As we traveled on the bus for the second or third day (they all began to blur into a seamless, leafy consciousness), I turned to Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening and asked “Are you excited about visiting Montrose?” At her incredulous look, I continued, “I mean, is it a big deal?”
“You know, it’s Nancy Goodwin’s garden. She wrote books and sold Cyclamen through her nursery.”
I shook my head. I don’t grow cyclamen, I wanted to say. They don’t live in Oklahoma except as houseplants, and you know how I feel about indoor plants.
You may have guessed by now that I didn’t know who Nancy Goodwin is.
I do now.
When we first entered Montrose, we were taken on a guided tour around the once formal, front garden. I was a bit dismayed to see that it was in some disrepair. I knew the Garden Conservancy took on Montrose as a preservation project, and I wondered why the front garden looked the way it did. It seemed rude to ask, so I didn’t. I just dutifully followed our leader until we reached the back gardens, and oh, my, I was stunned.
Under a huge, rustic arbor was the most unique allee I’ve ever seen. Instead of the usual climbing roses, it was composed of banana trees.
Yes, trees with bunches of actual bananas. I counted five to seven trees, and at the base of each were collections of flowers. That was room one.
Once through the allee, we walked through room after room of perennials and annuals which were blooming like an orchestra full of instruments playing all at once. At the end of each room was a beautiful focal point. The garden was tailor made for photography, and I wish I could have stayed all day.
I remain stunned at all the beauty I saw there, and although I still wonder about the front garden, it doesn’t really matter. Maybe if I read her books, A Year in Our Gardens: Letters by Nancy Goodwin and Allen Lacy and Montrose: Life in a Garden, I’ll get the answer.
If you ever get a chance to visit Raleigh and its surrounding towns, make plans to see Montrose Gardens. They are a very big deal, and now I know.