Over The Top Couture Container Gardening

– Posted in: Garden Design

I have always been a huge fan of Chanticleer, what was once a private estate garden in the suburbs of Philadelphia that was turned into a public garden in the early 1990s by its owner, Adolph Rosengarten and led by the extremely talented Chris Woods, and in recent years by the very capable hands of Bill Thomas, formerly of Longwood Gardens. One of the many things that Chanticleer horticulturists/gardeners do so very,very well is container plantings. Among all of the other exuberant and edgy planting, in almost any other garden, the container plantings would be swallowed up. But not so at Chanticleer: which is a testament to how container plantings are conceived, designed and planted as individual pieces of art.

In the photo above,  the far reaching palm in the traditional iron container is totally ensconced by a myriad of plants including coleus and several other ‘fillers’ and ‘drapers’ that I am not able to identify. The fact that it is positioned as part of a luxuriant landscape, to my eye, makes it even more of a standout.

The photo below depicts one of two matching containers sitting on the front terrace of the formal home at Chanticleer. It is a stately and lush landscape unto itself. When you analyze all of the pieces that go into creating such a magnificent dripping self contained garden, again an outreaching palm, abutilon, creeping jenny, a yellow leaved heuchera, several ivies and other drapers, it is dazzling (if anyone can identify any of the other plants, please feel free to do so!)

One of my all time favorite container vignettes is one filled with the art of Marcia Donahue: ceramic bamboos surrounded by a grove of real bamboos. How about that for great and cheeky art?

The photo below of a container as part of a very formal, narrow bed is outstanding. Once again, the designer (who I believe to be Dan Benarcik) has used the palm as his centerpiece. 

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
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Kris at Blithewold March 27, 2008, 4:40 pm

Those really are outstanding. I think behind the scenes though you would find ranks of replacement plants and a full-time waterer. The pot of ceramic bamboo on the other hand is a low maintenance dream!

Yep…on all of the above…..and believe me, if Marcia Donahue’s works weren’t more than a little over my budget, my garden would be filled with them. She is a very talented artist indeed. Keep a watch out on my next post about art in the garden to look for more of her work. I’m a big fan of hers! Happy Spring! Fran

Lisa at Greenbow March 27, 2008, 10:14 pm

Those palms look like fountains coming out of the urns like that. Just wonderful.

Believe it or not, I have overwintered a palm similar to one of those that has gotten so huge and shooting out and upward that in the past I would have just left it in a large pot grouped with other plants in front of it. Now, thanks to these photos, I am not going to be afraid to be place it in a metal urn oozing with other plants at its feet and dripping over the sides of the pots. Oooohhh…I can’t wait to see what happens!!! Fran

Kim March 27, 2008, 10:47 pm

Very beautiful… like Kris, I, too, was wondering about the watering, replacement plants, and the amount of fertilizing it takes to keep those planters looking so lush. But wow… well worth the time and effort. (Maybe not so much worth the fertilizing… but I admit that fertilizing containers is not my thing.)

These are worthwhile questions. Will try to nab Dan Benarcik over at Chanticleer and see if he’ll be willing to get onto the blog and post some of his ‘secret ingredients’ in keeping these pots looking so very lush throughout the season. Fran

our friend Ben March 28, 2008, 5:49 am

Chanticleer’s containers have always been amazing (at least from the time it opened to the public under Chris’s direction). But the bamboo is the best!

Yep…..agreed…….what more is there to say except for those who don’t know….they should get onto Chanticleer’s website and check it out….http://www.chanticleergarden.org/whatsblm/08_bloom/blooming.html. Thanks for your comments! Fran

Frances March 28, 2008, 6:55 am

The ceramic bamboo pot is brilliant!

Isn’t it? Marcia Donahue is a very talented artist and gardener extraordinaire! I highly recommend (if you have the time and desire) to google her and learn more about her work and garden in California. She also happens to be a lovely person. Am glad you enjoyed! Fran

Theresa in Merida March 28, 2008, 6:18 pm

I love the giant pots just oozing plants! I am just starting planting things on our roof (don’t worry it’s cement and we have 14 inch thick walls supporting the roof), and I want to do big pots like that just bursting with plants. The trick will be finding the right combinations of plants.

Sounds exciting. Would love to see photos once you have them all planted up. As long as you keep to the basic theme of a ‘centerpiece’ or as Steven would call a ‘thriller’ and fill in with draping plants over the edges and all of the ‘filler’ plants, I don’t think you can go wrong. Container gardening is an extremely forgiving type of gardening. enjoy! Fran

Carol Soules March 30, 2008, 12:17 am

Hmmm..this place is not too far away for me to consider a vist one day …. maybe even this year?? Thanks for sharing about it. Great containers too!

Thanks for chiming in. If Chanticleer is close enough for a day visit (www.chanticleergardens.org), I strongly recommend it. It is one of those rare gems that once you visit, you’ll never forget it! Fran

Heather March 30, 2008, 7:02 pm

PHS is sponsoring a “Cool Containers” workshop at Chanticleer on April 17th, although instead of Dan Benarcik leading it, it will be Jonathan Wright.

Thanks for that info. This is good stuff. Jonathon is a very talented designer. If I’m not mistaken, he took over the Teacup Garden a few years ago….which is always edgy and one of the great showpieces at Chanticleer. I noticed Dan’s name on the roster of teachers at Longwood’s Continuing Education Catalogue for the Spring. For those interested, it might be worth checking out to see if he is teaching a class on containers there. I am a big fan of his work! Fran

pat redwood March 9, 2010, 2:12 pm

Love your big pots, have been bring my big pots in and out for years, hibiscus, orange tree and my bamboo in a pot. I put them out on my patio every summer and they blur the edge of the patio and blend with the garden. My orange tree is now 20 years old, my hibiscus 10 and my bamboo is over 7…they are all still in their same pots and are fertilized on a regular basis. They look fabulous ….love the big pots….

Dear Pat,

Your pots sound divine. I love your phrase, ‘they blur the edge of the patio and blend with the garden’ to describe how they act as a segue. Thanks for sharing! Fran

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