With over 30 gardens located within 30 miles, Philadelphia bills itself as the Garden Capital of America. Although there are better known gardens, one of my highlights is Chanticleer.

It’s an experimental garden, and a teaching garden. It’s filled with furniture and art handcrafted by the staff, rotating displays of annuals and tropicals, and fresh flower displays.

Although it’s on the small side (only 35 acres), Chanticleer is filled with unique touches that make you dream of sprucing up your own garden (or hiring a fleet of gardeners…).

There are no plant labels, just unique boxes with plant lists, and an expectation that you will talk to the friendly gardeners.

The original 1913 home was built as a summer estate for Aldolph Rosengarten Sr., heir to a Philadelphia pharmaceutical company that manufactured quinine and other drugs (and was later merged into what became Merck). It was his son, Adolph Jr., who endowed the property and left it for the enjoyment of the public after his death. The gardens opened to the public in 1993. Two houses still remain on the property, the original home, which is open for guided tours:

and the daughter’s house by the entrance, which has bathrooms, and the fun “teacup” garden:

Aldoph Jr.’s house was torn down and turned into one of my favorite spots, the “ruin” garden:

“Chanticleer” was jokingly named after the house in a William Thackeray novel, which was “mortgaged up to the very castle windows” but “still the show of the county.” It was also the name of the rooster in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” hence all the roosters throughout the garden.

If you spot this flower blooming in one of the containers, sniff cautiously. There’s a reason the flies love it… stinky!


Check out the murals inside the old apple house.

Bees and butterflies love the gardens, too.