Monday, February 7, 2011

"The Pleasure Garden" Symposium at Atlanta Botanical Garden

Saturday I spent the day at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, attending the annual symposium that is orchestrated by the Georgia Perennial Plant Association.  Since I'm the current Vice President of GPPA, I'm perhaps biased, but this year's program was one of the best in the past few years.  One of the perks of being on the Board of the hosting organization is the opportunity to attend a casual dinner with the speakers the evening before the symposium, and the opportunity to chat with them in a very relaxed setting. 

I'll try to be brief, but there are points that I thought were particularly good from each of the five presentations on Saturday.  As a result, this post is going to be divided into at least a few parts, perhaps five. 

This year's theme was "The Pleasure Garden," so it was perfectly appropriate that the opening speaker was Dan Benarcik from Chanticleer, which is perhaps America's best garden designed solely for pleasure.  Dan likes to remind listeners that the mission of Chanticleer is not to be a botanical garden or a teaching space as much as it is just for sheer pleasure.

One of Dan's key points (at least to my listening) was that the point of gardening is really to please the gardener.  So often we get caught up in making sure that our garden appeals to visitors, neighbors, and passers-by, when the real point of creating a garden is to please one's self.  Dan went on to elaborate about making sure that the garden's style is YOUR style as the gardener.  If your style is not formal, why have a formal garden? If you are a little messy and eccentric by nature, shouldn't your garden express your quirks?

Because Dan Benarcik works in an incredibly beautiful place, he had a ton of great photos from "work," each more impressive than its predecessor.  A few that I found particularly striking (and ideas that I'm definitely stealing): A giant stone face (actually a fairly common sculpture) almost buried in a sea of Mexican Feather Grass, which really looks as though the person is sleeping.  Other things that Dan showed photos of are so simple, but really striking in their simplicity: a bowl of water sitting on the table in the sunroom, which gets filled with a few floating blossoms every morning (anyone can do this for a little bit of luxury at home), and then a beautiful photo showing hanging baskets planted with seasonal flowers hanging from the branches of a tree (an idea straight from Grandma's house, but one which makes an "estate" a "home".

I definitely am not doing justice to the photos from my descriptions, so Google "images" from Chanticleer Gardens and you'll see what I mean.  Frank and I are taking a short roadtrip to the Brandywine Valley in July, and Chanticleer will definitely be the highlight!


  1. I had the pleasure of moderating what was likely the same talk by Dan Benarcik back in January. His pictures managed to take us away from a cold place, even if just for an hour.

  2. Jim, Brandywine Valley (maybe Brandywine River Valley?) is that area around Philadelphia and Wilmington, DE. Longwood Gardens, Nemours, Winterthur, Chanticleer, Scott Arboretum, etc., are all very close to one another.

    Les, how lucky you were to do that! I find that most garden speakers are delightful to interact with. Dan is no exception.

  3. I believe Chanticleer might be my favorite garden. I love the garden furniture they make. The Adirondacks are particularly lovely.

    And I do love the bowl with blossoms. I float flowers in our arum pool because of the same inspiration.

    One of the Chanticleer ideas that I would love to replicate is the frog pool. It is a simple round pool three feet deep with a stone frog sitting on the side. When you look down into the pool there is a statue of a girl sitting with her knees up. It's such an unexpected detail. Love it.

    Chanticleer is about 45 minutes from Longwood Gardens in Wayne, Pennsylvania.