Chanticleer, the Modern Gardener’s Garden

Butchart’s Sunken Garden

Serious gardeners love to hate Butchart Gardens, Canada’s most famous public garden, and I’ll cop to being one of the haters. It’s blindingly colorful and the very opposite of naturalistic, the gardening style popular today.

I wonder if people who love the Butchart style could also appreciate a very modern, sophisticated, naturalistic garden like my favorite garden in the whole world – Chanticleer, near Philadelphia. I visited last week and offer these more modern scenes for your enjoyment.

This Tea Garden, designed and maintained by Dan Benarcik, is about as formal as the gardens at  Chanticleer get.

Here’s Joe Henderson on the right (with horticulturist Przemyslaw Walczak) having a yuck with me. Hearing Joe talk recently is what promoted my repeat visit, though honestly I’ll use any excuse to go back. It’s a manageable two-hour drive from my house.

Any combination of purple and chartreuse is a hit with me. Here, the Alliums really deliver.

Chanticleer’s iconic Ruins.

I love their use of old-fashioned shrubs, like Weigela and Mockorange.

Above, the kitchen garden.

In the woodland garden, what the heck is this? And how could anyone resist walking through it?

Above, even the restrooms are gorgeous.

Next Friday I’ll report on the good and important work that Chanticleer does, based on my interview with director Bill Thomas.

Butchart Garden photo credit.


  1. This garden looks AMAZING. Thanks for sharing.

    RE: “In the woodland garden, what the heck is this?” – It sure looks like a fallen tree to me. Like you would see in an old growth forest. Fantastic artwork!

  2. I like both (though I haven’t seen Chanticleer in person). Why do you need to hate one style of garden just because you like another style? Seems like hating chocolate because you like lemon. Neither Butchart nor Chanticleer nor any other big public display garden looks like anything I can do in my little back yard; that doesn’t keep them from being fun to look at.

  3. Chanticleer! I don’t see how anyone alive, gardener or not, could not absolutely love that dream of a place.

  4. Chanticleer is a “must do” field trip for my horticulture students. ….and they ask to go back again and again!

  5. I would SO love to visit Chanticleer, so I really like your preview and perceptions. But, honestly, dear Susan, I would love to see Butchart, too, since it’s as beyond Texas as I can possibly imagine.

  6. One of the appealing things about Chanticleer is that it’s full of vignettes, combinations, and planting techniques that *can* be done in the home garden. But there is an awful lot going on there. To me the woods, Asian and especially Bell’s (native trees, where the fallen-tree bridge is), and the creek are an essential breather from the constant high horticulture of most of the other sections.

  7. Can we appreciate it? Of course, Thomas. We can value both styles, much the same as one can appreciate both Monet and Picasso. Each has its own beauty. I haven’t been to either garden, but hope to someday.

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