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A Weekend Away for Garden Photography

Arrangement from the garden

This gardener needed a getaway. So what does she do? She catches a flight to the Philadelphia area and takes in a garden photography workshop at Chanticleer, one of the loveliest gardens on the East Coast. And a garden has to be pretty lovely to draw you outdoors when temperatures top 100 degrees F.

That’s right. The rental car temperature gauge read 95 when I picked it up at the airport on Friday afternoon at about 1:30 p.m. but Chanticleer is 25 minutes inland, and by the time I reached Wayne PA, the temperatures had soared to 108 F. Hot tamales!

Tennis Garden View, Early Morning

Tennis Garden View, Early Morning

Thankfully, our opening session on Friday evening was indoors. The excellent instructor, Allen Rokach, gave us the rundown of what he had planned for us: on both Saturday and Sunday we would meet in the morning by 6 a.m. to catch the early morning light, shoot until 9:30, then take refuge in the air conditioned luxury of the Main House to review and select our images (and fill our tummies with healthy goodies).  A group review would follow with 10 images we each selected for feedback. We’d end the afternoon with scouting for more shots before Chanticleer closed their gates at 5.

Gomphrena 'Fireworks'

Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’

The artistry of Chanticleer’s plantings offered countless photo-ops. What’s always fun for me are the new plant discoveries….this year the one that charmed everyone was the unusually large flowered Gomphrena ‘Fireworks‘,  a tender perennial we can all grow from seed. I also discovered an unusual tropical plant, Mussaenda frondosa, with little orange blossoms and showy white bracts that resemble the green leaves.

Portrait of a Lotus

To briefly summarize what I learned despite the heat’s affect on my memory retention:

1. Just because something is interesting or beautiful, does not mean it is photogenic.

2. Take lots and lots of pictures. Look, and then look some more from other angles. Then, delete what is not good.

3. Observe how light is complimenting (or not!) your image.

4. Skip the midday picture taking. The bright sun washes out too much.

5. Use a tripod! Use a tripod!

6. Have fun using Photoshop.

Bromeliad in bloom

Datura bud

Datura bud

Visiting  Chanticleer is a must! Here’s more info.


  1. Hi Cathy-
    Great article!
    Love photo of Datura.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Crystal. Plants and gardens offer us these fleeting moments of beauty.

  2. It looks as though you learned your lessons well. I have yet to see this beautiful garden. It is on the list.

    • Layanee, Chanticleer is described as a pleasure garden, and it does invite the senses in so many ways. You’ll love it.

  3. Kathy– beautiful shots! wish I could see more.

    • Lis, leaving the visitor wanting to see more isn’t such a bad thing….

  4. Good morning Kathy! How wonderful to see these beautiful Images from Chanticleer. It’s one of my absolute favorite gardens ever and I dearly miss not being able to see the seasonal changes there. A dear friend of mine took the class last year and loved it. Thank you for sharing your lovely images.

    • Sue, Chanticleer always seems fresh to me. There is always a new take on plantings to inspire and delight us. I’ve visited several time before, but it has always been in late summer. I’d love to visit in spring next year.

  5. Beautiful shots! Chanticleer is a gem – I live in the area, but I think most people don’t even know it is there. It is well worth a visit anytime of year (March-Oct)! I also find the gardeners there to be so friendly and can tell you all about the plants- and are happy to stop and chat- which helps me when I see something I like but have no idea what it is. Thanks for sharing- I was excited to see something close to home!

    • That’s so true about the staff….everyone at Chanticleer made us feel so welcome, and answered all our questions. How fortunate you are to have so beautiful a spot nearby. Sometimes when a special place is in our backyard, we put off visiting because we know it’s always there. Which reminds me, I have to visit a special garden nearby me: Blithewold in Bristol RI. I think a blog post about this beautiful spot is next.

  6. Kathy,
    I lived in Philly for a year in the 1970’s and never heard of Chantileer. I also know how hot that area can be. I am definitely making plans to go to Chantileer next year. Your photos are magnificent, especially the Datura bud, it is magical!
    What a great “Get-a-way”!!

    • I don’t think Chanticleer opened to the public until the ’90’s, which may be why you didn’t know of it. Do try to visit when you’re in Philly.


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