Field Trip: Montrose Gardens

Close to twenty years ago, as a serious home gardener, I discovered mail order plants–from a paper catalog with a paper order form that you had to send in by mail.   Some of the first plants delivered to my front door were from Montrose Nursery.  Although no longer a nursery, the good news is that you can still visit the gardens which were part of the Garden Writer’s Association symposium tours last week.  This garden, for me, was the highlight.

The famous Montrose blues and yellows
The famous Montrose blues and yellows

Now a Garden Conservancy preservation project, Montrose did not disappoint.  Varied plantings in different gardens areas and rooms surround and enhance a property with charming outbuildings and woodland views.  Its sense of place blew me away.  There is no mistaking that this is a southern garden.

Garden path to outbuilding
Garden path to outbuilding
Planted sugar cane pots and cauldrons
Planted sugar cane pots and cauldrons

Blowsy, mature and abundant, these gardens tell the story of  more than 30 years of a singular gardening vision.  According to the garden’s pamphlet, Nancy and Craufurd Goodwin purchased the property in 1977 and expanded what a 19th century North Carolina governor,  William Alexander Graham and his wife Susan, had started.  Here are some images of the gardens–they don’t begin to do this treasure justice.

Gravel path with millstone and urn
Gravel path with millstone and urn
Dew kissed succulents in the urn from above
Dew kissed succulents in the urn from above
Path in a series of garden rooms
Path in a series of themed garden rooms
Two unplanted outbuildings beautiful in their simplicity
Two unplanted outbuildings beautiful in their simplicity

Great landscape design incorporates rhythm and repetition to convey ideas and create mood.  Rich and saturated hues of burgundy with pops of yellow and orange were found throughout Montrose.  To me, this discovery wasn’t immediately apparent but I was drawn to it every time I saw it.  Each of the photos below are from different areas of the gardens–outbuildings, the garden rooms, and next to the house.

An outbuild with an obscured, once functional door
An outbuilding with an obscured, once functional door
A pocket garden behind an outbuilding
A pocket garden behind an outbuilding
A garden adjacent the house
A garden adjacent the house
An urn in the garden rooms
An urn in the garden rooms

There are so many things to look at and absorb in the gardens that I could have spent several hours there instead of the 45 minutes the tour allowed.   I will go back some day.  I suspect there will be many blog posts from others who were on the GWA tour about the plants and wonderment found here, so I will limit mine to these.  Go if you ever have the opportunity.

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  1. Susan: You have captured this garden’s simple beauty, and your pictures bring back memories of our too-short tour on a day when I probably shouldn’t have been walking around on a drizzly day.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences in such a lovely and informative manner. Warm regards, Teresa O’Connor

    Thank you Theresa, I really appreciate your praise. Montrose is a special place that I’ve always wanted to visit and it was as magical as I expected.

  2. Seeing this lovely place in person seems to have been emotionally satisfying as well as horticulturally pleasing! The tweets, photos and posts from the GWA meeting have been wonderful to read, Susan – thanks for writing about it.

    Reading Allen Lacy’s columns and books led me to Nancy Goodwin and Tony Avent in the early 1990’s- and in spite of having a zone 5 garden in IL, to buying plants from both Plant Delights and Montrose. I’ve got the final 1993 Spring Montrose catalog in my hand right now, imagining what an expensive order I could make from my present Zone 8B!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    If the truth is told, Allen Lacey and Fred McGourty were my early garden literature heros right after Russell Page and Henry Mitchell. Allen Lacy’s books led me also to Nancy Goodwin. Sympatico!

  3. This GWA sounds extraordinarily jolly. Good pictures as well. I am enjoying all the various posts.
    Do you think that the collective noun for a convocation of Bloggers should be a ‘chattering’, a ‘boogle’ (borrowed from weasels), a ‘Twittering’ or a ‘hosting’ ?
    Or something else altogether…

    Hmmm. ‘A Chattering’ sounds like a horror film. Maybe a flock, block or toot perhaps? There was some discussion today about a singular Tweeter who makes money and spams as being a Tweetwalker…

  4. Wow! of all those photos, the most striking is the one of the two stark & simply buildings. Lovely.

    I liked the almost Shaker quality of many of the outbuildings. An incredible counterpoint to the lush overripe quality of the gardens don’t you think?

  5. I didn’t realize until looking at your photos how drawn I am to the purples and chartreuse colors in the garden. One of my favorite summer combinations is the Black Knight liriope and the ground-cover lysimachia, but in the fall garden the color combinations seems to glow. The leaf size and textural contrasts… oh, a lovely garden.

    They were lovely, rich and scrumptious like a molten chocolate cake. Hopefully they’ll inspire a new basket!

  6. Hey Susan,
    Congrats & good luck on Blotanical nomination for NJ!

    Hey Alice–Yours multi-noms are well deserved. Good luck–break a trowel!

  7. BTW…
    I’m sure I must have already waxed poetic somewhere in cyberspace about fair Montrose: LIke cream that rises to the surface, on my life-list of U.S. garden visits.

    Even with the bad pun to follow, Alice, I was in Wonderland.

  8. Thank you so much for this beautiful post, Susan. I was disappointed that I had to leave early and miss Montrose, but your words and images surely captured its essence. Much appreciated. Lynn

    You were certainly there is spirit. I’m happy you feel the essence was captured here. Go one day if you can–plan on way more than 45 minutes too!

  9. There is a great book of letters – A Year in Our Gardens – between Nancy Goodwin and Allen Lacy published years back. I learned a lot about Montrose in that book, and about Nancy and Allen. Especially memorable for me was the struggle of Nancy and her crew to eradicate the invasive Japanese Stilt Grass. Thanks for the report on your visit. I hope to get there some day.

    James–I read that book, a must read for gardeners. On another note, Lacy’s ‘The Garden in Autumn’ had a profound impact on the way I now design gardens. Thanks for the visit.

  10. I agree, Susan, it was one of my faves for the same reasons. What a nice post. I especially loved the beginning.~~Dee

    Thanks, Dee. I miss the days of paper order forms and the sometimes weeks long build up of anticipation until the ‘babies’ arrived.

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