Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rosie And Mr. Hawthorne Visit The Gardens Of Montrose.

Mr. Hawthorne and Rosie arrive at Montrose, promptly at 9:57, Tuesday morning, for our 10:00 appointment. What is Montrose, you ask?
Montrose is the home of Nancy and Craufurd Goodwin (I really can not get over that spelling.) in Hillsborough, North Carolina. It is open to the public, by appointment only, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. We planned our recent trip to Danville so we could leave on Tuesday and head to Montrose (about 45 minutes from Danville and on the way home) to take the guided tour. I'd made the appointment on the previous Friday and on Tuesday we were personally escorted through the gardens by none other than Mrs. Goodwin herself. As luck would have it, we were the only people touring that morning. First, a bit of the history of Montrose. The property was subdivided from a plantation in 1799. Montrose was the estate of William Alexander Graham, Governor of North Carolina from 1845 - 1849. Graham moved to the property in 1842. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1824, was admitted to the bar in 1825, and began his practice in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Graham and his wife, Susan Washington Graham, consulted Thomas Paxton, landscape gardener for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about the layout of gardens and planting of trees, and planted a nationally known complex of gardens on the site. Susan Graham named the property "Montrose," after the town in Scotland where the Grahams came from. In 1890, the current main house was built, replacing two houses destroyed by fire. Original outbuildings from the 1840's, including Graham's law office, the kitchen, the smokehouse, and the barn, are still standing. In 1977, the 61-acre property was bought by Nancy Goodwin and her husband, Craufurd Goodwin, professor of economics at Duke University. The Goodwins not only maintained the gardens, but Mrs. Goodwin greatly expanded the plantings. In 1984, Nancy Goodwin started Montrose Nursery, a small mail order nursery. She began by offering endangered hardy cyclamen raised from seed, boxwood rooted from plants on the property, and a strain of perennial primroses. Wild cyclamen, previously, had been collected illegally from rocky hillsides in the Middle East and Turkey and smuggled into United States nurseries. I believe camels were involved in the transfer of these plants. (In the Middle East. Not in the United States.) Consequently, the cyclamens were endangered in their native habitats. Due to the efforts of Mrs. Goodwin, American gardeners could grow cyclamen in good conscience. In short time, Montrose Nursery became legendary due to its "conscience-friendly" cyclamens and its wide offerings of primo, often rare perennials which could withstand the heat and humidity, along with the red clay and the drought of the North Carolina Piedmont. The New York Times called Montrose Nursery "one of the best small mail-order sources of rare and unusual plants in the country." In 1993, Mrs. Goodwin closed the nursery to devote the remainder of her life to the horticultural development of the land of Montrose. In 2001, Montrose was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2003, the Garden Conservancy designated Montrose a Preservation Project and started assisting the Goodwins in planning its preservation as a public garden and house museum. The Garden Conservancy was established in 1989 to identify, save, and preserve America's exceptional gardens for the enjoyment and education of the public. When an exceptional garden becomes a Preservation Project of the Garden Conservancy, the Conservancy and owners of the garden embark on a rigorous process of legal strategies and conservation easements to protect the property from development. Most often, exceptional gardens begin privately as the life work of indefatigable, passionate, dedicated, and talented gardeners, such as Nancy Goodwin. The Conservancy Program facilitates these gardens' historic and aesthetic preservation and sustains these environments, ensuring long-term stewardship of natural assets essential to the aesthetic and cultural life of our communities. The Garden Conservancy has made available its resources for planning the future of historic Montrose as a horticultural resource for all. The Montrose Foundation Inc., a tax-exempt foundation, was established in 2007 by the Goodwins to sustain the gardens and buildings after they can no longer manage them. The landscape of Montrose started in the nineteenth century, but it was through the tireless efforts of noted plantswoman and author, Nancy Goodwin, that the gardens of Montrose became an expanding palette of plants for Southern gardeners, and, for me, a wonderful, peaceful, pleasureable, enlightening, enticing, botanical journey through the gardens of Nancy Goodwin. And Montrose is a-freakin'-mazing, too. The grounds include several acres of woodland plantings, terraces going down to the Eno River, a rock garden, a circle garden, nandinaland, a metasequoia garden, a dianthus walk, a May garden, an Aster garden, a purple and orange border garden, a blue and yellow garden, expansive areas of sunny, color gardens, unique color and planting schemes, unusual plants and trees, and trellises, fences, and arbors, designed and constructed by a local artist. As Mrs. Goodwin wrote in her chronicle of a year in her gardens, MONTROSE life in a garden, "This place is my life and its gardens my obsession."
Here's Mrs. Goodwin, opening the gates for us. I love the pineapple, symbol of hospitality, atop the brick column, with ivy, clothing the column. Reminds me of one of the knights (kuh-NIG-its) from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We drove up the long, winding driveway to a lovely white home set among pecan trees, white oaks, and two stately deodar cedars, one struck by lightning. One of the largest specimens in the eastern United States of the cucumber magnolia, Magnolia acuminata, used to grace the front yard. Sadly, it was lost back in 1998.
We pulled into the parking area next to the original kitchen of the Grahams' home. It is now used as a potting room.
The little building on the left was Graham's law office. The smoke house is farther back.
