A Chanticleer Workshop

Bee on Dahlia

I spent last weekend at a garden photography workshop at Chanticleer Garden outside of Philadelphia.  The weather was intermittently mixed clouds and sunshine but we got enough good lighting for some interesting photo opportunities on Saturday.  The workshop was conducted by Alan Detrick and Roger Foley with a small group of enthusiast photographers who were really pleased to get early morning access to the gardens (with good lighting and before the public showed up).  Roger and Alan gave regular and helpful advice as we tried to isolate our own respective visions of what was worth photographing in these early fall scenes.  Both of them have extensive garden photography experience and have previously been judges for the Gardening Gone Wild photo contests.

Chanticleer is truly a pleasure garden in every sense for a gardener.  They have seven horticulturalists who specialize in different sections of the garden and the attention to detail really shows throughout the garden.  A weekend of photography might sound like a lot, but it barely scratches the surface of what is possible at Chanticleer.  By the time you set up your shots the light is already moving on, not to mention the bees and butterflies.

One of the benefits of a small workshop like this one is that you get to share and comment on the other visions that people bring to their photography.  I’ve seen time and again that different people will always bring different photos away from the same scene.  And it only takes a few times of people pointing out the annoying branch you left in the composition before you start to think about it before you click the shutter.

Anyway, despite the weather being less than ideal, I had a great time and I’d like to do it again.  If the thought appeals to you they are likely to run this workshop again next year.

Here are some selected photos from the weekend.

Bee on Dahlia - Version 2

Grasshopper on Celosia

One of the points that Alan emphasized was the way the early morning light can delicately light the edges of a subject like the grasshopper in this image.  And if it’s cold enough, they don’t run from the camera.

Celosia sans grasshopper

Backlit Celosia

Bee on Celosia

Toad Lilies ( Tricyrtis hirta 'Miyazaki')

The Toad lilies are almost shrub-like and completely line the path through the Minder Woods.  They are flagrantly in flower at this season, shaming all those spring blooming flowers that have long gone by now.


I’m generally not a big fan of the Cochicum which flop all over the hillsides at Chanticleer, but they do have their moments.  Mostly I prefer the less gaudy fall crocus which are just now showing up in our lawn.

Perennial Gotta Pea (Amicia zigomeris) detail

Sulpher Butterfly with Proboscis unfurled

Clitoria ternatea

This is tropical vine that was up on the terrace in the house garden.  I think it has to be started from seed each year.

Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata)

I really liked the detail on the Callirhoe — it would be well worth adding to our hillside garden.

It’s also time for another Gardening Gone Wild Photo contest.  Saxon Holt has selected a theme of filling the frame.  I’m going to take this opportunity to enter a photo that I think truly fills the frame, though perhaps not in the way that Saxon Holt originally conceived.

Aibika (Abelmoschus manihot) detail

This close-up image of the Aibika, a relative of okra, will be my entry for the October Picture This Contest.

What a Wonderful Weekend

Iris ensata 'Agripinella'

We arrived home last weekend and got up on Sunday to find this lovely Japanese Iris in bloom it was like a delightful postscript on what had already been a wonderful extended weekend in Philadelphia.

For Christmas, our daughter-in-law had given my son and Beth and I, via AHS auction, a personal tour of Chanticleer, a highlight of the Philadelphia gardening scene.  Personally, it may be my favorite garden in the U.S.  So it was a joy to be escorted around the garden by Bill Thomas, who incorporates the history and philosophy of what is characterized as ‘ a pleasure garden’.  For three and a half hours we got to see both public and private parts of Chanticleer.  There is a recent book on Chanticleer by Adrian Higgins (pictures by Rob Cardillo) that captures a lot of the spirit of Chanticleer and I recommend it to anyone contemplating a journey to the Philadelphia area.  The garden incorporates spacious views that key off the large old specimen trees and is also full of delightful smaller spaces where plant treasures can be found.

We had spent a day at Chanticleer two years ago during which I took a lot of pictures, partly as inspiration of things to bring back to our little country dwelling.  One particular element was the colorful Adirondack chairs that we have now added to our hillside.

Adirondack chairs at Chanticleer

Another source of inspiration at Chanticleer are the chartreuse-colored Black Locusts at the entry to the garden.

Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia'

We have now planted two on the hillside here.

