Radnor Spaces: A Stroll Through Chanticleer Gardens

Garrett Spillerman 

Nestled in the middle of Saint Davids Pennsylvania, far enough away from the hustle and bustle of US Highway, Route 30, and close enough to the quaint town of Wayne, Chanticleer Gardens is home to over five-thousand various plants and animal species.  While the property predominantly showcases nature, it also features breathtaking colonial architecture, with a hint of European influence. The garden, located on Church Road, about a hundred yards from Abrahams Lane, offers visitors from near and far an opportunity to immerse themselves in true natural beauty.  The tall trees, exotic flowers, lush fields, vibrant plantings and delicate natural artwork not only preserve the human innocence of the early 1900s, but also allow those who walk the gardens to whiteness mother nature’s many marvelous feats. Not too long ago, the acreage belonged to the Rosengarten family of Wayne Pennsylvania.  In 1912, Adolph and Christine Rosengarten purchased the expansive plot of land and built a summer vacation home. By 1924, the estate became the Rosengarten’s full-time residence, after the family completed an addition to the property. Subsequently, by the early 1930s, the family procured the neighboring plot of land, on which they built two new homes for their son and daughter.  Following their deaths, in the 1990s, the property was dedicated to environmental education and public enjoyment.

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As I pass the intersection of Iven Avenue and Conestoga Road, the street widens.  Ahead, the offset maple trees turn to a row of massive pines. A plantation-style farmhouse passes me by on the left.  Then, the trees disappear and a field opens adjacent to the road, looking out onto Chanticleer Gardens. After pulling into the parking lot of Chanticleer, I walk to the reception desk, which is situated in a pavilion decorated with tropical ivory and flowers.  I sign in with the friendly staff up front and start my walk through the arch-like entrance, structured by more vines and tropical flora. A gravel path traces the perimeter of the gardens, leading to a wooded area, which borders Brooke Road. Small fluorescent flowers outline the pathway, each a different shade of purple, blue, red and pink.  Some yellows and oranges are also mixed in.  Avoiding the gravel, I walk through the grass towards the Tennis Court Gardens.  Large tiger lilies and orchids stretch to the sky. Monarch butterflies glide from one flower to the next.  A warm, wooden porch swing sits at the front of the Tennis Court Gardens, looking out on the rows upon rows of orchids and lilies.  Cherry blossom trees surround the swing. A breeze whips through the small pockets in the trees, merely grazing my face. It then travels into the middle of the garden; the flowers and the insects dance to the rhythm of the wind.

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Another display sits behind me, where many visitors congregate.  From far away, the tall sunflowers catch my eye. As I walk closer to the display, more orchids and lilies become visible, nestled in with smaller sunflowers.  Busy bees buzz by, passing the blue and orange butterflies relaxing on each flower. I get lucky enough to see a bee up close, sucking the nectar from a flower.  Laser focused, the insect carefully shuffles her legs over the flower’s center. Miniscule yellow spots overtake the bumble bee’s black coat. And ever so slightly, the bee lifts off with the wind and accelerates toward the horse stables.

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I walk back onto the path, which had transformed to a softer surface, almost as if it were like walking on rubber.  It leads to a bridge designed to look like a fallen log. Holes in the structure feature small plantings, filled with green and pink succulents. The bridge leads to another path, parallel to a shallow trickling stream.  Slate stairs allow me to walk along the stream bank. I see water striders gliding over the clear water, chased by the minnows beneath the surface. Occasionally, a small fish jumps and catches the scrambling insects. As I follow the wooded path, it opens into a grassy landscape, filled with islands of plants.  Another bridge, covered in grass leads me back over the creek, where large ponds and an old lookout balcony fill the landscape.  The ponds are everything but still.  Ripples left and right turn to swells, as turtles poke their heads up from the water to have a breath of air.  Orange and white coy, along with an occasional catfish breach as well. Their mouths open and close as if they are begging for food. However, within thirty seconds, they lose interest and travel back to the depths of the pond.

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I then follow the slope of the hill towards another bridge. The once-narrow stream opens into a larger creek.  Water splashes up against the stones and flows through the crevasses. The restrooms, decorated like a traditional Japanese tea house are surrounded by a bamboo forest and tall maple trees.  A sense of peace and tranquility fill the air, drowning out any disruptive distractions from the outside world. Another gravel path leads up to the Chanticleer mansion; however, I continue to walk through the grass.  A hill, decorated in desert plants and pebbles, looks out on the ponds, the bamboo forest and the lush open field. Red and green cacti fill the displays. Two palm trees centered in the islands of succulents rustle in the summer breeze.  As I look to the side, another terrace, covered in hundreds of small purple flowers and ivory catches my eye. Near the top of the slope, three stone chairs overlook the valley. And behind me, the focal point of the hill draws me closer and closer.  The stone footprint of the youngest Rosengarten’s home, covered in delicate pink and green succulents, sits at the summit of the hill. I walk through the entrance and see two fireplace mantels featuring numerous plantings overgrown with delicate ivory.  The surrounding stone walls shimmer, as small shards of mica embedded in the rocks reflect the bright sunlight. To the left, a fountain catches my attention. Marble faces look as if they are drowning in the fountain. Water springs up and separates as it makes contact with the white and pink detail.

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A short stroll away, through a wooded area composed of century-old maples, brings me to the main mansion.  A magnificent porch looks out on the expanse of Chanticleer’s south side. The islands of vibrant flowers, below, blend together and create a whimsical fusion of hues.  The ponds and the desert hill meet my eye just before the distant hills of green. Rocking chairs sway in the breeze, as a young child snags one for a ride. Adults sit on the couches and read the daily newspaper as they take in the majestic scenery.  As I walk along the side of the house, colossal led glass windows pass me on the left, obstructed by large colorful plantings. On the right, ripples travel through the aquamarine pool, as a faint trickle of water hymns through the yard. A fountain’s dribble compliments the rhythm.  

With the parking lot in the distance, I walk through the last display, which is on the daughter’s portion of the estate.  Tropical prehistoric plants climb up the sides of the house. Palm trees, large and small contribute to the green array of shrubs.  And, within a few steps of the graveled driveway, a pot of trimmed flowers floating in water winds up my incredible excursion at Chanticleer.