Category Archives: Road Trip

An Elite Garden Stroll

On an October autumnal morning, in the last week of public visitation to the beautiful Chanticleer Garden Estate; we arrived in full force as the first guests with our car grills pressed against the ornate entrance gate, awaiting the garden to open.

As we entered the garden en route to the “house of ease” aka the restrooms; we were distracted by a beautiful water garden being created by one of the many horticultural assistants creating a design completely made out of natural materials. We then, all gathered and began a beautiful journey meandering thru the artistic and whimsical gardens of Chanticleer. We also adopted an honorary garden club member who I named Mr. Biltmore, his true name was Steve and he graciously fell into our garden club family circle while we approached the lower cut flower garden located in front of the vegetable garden.

Mr. Biltmore said this specimen’s name was somewhat pornographic but of course we begged to know the common name which is “Hairy B—s” yup he warned us it was a spicy name!

Mr. Biltmore happened to over hear us discussing our subtle complaints about the horticultural specimens not being labeled in this magnificent garden and he explained how it was the original landscape architect who wanted the gardens not to be inundated with hideous labels. We reluctantly agreed and I must say it was refreshing not having to worry about remembering what I actually saw but to better yet just focus on the experience I was having while strolling in the garden.

Speaking of the gardens, they were born out of the ideas and dreams of The Rosengarten Family it was their retreat to escape the summer heat of the city of Philadelphia.   Mr. Rosengarten’s great sense of humor led him to name his home after the estate “Chanticlere” in Thackeray’s 1855 novel The Newcomes. The fictional Chanticlere was “mortgaged up to the very castle windows” but “still the show of the county.” Playing on the word, which means “rooster,” the Rosengartens used the rooster as their family crest throughout the estate.


This garden offers many specimens of flowers and trees that include common and exotic varieties with their origins from all over the world. It even has an asian woodland garden that features a very artistic replicate of an uprooted tree utilized as a foot bridge which created a great scenario for Countryside Gardeners to take a “selfie”! We are sooo cool:) and note the bee box!

The first part of our tour ended with a brief meeting and picnic lunch in a designated picnic grove. We then finished out our day and walking off our lunch visiting the main house gardenimagejpeg_0-6

and then descending upon the pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaries ‘Lenca’)while using the beautifully sculptured elevated walkway and then over to the pond garden finishing up our tour in the infamous ruin garden. If you wish to visit this unique and inspiring garden you will have to wait for the ornate gate to open on March 29, 2017.

In the meantime our in house photo bug Ms. Kathe Worrell has graciously shared her memories of what was capture on our visit with over 300 photos; don’t worry I will not post them all but chose a few in the artistic slide show below.  Thanks Ms. Kathe!!!

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So mark your calendars now for a visit to this infamous public garden in our area it will no doubt inspire you to do something a little different in your own garden giving it an elite flair!

Stroll on…


Heath, Heather and another Heavenly Road Trip!

Let’s just say Countryside Garden Club gets around and doesn’t let any grass grow under our feet! As the song goes “On the road again….”

Yup; that’s right we set out again on another garden trip adventure this time we started out by eating the most important meal of the day; breakfast at Friendly’s in Lantana Square.   Some of us ate before we arrived but most engaged in a lovely chat and chew while our Madam President Ginny showed off her organizational skills


(that’s right it’s an oversized posted noted totally cool, I think me and Ms. Kathe lost our minds with excitement she truly fed our OCD needs to keep stuff in order) and conducted quite an efficient business meeting prior to releasing us to venture out for our little garden excursion.

So where did we end up? On a 2 acre countryside property in Oxford, Pa at the home of Paul and Jane Murphy who also happen to have a Heath and Heather nursery perfectly tucked into this beautiful little haven complete with a backdrop of pillowing clouds, a bough bank barn, neighboring horses and rolling vistas of Chester County, total bliss!

This sweet couple’s


love of a particular plant turned into an after retirement Ma and Pa business specializing in Heath and Heather.

What exactly is a Heath plant and what exactly is a Heather plant?  First off, all Heathers are Heath but not all Heaths are Heathers. Don’t you love it when a gardener or horticulture person speaks like that, as if some how it helps you understand more clearly what they are saying when it’s still clear as mud!

In layman terms let’s see if we can break it down for you: the plants Heath and Heather are in the family Ericaceae (phonetically Erica’kay sha’) which includes mostly shrubs, often evergreen, loving poor acidic soil, moors or bogs, they have urn or bell shape flowers and come in mainly colors of pink, purple, white and red.


They form thick mats of foliage, love hillsides,


cool to cold temps, dappled shade area, and too much sun makes them unhappy. They are primarily natives of the rocky highlands of Scotland. And just to make things interesting, blueberries and huckleberries are in this family as well.

We were educated about this interesting plant group in the living room area of the Murphy’s beloved old farm home circa 1860 with other parts of the house constructed in the 1900’s; when searching for the perfect nursery location the old home was a must.