Some other memories from Chanticleer follow:


The Ruins

A field of Poppies

A field of Kniphofia

Goat's Beard (Aruncus dioicus) in the woods

Globe Flower (Trollius europaeus)

Spuria Iris (Cinebar Red) (credit ID to Jonathan)

The day after visiting Chanticleer (where we wrapped up our stay with a picnic on the lawn, apparently a Friday evening tradition judging by the number of other visitors who stopped by just for the evening), we went by Carolyn’s Shade Garden.  Carolyn is a fellow blogger who participates in such traditions as Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and the Gardening Gone Wild Photo Contests.  It was an open house day for Carolyn and it was delightful to be able to stop in and meet her and her husband.  Her garden and nursery sits under some magnificent old trees in Bryn Mawr, just outside of Philadelphia.  Unlike Chanticleer, which studiously avoids labels, Carolyn has carefully labeled many of her plants and you can see how they mix artfully together in the following views down the terraces and back on the far side of the house.

Carolyn's Shade Garden #1

Carolyn's Shade Garden #2

Carolyn's Shade Garden #3

We bought a few plants from Carolyn as mementos of our visit but more than that we enjoyed visiting with another avid gardener who very much understands the enthusiasm that we find in novel plants.

Arriving back in Frederick we threw on some clean clothes and went downtown to the opening of a new photo gallery where three of my images are on display for this month.  We mingled with visitors and the other photographers, had some wine and generally reflected on what a great weekend we had enjoyed…

Opening of Shereen's Gallery

The Special Atmosphere of a Place

This month’s Picture This challenge from Gardening Gone Wild is to illustrate the Genius Loci — The Special Atmosphere of a Place.  The judge, Andrea Jones, asks that we share our special place in a photograph that illustrates why it’s special.

We’ve been fortunate to see many of the great garden scenes that she illustrates with her pictures.  And while I have pictures from our tours in the U.S. and abroad, I thought it would be more appropriate to stick closer to home.  When we moved here the pasture that we inherited had no trees at all.  There was a small patch of woods that were entirely Scotch Pines that have long since died off.  All the landscape that we have was created slowly over 36 years and so there are a lot of aspects of our hill on Ball Rd that our special to me.  But I notice in reviewing our photos that one area stands out in recent years.  Behind the garage is a hillside that drops off into pasture in front of a line of tall White Pines that were planted during our first spring here.

Daffodils on Hillside

This is where we see the Daffodils in the springtime.  It’s also where the wildflowers are planted for the summertime.

Hillside Wildflowers

It’s where we have put two bright red adirondack chairs as a place to have a glass of wine as the day winds down.  Often there is a sunset to be seen from this hillside.

Red Chairs at Sunset

The pasture provides extended interest with the various grasses that grow up over the season interlaced with wildflowers.

Orchard Grass

But this special place also creates it’s own atmosphere come wintertime.  The Red Chairs against the snow with the White Pines in the background presents a holiday atmosphere that shows that gardens are not limited to the time of flowers.

The photo that seemed to me to best capture this special place came after a snowstorm just as the light was fading from the day and this is my submission for the February Gardening Gone Wild Challenge.

Late Afternoon Light

Just a little Frost

Light basket in Leaves

November continues to be a welcome Indian summer — I am amazed that we still have lettuce, peas and Swiss Chard growing in the garden.  I dug the Dahlias today but they were actually starting to grow again from the base.  I decided that I could not in good conscience dig the Glads — let them at least get frozen off for Pete’s sake.  I noticed in town today that some of the shrub roses are still doing fine and show many blooms.  We are off to New York for Thanksgiving but I wanted to share a couple of discoveries.

One is the use of a mattock for fall bulb planting.  I had bought a small hand mattock for moving and installing flagstones.  It turns out that it is also marvelous for putting in bulbs.  So long as you avoid hitting your hand or leg, it is much easier to dig a quick bulb-worthy hole with a one-handed swing of the mattock than with a trowel in our rocky soil.  I’ve long used bigger mattocks for planting larger plants, but the use of a little one for bulb planting is a more recent discovery.

Small mattock for bulb planting

Having the right tool is what makes many a job a pleasure to do on a warm November afternoon 🙂

The other item worthy of note is the discovery of an excellent garden writer in our midst.  Marianne Willburn writes of the joys and sufferings attendant to growing plants with the experienced pen of one who has battled slugs on the front line and somehow retained a knowledge of the English language in the process.  I highly commend a look at her writings at The Small Town Gardener.

