I n t ro d u C t I on
For most of my life I wondered what lay behind the fence covered with vines
separating and hiding Montrose from St. Marys Road. When I was a child,
my father drove our family in our old Studebaker to Hillsborough as a spe-
cial treat. We always came into town along that road and I often saw men
with picks, mattocks, and swing blades walking along the front edge of the
property. They cleared away excess growth on the bank but didn’t remove
enough for us to see into the grounds.
My parents saw the garden the year the Grahams opened it for Hills-
borough’s spring tour. They didn’t forget a detail. No matter where my
husband, Craufurd, and I looked for a house, my father said, we should try
to live at Montrose. He spoke of the rich, clay loam soil, the splendid old
trees, and Mr. Graham’s tomato frames. “With your love of gardening, you
should move there.” He repeated it again and again. “But it isn’t for sale!”
I protested.
Nature, especially plants, has always been the core of my life. My earliest
and happiest childhood memories include the time when my parents discov-
ered a patch of yellow lady slippers growing wild in Durham County. My
parents had been so intent on finding the rare flowers, they weren’t aware
that we had wandered too close to a moonshine camp until we heard shots
and realized that we were the targets. Even lady slippers aren’t worth dying
for. The first time we found atamasco lilies in a damp field near our house in
Durham, a bull chased us all the way to the road. The sight of elegant white
flowers tinged with pink growing in soggy soil was worth the heart-thump-
ing run. When we reached the end of our five-hundred-(plus)-mile drives
to visit my grandparents in middle Tennessee or south Georgia, we got out
of the car and went straight into their gardens. The fact that we had driven
for more than thirteen hours, had five or more flat tires, and hadn’t eaten a
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