Tucked away in the town of Hillsborough, North Carolina, is one of the most charming and endearing gardens that I have ever visited. This special place, called Montrose, has been gardened since 1977 by Nancy and Craufurd Goodwin. Originally the home of North Carolina governor and senator, William Alexander Graham, Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin have transformed it into one of the most intimate and special gardens in the south.
As you walk up the main driveway, you come upon the main house, framed by large trees. Depending upon the time of year, you will possibly encounter ephemeral bulbs which Ms. Goodwin has planted with the effect of a painter’s brush. Montrose was the site of my first encounter with a Colchicum flower. Never had I seen anything so big and so pink protruding from the soil.
Further still, along the right hand side of the house is the informal, formal garden. What I mean by this is that the garden is laid out in a formal pattern but the plant masses are informal. They are allowed to sprawl, lean, and self-seed into the pathways. I remember entering in under a large arbor, flanked by bananas and Lady Banks rose. Walking around the garden on the crushed gravel path, you stop to admire a plant that looks familiar but the name doesn’t quite come back to memory. Nancy Goodwin is a true plantswoman, having operated Montrose Nursery until 1993. On the day of our last visit, she spent hours walking around, engaging in conversation about building the garden and taking care of it.
Fortunately, the gardens are a preservation project of the Gardens Conservancy. If you have never been, please do. This is a Eudora Welty garden. Truly southern and gracefully refined, thanks to the care and stewardship the Goodwins.
Photos by Rodney Eason