The Art of Gardening/by R. William Thomas, Rob Cardillo, and the Chanticleer Gardeners

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yesterday was moving day at my father's house. After so many months of packing and renovation, the big truck came. I snuck away from the activities for two beautiful hours in the afternoon to celebrate the release of The Art of Gardening (Timber Press) by the gardeners of Chanticleer. (And then rushed home, changed back into grunge wear, and began again the unpacking of boxes.)

Readers of my blog and books know that Chanticleer has served as backdrop for many of my musings, both nonfiction (Ghosts in the Garden) and fiction (Nothing but Ghosts). (Indeed, my Inky story about this fabled landscape is featured in Love: A Philadelphia Affair.) But as a writer I merely bear witness. I do not know the names of most things, do not capitalize upon the folds in the earth, do not walk the garden every day looking for the ebbing away and the new opportunity.

Bill Thomas and his gardeners do. They make these now 48 acres (the garden is growing) glow, season after season, with their plants, their sense of purpose, their artistry. You'll find their winter projects—clay pots, wood furniture, metal work, hand rails, sculptures—in among the blooms. You'll hear them talking about ways to preserve the biodiversity of soil and to optimize microclimates, not to mention the secrets still stashed in the greenhouse.

The Art of Gardening, featuring photographs by Rob Cardillo (who once took this photo of me on a rainy Chanticleer day for what has become an award-winning magazine), is subtitled "Design, Inspiration, and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer." Its authors are the gardeners themselves, with Bill Thomas editing the overall narrative and Eric Hsu providing the captions. The history and vision of Chanticleer is represented here, as are design strategies, reports on experiments, and a planting list.

It's a lovely compilation, celebrated on a gorgeous day that also marked the unveiling of the grand new path that winds up toward the Chanticleer house and (at this particular moment in time) makes the hover above the ground feel airbrushed with a color that is not quite pink and not quite purple.

Huge congratulations to the Chanticleer gardeners (and Rob) whose artistic spirits are so well captured here.


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