When shopping for these plants or you could just simply go to Jane and Paul’s nursery to shop (or visit them online at, if the label says Erica it’s a Heath if the label says Calluna it’s a Heather. Looking closely at the foliage one can see a difference in the arrangement of the leaves and how one is feathery (Heath) and the other tightly compacted (Heather).


I will share my silly way that I will remember- give a Heath bar to Erica and give a Call to Heather yeah silly I know but when learning these botanical names a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, LOL.   Interesting fact the word Calluna comes from the Greek word Kalluna which means to cleanse or adorn; these plants were used for making brooms.

The nursery is subtly showcased in their gorgeous country garden, located in a mid to large sized greenhouse I was told and expected to visit a gift shop with cute little shelves lined with plants intermingled with garden art and garden chotskies; NOT. It was just a standard commercial style nursery sparsely filled with plants mainly Heath and Heather but also other interesting plants that a gardener might want. We had a ball loading up on the perfect Heath or Heather for our gardens.

Prior to shopping we were given a tour of the propagating greenhouse, which looked like a quaint storage building. Inside

were many babies waiting to be planted, that is whenever Jane “got to it” my kind of real deal gardener, she wasn’t stressed at all just passionate about what her and Paul did but not consumed or obsessed and this showed throughout their property. Their lovely space displayed an energy of peace for their love of gardening.



Put it this way, there wasn’t even a sign out front that said Heath & Heather Nursery which speaks volumes it’s tells me the business just happened out of a love for something they enjoyed and the business doesn’t dictate who they are or need to be.

As we were about to leave the propagating greenhouse one table of baby plants were blanketed with the most beautiful moss. As soon as the word moss was spoken Hiro’s ears perked up. And then of course in our love of Hiro we became enablers and contributed to him getting what he needed; some moss! Kathe had no problem picking it by the finger pinches and openly went about handing him a lovely stash of moss blessed of course by Jane to take all we wanted. Let’s just say it was a great bonus for Hiro; to not only go home with Heath and Heather but also with the greenest and moist precious little clumps of moss.



This is the real blessing of gardening : to share unconditionally 🙂 which equals a “Very Happy Hiro”!

We ended our visit with a leisurely stroll through the rest of the garden our arms filled with the plants we purchased, smiles on our faces and quite a bit of knowledge about Heath and Heathers.

Thanks Jane and Paul; we appreciated your time, your passion for your favorite plants, your laid back awesome gardener attitudes, the vista and the views and more importantly giving us another opportunity to bond as gardeners and friends on another lovely road trip.

A road trip!

John Ray was born on November 29, 1627, in the village of Black Notley located in Essex, England. His father was a blacksmith, and his mother was known as a healer and herbalist; perhaps it was from her that Ray gained his love of nature, and especially of plants. Countryside Garden Club was blessed to visit John. F. Ray in this present day and time at his property perfectly named NearWater in Chestertown, MD. Stop!

Wait just one minute. I know that intro seems a bit suspect but fascinating; I too am wondering could they be related and funny how Essex, England is “near water” too!!! If they are not related what a wonderful coincidence to have John F. Ray amongst our circle of gardening buddies and a special thanks to Mr. Bill who met and befriended him at the prestigious Philadelphia Cactus and Succulent Society where they both are members. So we started out our trip at the Fish Whistle Restaurant off the water’s edge of the quaint town of Chestertown, Md., no sooner did we get settled a beautiful schooner floated by


and to make things interesting I played along that I had planned for that to happen just for our pure delight. Our meals were scrumptious and gave us fuel to keep warm on a somewhat chilly spring day.

We then loaded up again and set off to our honored designation and what a wonderful treat awaited us. We were blessed to share in the private garden sanctuary of Mr. & Mrs. John F. Ray unfortunately Mrs. Ray was unable to meet with us but John graciously led us on a beautiful tour

of what no doubt is a gorgeous Mediterranean style display of succulents and cacti perfectly placed in troughs and hyper tufa volcanic like structures causing even a non gardener to drool with amazement. There were alleys of statues


that reminded us of our infamous dupont Estates and a pond that literally took your breath away, when it was so mysterious presented to us.


Some of us lost all control when they were in the presence of that pond!

Really Bill. I’m sure they have a restroom on site. My goodness!

The pond was encircled with the most knobby but whimsical Bald Cypress knees


and at the other end of the pond was a majestic Redwood;



which made you second guess if you were actually in a national park. A visit to the greenhouses (John’s favorite spot) that supply all of the award winning Philadelphia Flower Show specimens was shared with grace.



There were hundreds of babies being propagated and several mature plants waiting their entry into the garden or into a flower show.

Thou shalt not covet, LOL! Let’s just say Bill was in heaven:)

We also had a special moment to dream about having our very own summer cottage which crossed all of our minds when we became child like visiting this very special little getaway tucked away on the property.

This delightful two hour trip did not seem long at all once our visit came to an end. We couldn’t help put present John with a token of gratitude made by Ms. Patti whose crafted talents will for sure bring him a smile.


The same kind of smile John gave to us in sharing his beautiful and magical garden. Many Thanks John!