Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leading You Down the Garden Path

Courtesy of jeremymlange.com Jeremy M. Lange for The New York Times

Two important gardening events occurred last Wednesday.

First, the New York Times published a feature article about winter color in the gardens of Montrose, the historic 19th century estate not far from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The piece described how the mild winter has affected the gardens – amazingly, tens of thousands of bulbs were flowering in late January. I wondered if this was the earliest bloom on record since the time the gardens were created.

The original layout dates from 1842 when Governor William Alexander Graham and his wife Susan, (with guidance from UNC landscaper Thomas Paxton) first built the complex of gardens. Three generations of Grahams grew up at Montrose, including my friend (and fellow gardener) Meg’s father.

In 1977, Nancy Goodwin and her husband Craufurd purchased the 61-acre property and began expanding the scope of the landscape. Since that time the couple has transformed over 20 acres into an interlocking tapestry of themed gardens that fascinate season after season.  Something is blooming at Montrose every day of the year.

A gardener since age seven, Nancy Goodwin is renowned for growing bulbs and rare plants from seed. Her hand-sown hardy cyclamen in colors ranging from white to magenta, carpet the ground for weeks. This year they started putting on their show in early December.

More dazzling flowers can be seen at Montrose at the moment including hellebores, primrose and flowering apricot. 

But it was the photo of snowdrops lining a woodland trail that caught my eye because of another event going on the same day.

Starting a woodland path from scratch.

Wednesday afternoon we began building a trail from our house down to the waterfall.

Our woodland trail includes steps and mulch walkways.
There is no official design aside from some rough pencil sketches. There is no landscape guru to show us the way. Just a desire to get from here to there without falling down the mountain or ruining my jeans slip-sliding my way to the bottom.

I hadn’t thought too much about possible plantings until I saw what Nancy Goodwin had done with a woodland path at Montrose. Suddenly the prospects seem endless.

Hardy winter-blooming plants for the coldest months, ferns in the summer. Bulbs galore! Maybe a few funky birdhouses sprinkled strategically along the trail!

I’m taking photos every day and will document the project as it progresses. I’ll keep you posted as more ideas sprout.

And I’ll inquire about the first date for planting snowdrops.


Les said...

Good luck with your trail improvements. If you are using Montrose as your inspiration, you are on the right track.

The Principal Undergardener said...

Lynn, I see the 4x4's you're using for the 'steps'. Pine? Some other wood? Pressure-treated or not? Any thoughts on the tradeoffs?

Lynn said...

Neal, they are actually 6 x 6's, pressure treated spruce. Alfredo said he uses timber locks, small long screws apparently, but I don't have a clue what he is talking about.The posts and handrails are local locust.

Once finished the interior of the steps will be filled with creek stones, and mulch will be laid down between the step sections. More photos to come!

Meg Campbell said...

I love the story about Montrose! It's always been a beautiful garden. I remember my grandmother helping me with a botany project. I had hundreds of different plants and got an A+! She was very proud of her serpentine amaryllis border, but when I was a little girl I loved the miniature rose garden she planted for me. She had a night-blooming cereus on her porch and we would go up and spend the night sometimes when it bloomed... Meg

Alexis Grant said...

I like the layout of your blog -- the spiral notebook is perfect :) And it's all clear and eay to read. Nice work!

Karen said...

Your trail is looking good i'm sure when it's finished it will look fabulous.

Lynn Hunt said...

I need to do a new posting with photos of how the trail looks now. I have added lots of plantings and some signs with the names of some of the wildflowers. Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned!

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