the garden.
    The owner of the Federal Twist garden has the whole idea that is embodied everywhere in all parts of the garden.
    I would prefer the Chanticleer garden, I love the photo #5!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nadezda, you make a good point about the differences -- one garden is intensively maintained by a large staff with a lot of individual spaces, and the other is a personal creation that is all one concept. Very different ways to garden!

      Delete
  6. Your description of Chanticleer, "open lawn and curving border, patios with containers, and stately trees as anchors in the lawns," sounds a lot like my own vision! I love the picture of the coneflowers. There is an area inside my front garden where a few coneflowers and other wildflowers have naturalized. I am adding more coneflowers this year to give it more impact. I also enjoyed Federal Twist. I love these inspirational gardens that always give us a few ideas to take home to our own spaces.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deb, Chanticleer is designed much like your garden and like mine too. Federal Twist was something new and different for me. Both were an inspiration!

      Delete
  7. Pulling it all together is so very true. I loved learning about both of these garden spaces through your eyes but felt that my style matched more closely to the Chanticleer gardens. Both are such wonderful examples of what can be accomplished in a space and to be honest, this post left me wanting a larger plot of land to work on! Thank you for the outstanding inspiration Laurrie! Such beauty!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nicole, I always come back from seeing beautiful gardens and think I need more acreage too. There is so much I could do with more space, especially after seeing inspirations like these two gardens.

      Delete
  8. I also just planted some Spigelia, I think it may become one of my favorites. Thanks so much for this tour, and reminding me that I must see Chanticleer some day. Actually I was talking to someone recently about Philadelphia as a possible site for one of the Garden Bloggers' Flings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jason, Philadelphia would be prime Garden Bloggers Fling territory -- Longwood of course, and these two gardens, and Morris and so many more. A small but beautiful arboretum we also toured on the same trip was Jenkins Arboretum -- very nice.

      Delete
  9. Laurrie, I enjoyed reading this post because there are few pictures and you say such thought provoking things. Chanticleer is one of my favorite gardens. I like it so much, it doesn't even occur to me to think about how it's different from mine. I appreciate how you make the clear distinctions. I also like that you "get" my garden, which can be easily misinterpreted as a wild garden for wildlife. You say, "Because it looks so effortlessly untamed, visitors complimented him on building a habitat for wildlife, but this is a space designed for beauty. For humans more than bugs and birds I think." How right you are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James, I'm glad you found this post thought provoking. I've been intrigued with what you are creating since the very beginning when you first started to blog about it -- how great it was to finally see it. And I can't wait to see how it evolves from here. A great tour!

      Delete
  10. When I walk a garden it is to first feel and consume the presence, experience the feeling that the garden gives you as a whole. I walk it again two or three times to take in the subtle details that make the design work. You did such a wonderful job of sharing both aspects. Thank you, it must have been wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Charlie, it really was wonderful at both places. You are so right about how to experience a garden, with several walks through it to absorb the feeling of the place.

      Delete
  11. A fascinating post! I'd never heard of Chanticleer before, that is definitely an interesting place.
    It seems that while both gardens, all gardens?, are designed for movement, for walking through them; Chanticleer has a definite 'framed' stopping points whereas Federal Twist is never stopped in that way.
    The best way I can describe it is that it if you could look at all the photos taken by visitors, there would be more shots which were essentially the same view at Chanticleer than at Federal Twist?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Acair Fearann, yes, I think you got it -- Chanticleer was clearly designed for the sweeping view, the framed set piece of landscape. Federal Twist is more intimate and tied together as one continuos whole. It's fun to try to analyze what makes them so different!

      Delete
  12. I am going to be wishy washy and say I liked them both. They are two completely different things, so it is almost like comparing apples and oranges. In a way, the Federal Twist garden is harder to get right, simply because it can so easily go from "natural" to unkempt. It is a hard balance to strike.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah, I liked them both too, and for different reasons! They both are hard balances to strike -- Federal Twist for the reasons you mention of easily sliding into unkempt chaos, and Chanticleer for the opposite reason, it could easily slide into looking too precious, too cute and too much like a romantic getaway at a faux English cottage.

      Delete
  13. Laurrie, you're such a wonderful writer. This post was great and you made me fall in love with both gardens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather, awww, thanks for the compliment!

      Delete
  14. I follow the Federal Twist blog and have always wanted to see it. I had to stop and reread the sentence where you described each garden as having a 'feel'. That is such a vital observation. Whenever someone asks me to help them design a garden, I always ask them what they want to feel when they're outside. Understanding a garden as a relevant space and a means to satisfy us both intellectually and emotionally can't be ignored. Our gardens are an extension of ourselves and reflect the desires and needs of the gardener. I'm dying to see Chanticleer. I think I would feel at home, too. :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tammy, I never asked myself what I wanted to feel when I started designing our empty lot. It really matters, I know now. I hope you get to see both of these gardens at some point -- there is much you would really enjoy.

      Delete
  15. Laurrie, this was an excellent post. So nice to hear how the gardens grabbed your attention, rather than just photos. You're absolutely right, design matters so much!! but isn't it just amazing how different designs can be with all the same materials to start from?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marguerite, thank you. You got the exact point I wanted to make, about same plants, different designs and how intriguing it is to see what we grow used so differently.

      Delete

Sorry about requiring code verification -- I experimented with turning it off to make commenting easier, and I got too much spam. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and to type in silly codes. I appreciate hearing from you.