We begin our tour with Mrs. Goodwin explaining her proclivity toward a no irrigation policy, no doubt to ensure hardy plants, well suited to the environment and climate of this area. (USDA Climate Zone 7A) Survival of the fittest.
We first ran into this lovely fall color ... ... a deep red celosia. I'm going to have to get me some of them.
This little pretty is cleome. I used to grow it but ran out of the seeds I'd collected. I noticed that the pods were in several stages of maturity and asked Mrs. Goodwin if it would be possible for me to have some of the seed pods. I think she might have been a bit taken aback by my effrontery, but she graciously picked off a few pods and handed them to me. I thanked her, then told her of my Hyacinth bean vine, now blooming, which I grew from seed pods pilfered from an arbor at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello gardens last fall. I do not think she was impressed. I think she was mortified. After I'd gushed that information out and she now knew I was a seed whore, I think she kept vigilant eyes on me, knowing I would be the uncouth sort to palm some pods. I put Mrs. Goodwin's seed pods in my pocket until I could transfer them to an envelope I had in the car. I've since marked the envelope "Montrose Cleome" and stored it in my seed drawer, saving it until next spring.
I'm excited about my future cleomes.
This is Junior. Mrs. Goodwin admits she calls him June Bug. Interesting. I told her my son had a puppy he named Junior, but I always call him June Bug. Now, for the tour of the garden. Forgive me for not knowing the names of all the plants. For many, I did know the popular or common name. For most, sadly, I did not. Whenever I would ask Mrs. Goodwin for the name of a specimen, she would provide the precise scientific terminology, and I would turn to Mr. Hawthorne and say, quite jauntily, "Remember that name," and he would nod and say, "Sure thing. Got it." Then I would imagine Mrs. Goodwin, sighing heavily, a slight shake of her head, a heaviness to her heart, and I would feel like a very slow, dull child.
Please enjoy the pictures, and try not to ask me too many questions, since I don't know squat here.
Built in 1890.
Sometimes you just have to look for hidden treasures.
I wish I could remember what this thorny, spindly, fruited tree is. Is the fruit edible? When I asked, Mrs. Goodwin gave me the botanical name and Mr. Hawthorne, for the life of him, cannot retrieve it.
The estate is quite lovely.
Popping blue flowers.
Mrs. Goodwin and June Bug.
I believe she called this a blackberry lily and it is neither blackberry nor lily.
The rock garden, waaay in front of the house.
I really like this picture Wish I knew what it was of. Orchidgal?
Mrs. Goodwin in front of her home being passionate about something. And she's passionate about a lot.
Could this be stokesia?
This is purple shamrock or oxalis triangularis.
I loved the wandering, driving paths, luring me, beckoning me to the next garden.
Here's their beautiful home. As I mentioned, Mr. Goodwin is a professor of economics at Duke University. Mrs. Goodwin went to Duke in the 50's, majored in music, and taught piano and harpsichord lessons at Montrose when she was longing to get outside and work in her gardens.
Beautiful background of boxwoods.
Purple petunias and pink colchicum (which I think is Autumn Crocus).
Petunias, colchicum, and the setcreasea, or Purple Heart Wandering Jew, which is a perennial for me. Mine dies back in the winter and comes back in spring. I take cuttings off and just stick them in the ground and they flourish. The dark purple vine-like plant produces delicate pink flowers.
Purple gomphrena and orange dahlia. Purple gomphrena globosa and ... cardinal flower?
Dahlia amongst the gomphrena.
Swirling gomphrena and dahlias.
I loved this arbor and the inviting area inside.
I think this is one of my favorite pictures of our guided tour. It's so tropical. And safari-ish. And almost other-worldly. It promises adventure.
Baby nanas.
June Bug took the tour along with us. Leading, at times. He certainly knows the routine.
A contemplative Mrs. Goodwin, leading us, educating us, and enjoying her gardens, her handiwork, her efforts, her thoughts.
I loved this planter.
I believe this was Mr. Hawthorne's favorite.
Such a peaceful scene. I love the lines and the pots here.
Mr. Hawthorne really liked this planter. "It looks like a landscape. This is what a cloud sees." Mr. Hawthorne can be very poetic at times.
The yellow garden.
The barn. 19th century.
Nearing the end of the tour.
Fungi shelves on the tree.
I have a question for you. And DO NOT SCROLL DOWN and get the answer yet. Do you know what this machine is?
Look carefully. On the right hand side. Yes. I should have shot it from the right. But didn't. It's a log splitter.
This privately guided tour was a wonderful excursion into history, botany, legacy, respect, and a woman's passion and obsession for gardening.
I'm sure little June Bug has relaxed on this bench many a time after touring. I thank Mrs. Goodwin for sharing with the Hawthornes.


Anonymous said...

Recognized the log granddaddy had one, but his had splitters on both sides. He would loop a belt from the power takeoff on the tractor to the wheel on top of the splitter. We also turned it by hand to split wood when Grandma asked us to fill the wood box for her cook stove.

Kathy said...

I was hoping to see a picture of the elusive cyclamen. Now I have to look it up. Sigh, such a lot of work....
Beautiful pictures though.

Paul said...

Interactive usda hardiness zone map is available at

Marilyn said...

Psst, Rosie: they are called Blackberry lilies, not irises. I have some that came to me via our county's Master Gardener Demonstration Garden, which came from Spring Mill State Park which in turn came from Monticello. They are annuals, unlike other lilies.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Psst, Mar. I knew that. Thanks for having my back. Any help is greatly appreciated.

I've gone back in and edited.

Nancy Goodwin said...

Hello Rosie, My husband, Craufurd, came across your blog this morning and we are both delighted that you enjoyed your tour of Montrose. You got everything right! I remember your telling me about your June Bug and also that you seemed interested in everything. Are your cleomes growing? Tell Marilyn that blackberry lilies are perennial here. June Bug sends greetings as do we. I hope you will come again.