Winter projects at Chanticleer can be quite prosaic - painting furniture, pruning trees and hedges, parsing budgets, and filing photographs.
Then there's Henderson, who's known for his one-of-a-kind hand rails and museum-quality boxes to hold plant lists for the garden's different sections. In the Asian Woods, for example, his box was inspired by a trip to Japan in 2004. It has a stylized copper door, stained-glass window, and bark roof.
And Dan Bernarcik, who designs Adirondack-style chairs out of white oak, black locust, and other hardwood trees that are taken down on the property.
And Przemek Walczak, who has bragging rights like no other: For the last three winters, he's been building a bridge over a creek. It opened this year, but still needs fine-tuning.
Measuring 60 feet long and 8 feet wide, made of steel and Western red cedar, the span looks like a fallen beech tree - or space ship - with ferns, mosses, and other woodland plants tucked in.
"I dreamed it up, designed it and put it in place, mostly when the garden was closed. So when people ask, 'What do you do in winter?' I tell them, 'What don't I do?' " says Walczak, who got the idea on a visit to the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island.
Like museums and other cultural attractions, public gardens strive to offer a new "visitor experience" every year in hopes of drawing not just first-timers but repeat business. At Chanticleer, the expectations for innovation are especially high.
Though relatively small (35 acres) and young (19 years), this "pleasure garden" has quickly earned a reputation as a place for emotional engagement and artistic expression, as well as horticulture. Just last Friday, a writer for Financial Times Weekend pronounced Chanticleer in the same league as the world-famous gardens of Sissinghurst in England and Bodnant in North Wales.
Mention "pressure" to Jack Dunbar, a plumber at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square for 24 years, and he thinks water.
Every year around now, Dunbar basically moves into the pump house for his annual tune-up of the Main Fountain Garden. He and another plumber take apart, inspect, clean up, fix, and rebuild, if necessary, five acres of custom-made fountainheads and spouts, with 100-horsepower pumps, that have spewed water jets up to 130 feet, every day from early April to mid-October.
The fountains are 82 years old. "They need a lot of tender, loving care," says Dunbar, who made sure to visit the fountains at Disney World on his vacation one year.
Beth Miner leaves next week for a 30th-birthday vacation trip that includes a stop at Kalmthout Arboretum in Belgium, known for its collection of witch hazels. As outreach manager at Awbury Arboretum in Germantown, Miner got the idea to visit from Awbury's Denis Lucey, who's a big fan of edgeworthia, winter viburnums, and other winter-bloomers, especially witch hazel.
"It's just an incredible plant," says Lucey, who also likes the garden's spare appearance in winter.
"Winter gives us a chance to see the skeleton of the property and the trees better, where things are crowded or need filling in," he says.
Tammy Harkness, who heads up the local chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, knows exactly what's crowding her 10-acre property in Barto. She's already outside ripping out invasive multiflora rose and nonnative bittersweet, while starting up to three dozen different kinds of seeds in her greenhouse and cooking with everything she put up and dried over the summer.
Which leads to Pamela Mathis, a gardener from Lafayette Hill for whom "dried" is a way of life in winter. She dries rose buds, marigolds, hydrangeas, and other blooms by the score for Flower Show competitors.
"I'm certainly not doing outside work. I'm not putting in ponds in the wintertime, for sure," Mathis says.
Maybe not. But she's putting in a lot of something else - 100 tiny Crocus tommasinianus bulbs, or "Tommies," as the early spring crocuses are called.
In this, she channels that busiest of all-season gardeners, Martha Stewart.
"She planted something like 120,000 bulbs," Mathis says, "but, of course, she has a bunch of minions to help."
Chanticleer gardener Przemek Walczak describes the inspiration for his "fallen tree" bridge
in the woodland garden.
Contact Virginia A. Smith at 215-854-5720 or email@example.com.