The landscape and layout of Montrose originates from the nineteenth century. Over the next two centuries it has grown into a garden filled with a collection of plants that grow well on Hillsborough’s clay loam soil and which are arranged by color and form. The Garden Conservancy has made its resources available for planning the future of this historic place as a horticultural resource for all.
"Nancy Goodwin," American Gardener magazine, November/December 2012
"A Life’s Profusion of Blooms," New York Times, March 8, 2012. Early spring at Montrose.
Montrose Life in a Garden, Nancy Goodwin, Duke University Press, 2005
1842: William Alexander Graham and his wife, Susan Washington Graham, with the help of Thomas Paxton, landscape gardener for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, begin to design the layout of the grounds and planting of trees. William Alexander Graham served North Carolina as both governor and senator and was secretary of the Navy under President Millard Fillmore. Montrose becomes the home to three generations of the Graham family
1898: The current main house is built on the site of two houses previously destroyed by fire. Several of the original outbuildings from the 1840s are still in place today, including William Alexander Graham's law office, the kitchen, the smokehouse, and the barn
1930s: The woods are terraced for erosion control as part of a federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) project for Hillsborough.
1977: Nancy Goodwin and her husband, Craufurd, professor of economics at Duke University, buy the 61-acre property and begin gardening in earnest. Working within the nineteenth-century layout and preserving the venerable trees, they transform the former vegetable garden into sunny perennial gardens with dazzling displays, replant the old rock garden, and plant appropriate bulbs and native plants beneath the trees
1984: Nancy Goodwin begins operating the Montrose Nursery on the site. The New York Times calls it "one of the best small mail-order sources of rare and unusual plants in the country"
1993: Nancy Goodwin closes the nursery to devote herself full-time to her gardens
2001: Montrose is added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Goodwins place a conservation easement on 50 acres of the property, including forested land along the Eno River, with the Triangle Land Conservancy. Nancy Goodwin begins clearing the undergrowth from acres of woodland and plants thousands of winter-interest plants, which become a distinctive feature of the garden
2003: The Garden Conservancy designates Montrose a Preservation Project and begins to assist the Goodwins in planning its preservation as a public garden and house museum
2005: Duke University Press publishes Nancy Goodwin's chronicle of a year in her gardens, Montrose Life in a Garden. In it she writes, "This place is my life and its gardens my obsession."
2012: The New York Times celebrates the expansion of the gardens at Montrose into the woodlands, creating a “profusion of blooms” in winter
September through May by appointment
Closed: June through August
Admission and Tours
$10 adult; $5 children 6-12; children under 6 and Garden Conservancy members free.
Specially arranged tours have a minimum fee of $60 for fewer than 6 people; $10 per person for 6 or more.
Guided tours by appointment only on Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. Tours for larger groups may be arranged at other times.
For more information or reservations, please call 919.732.7787 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Park next door at the Cameron Park School for large groups; park at Montrose for small tours.
The garden is located at 320 St. Mary’s Road, Hillsborough, NC 27278.
From I-85 take Exit 164 and go north into Hillsborough. Turn right onto East King Street. At the stop sign bear left up the hill onto St. Mary’s Road (not sharp left). On the right you will pass St. Matthew’s Church and Cameron Park Elementary School. Montrose is just past the school on the right. There are large red brick gate posts with a plaque on the right one that reads “Montrose 320.”
From I-40 take Exit 261 for Hillsborough. Go north toward Hillsborough and pass under I-85. Proceed as directed above.