Goodwin’s Montrose Garden

One of the first famous gardens I visited after becoming a gardener myself was Montrose Garden, in Hillsborough, North Carolina. It was part of a weekend trip that included a visit to the J.C. Raulston Arboretum, Edith Eddleman’s own garden, and tantalizing stops at places like Tony Avent’s famed retail mail-order nursey, Plant Delights.

Montrose is a 61-acre property that was purchased in 1977 by Nancy and Craufurd Goodwin, who immediately began to expand the gardens substantially.  Neophyte that I was, I had no idea of how well-known or superb Montrose was when I first stepped off the bus that morning. Nancy Goodwin herself, along with an intern who was working at the garden for the summer, greeted us and showed us around. I saw Dianthus planted in gravel for the first time, was awed by a mature baldcypress tree that had been grown from seed (planted by the previous owner), and ended up at some long tables back behind the house that represented the winding-down of Goodwin’s own mail-order nursery efforts, where we bought some small plants to bring home. Goodwin spoke about how there is always something blooming, the thousands of snowdrops that have naturalized from the hundreds she planted, and then turned us loose for a little while to wander on our own.

I wasn’t really a photographer at the time, but I did have a camera along, and captured a couple of shots of the Lathe House, which I’m sharing today. I was inspired to write this post because of an article in the New York Times I came across in digital form the other day, testifying that the garden is still going and open to the public by appointment. Goodwin and her husband have made provision for it to become a preservation project of  The Garden Conservancy.

Montrose Garden, Nancy Goodwin, Lathe House

The interior of the Lathe House at Montrose Garden, c. 1992 (maybe)

Montrose Garden, Nancy Goodwin, Lathe House

Seeing through the Lathe House

If you have a chance to visit, don’t pass it up. If you want to learn more about Goodwin and the creation of the garden, she has written two books, both of which I can recommend: Montrose: Life in a Garden, and A Year in Our Gardens: Letters By Nancy Goodwin and Allen Lacy.

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11 Comments on “Goodwin’s Montrose Garden”

  1. Wow – looks amazing! Beautiful, misty day, too.

  2. biosound Says:

    Very beautiful:)

  3. I was also deeply inspired by magazine photos of Goodwin’s garden about the time you were touring it. How lucky to have seen it! That lathe house is like a chapel to gardening.

  4. Melissa, I had a very similar experience at Montrose at least 15 years ago when it was still a nursery. I remember being overwhelmed by by Nancy Goodwin’s plantsmanship. Thanks for bringing back those memories.

  5. Melissa Says:

    Thanks for all the comments. I do feel fortunate to have seen it when I did. It is still open to the public, by appointment, and there is so much to see in that region of the country that I encourage everyone who might have the time to make a pilgrimage!

  6. annahalkia Says:


  7. John Says:

    Melissa, thanks for the writeup. I had seen the NY Times article as well and I suggested to my wife that we also buy a 61 acre estate for gardening purposes. She was not amused. I visit Plant Delights every year on my way to Spring Training and I’ll have to add this to my itinerary.

    • Melissa Says:

      Good idea! You might also want to squeeze in a visit to the Raulston Arboreteum; Eddleman designed one of its borders and it has some great trees as well, if my fading memory serves.

  8. Emily Says:

    This is so gorgeous. i will surely not miss a chance to visit this wonderful garden. i hope its still as same or more beautiful as it was back in 1992.


  9. That Lathe house is stunning. So scenic. If i am ever in North Carolina i will definately go and have a look. Many thanks for sharing the lovely images with us.

    • Melissa Says:

      So glad you like the photos. Do visit Montrose if you have the chance; the comments I’ve received have inspired me to think about going back sooner than later.

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