A Small Town Gardener

Take a look at the recent article A Rose by Any Other Name to get a sense of her writing.  How could I miss such a talent just a few miles away in Brunswick, Maryland?   Mea Culpa…

A Favorite Garden

Wild Garden, King John's Lodge

The Gardening Gone Wild Photo Contest for August asks that we submit a gardening image from our travels (“On the Road Again”).  Since our travels this summer were more about nature per se than man-made gardens I’ve gone back to one of my favorite gardens for my submission to the photo contest.  Two years ago we had the privilege of visiting about a dozen outstanding gardens in England during the heights of springtime.  Even though we went to some of the best-known gardens in England one of the most memorable was that of the lodge we stayed at in East Sussex.  King John’s Lodge goes back to the 14th century and has been lovingly restored.  Although we were able to stay there at the time, it looks to me as though it is only open for tours now.  In any case I highly recommend it if you find yourself in the area.

Although the vista from some angles make it appear quite grand it’s actually got a wonderful simplicity which is part of the appeal.

King John's Lodge

There are almost 8 acres altogether set in a wonderful stretch of English countryside.  You can wander the grounds on paths that go past ponds, woods, surprising sculptures, and cultivated gardens.

A sunlit Pond

Artwork along the path

Looking out from the back steps into the garden

But what really enchanted me each morning as I walked around before breakfast was the ‘wild garden’ which had a meadow filled with small fruit trees, ‘found objects’, arbors, and paths mowed between seemingly random bulbs and wild flowers.  You have to imagine that walking these paths was accompanied by the sounds of the birds and barnyard animals.  It was a wonderfully bucolic scene that totally hid the efforts that must have gone into its creation and maintenance.

The Wild Garden

More Flowers in the Wild Garden

An Easter Visit to the U.S. National Arboretum

Magnolia x ‘Elizabeth’

Today we took the Easter holiday as an occasion for a long postponed visit to the U. S. National Arboretum.  This venerable institution inspired some of our formative thoughts about gardens during the many visits there while we were living in Alexandria.  It was nice to see that many others had the same idea and parking was at a premium as people tried to follow the self-guided cherry trail that the USNA folk had set up.  We mostly followed our own eclectic interests in moving around from area to area (there are 486 acres so having a car helps).  I think the highlight for us was the hybrid Magnolias.  In other years I’ve been put off of some of these Magnolias because of late spring frosts that leaves them looking shell-shocked.  But when they work, oh, my oh my.  Our favorite was Elizabeth, as pictured at the start of this post.  The tree is perhaps 30 feet tall and covered with creamy yellow flowers that open finally to a red center as the fruit begins to ripen.  The flowers are nicely fragrant to add the icing to the cake.

Magnolia x ‘Elizabeth’ is perhaps 30 feet tall

Magnolia x ‘Elizabeth’ open flower

Magnolia x ‘Elizabeth’ flower with fruit beginning to show

There are a good number of other hybrid Magnolias featured as well.

More hybrid Magnolias

We revisited some of our previous haunts at the USNA like Fern Valley.  But we also found new features that we hadn’t seen before.  Near the R Street entrance is the bonsai exhibit and just outside of it is a delightful little shade garden under towering cryptomerias.  And if you look to right and left of the entrance (and inside as well) are Japanese Maples.  Not fancy ones, just plain old beautiful Japanese Maples.  We have several of these magnificent trees as well.  And just like ours the ones at the USNA seed the ground like the propagation of the species was the responsibility of each and every plant.  There are seedlings everywhere.  Apparently great public gardens go down the same paths that we have trod ….  In the end we concluded that the trees are worth the myriad seedlings.

Entrance to the Bonsai Exhibit — note the Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum)

Lovely Shade garden under the Cryptomerias

Japanese Maple seedlings

One of the reasons for going to a great public garden like this is to be inspired or learn new things about the art and practice of gardening.   It is after all why we have Cryptomerias up here in Frederick (which is probably pushing the climate zone where they are happiest).  We saw several things that we’ve added to our want list.  There was a trillium that we have to get because it matches the name of one of us and because it’s pretty as well.

Trillium cuneatum (Little Sweet Betsy)

And an epimedium that has a cloud-like cluster of flowers above its leaves.  Very floriferous indeed.

Epimedium stellulatum

But one of the things which was most surprising out of the day was little elm from China that has some of the prettiest green flower seeds that you could imagine.  Imagine a tree with green flowers.  I’ve not seen these pictured anywhere but I found them quite striking.

Chenmou Elm (Ulmus chenmoui) seeds

A Visit to Plant Delights

Helleborus x hybridus 'Heronswood Yellow w/red spot'

On my way to spring training I was able to stop at Plant Delights in North Carolina during one of their open house days.  It was a real treat to make my first visit there (I’m sure there will be others in the future).  The place is well named as it caters to the people who are delighted in the rare and unusual in the gardening world.  Part of what makes both the online presence and the actual place enjoyable is the personality of the owner, Tony Avent, whom I bumped into as I toured the grounds.  His enthusiasm for gardening bubbles over into his descriptions and interpretations of plant characteristics.  I noted that he seemed to push the boundaries of what could be growing in North Carolina and he responded that when he had failures he would go back and find another plant “higher on the mountain”, looking for the individual specimens that would survive.  In other words, a lot of intelligent experimentation.

The garden was open for touring but not a lot had come into flower yet because of the cold weather.   I saw a flowering cherry and camellias, but what particularly caught my eye was this Algerian Iris.

Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularius)

Very pretty and early -flowering to boot.

The garden was interesting for it’s winding paths which are heavily mulched and water features.

Garden pathways

Everything (and I mean everything) was labeled.  A lot seems to have been planted relatively recently but there were some really nice specimens like this Japanese Crepe Myrtle with cinnamon-colored bark.

Lagerstromia fauriei 'Townhouse'

The plants for sale were headlined by the Hellebores that were at their peak, with many interesting varieties to whet a gardener’s appetite.

Hellebores for sale

I came back with four new varieties but left this lovely double for the future.

Helleborus x hybridus 'Mardi Gras Double White'

There were a great many other interesting plants on display, including shade lovers, sun lovers, hardy and not-so-hardy, all of them carefully labeled with descriptions.  I think about seven greenhouses in all that were open to the public, though there are a great many more in production.

Row of greenhouses at Plant Delights

I spent about four hours going over the choices but could easily have spent longer.  As it was I came away with 18 tiny treasures that represent things that I either knew that I needed before I came or didn’t know that I needed until I came to Plant Delights  🙂

Garden treasures from my visit

Playing in California

This is the time of year when I venture to California to visit with my mother.  While yet another snowstorm covers up the snowdrops again I visited my mother last week and checked up on the plants that are growing vigorously almost any time of year.  The outstanding elements in January are always the pair of Camellias that dominate the side of the house.

Camellia blooms dripping off the bush

Camellia wall

They grow so easily and flower so vigorously that it seems almost criminal.

Another spot that gets my every couple of months check is the back bed.  The back of the yard was once a lovely flower garden that my Dad planted but it got overrun with nut grass.  My cure was to build up the bed and put in pots with a drip irrigation system that waters only the pots not the surrounding earth.  This I did quite a few years ago and by and large it works pretty well if the irrigation tubes don’t get knocked off or the timer reset.

The back garden

There are now three dwarf citrus trees along the back wall and numerous perennials.  My mother pointed out last trip the value of pinning down the drip irrigation tubes and that has proved to be a very valuable step.  The citrus are yielding less than last year, but everyone is still pretty much alive back there and that’s a major plus.  That’s Cape Honeysuckle with the orange flowers hanging down from the porch.

Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)

This is a vigorous plant with attractive flowers the year round.

It’s a little bit early for the plants in the back bed to be flourishing, but I did notice that because of the heavy rains last month the part of the garden outside of the pots that does not get watered by irrigation was covered withs seedling Calendulas, a number of which were already up to flowering size.

Calendulas self-seeding

One could do worse than having Calendulas go wild.

I added a few plants this trip, as is my common practice.  This time I found a really nice tall Pink Coral Pea.  It fit in very nicely where the Dahlia had been eaten by snails and next to where the Bougainvillea has not made up its mind whether to grow or not.

New Pink Coral Pea (Hardenbergia violacea)

The large vine provides instant color to the bed.  However the joke was on me.  As my mother pointed out we already had two very large specimens of this big shrubby vine at the side of the house.

Existing Pink Cora Pea

Because the nursery plant was well ahead in flowering I didn’t realize that the same plants were already in the yard.  Credit one to the supervisor.

The Supervisor

I also put in a Peacock flower and an Anemone Coronaria, but the final step as an investment for the future was to add a little tomato plant.

Tomato seedling (Celebrity)

This one is surrounded by diatomaceous earth to provide an ancient drying spell against snails which run rampant in California gardens.  We’ll see if it makes a difference to the slimy sort…