Garden Dialogues with John Fairey at Peckerwood


Heading east through pine country toward Hempstead, Texas, I arrived after a couple of hours on the road at Peckerwood Garden last Saturday. The draw, aside from a chance to see this beautiful 45-year-old garden again, was to hear its creator, John Fairey, talk about it in conversation with Houston landscape architect Keiji Asakura.

Part of The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Garden Dialogues series, this was my second Garden Dialogues (and third CLF event), and I find them valuable for a chance to hear about design directly from garden creators including landscape architects, designers, artists, and self-taught master gardeners like John Fairey.


As I took my seat (wow, what a stunning location for a garden talk, right?) and read the brochure for the event, I was startled and pleased to see that I was quoted in it — anonymously, but still! The quote came from my 2012 article about John Fairey for Garden Design magazine:

“John has expanded the palette of plants for gardeners in the South, Southeast, and Texas,” says [Bill Noble, director of The Garden Conservancy]. “His garden has a lot to teach.” After a lifetime of teaching, Fairey remains himself an eager learner, continually experimenting with plants and treating his garden as an artist’s canvas on which he paints with light, foliage, and even the wind.

How about that!


The garden that afternoon was indeed painted with light.


And although there wasn’t much wind, a congregation of filament-foliaged Mexican grass trees (Dasylirion longissimum) gently shimmied as air currents caressed them.


Painting with wind and foliage


Sarah Newbery, Peckerwood’s foundation board president, introduced Mr. Fairey and his interviewer, Mr. Asakura.


For the next hour or so, they conversed about how the garden came to be, the plant collections, lessons learned, and Mr. Fairey’s plant-hunting expeditions. I’d heard some of the stories before, but others were new, and it was wonderful to be part of an intimate group of keenly interested garden lovers from Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, and other cities who’d come to listen and learn and pay homage to a man who’s done so much to advance our knowledge about rare plants and gardening in Texas.


I took a few notes on my phone:

Mahonia is Mr. Fairey’s favorite plant collection. He’d like a better collection of cycads.

The light, mystery, magic of the garden — that’s what he wants visitors to appreciate.

His number-one design advice: start with your inside views and design outward from that. Number two: consider positive and negative space when planting trees and shrubs in order to create rooms and define spaces within the garden.

Visit Edward James’s garden Las Pozas in Xilitla, Mexico. It’s all about space. Also, go visit the ethnobotanical garden in Oaxaca, Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca — “one of the great gardens of the world.”


After the conversation and questions from the audience, we were invited to walk through the garden. Sarah Newbery pointed out plants and features and gave us more of the history of the garden.


As I strolled along I struck up conversations with other attendees and met such interesting people as Carolyn Kelley, one of the landscape architects who designed the plaza and gardens at Austin City Hall (for my post about the City Hall gardens, click and scroll halfway down). I also met designer Richard Hartman of The Plant People in Fort Worth and Adam Black, Peckerwood’s lion-maned director of horticulture.


A gate constructed out of plow discs, with a wood-and-wire trellis fence and arbor screening John Fairey’s private residence from the larger garden


The dry garden near Mr. Fairey’s house is one of my favorite areas, with a kaleidoscope of bold form and texture. The vertical pleats of the tall cacti (and who knew these would grow in southeast Texas?!) echo the vertical lines of the home’s steel siding.


Abstract sculptures reside in the garden too, like this wedge-shaped vertical piece holding its own amid bold-leaved palms and agaves.


One more look


Thanks for another great visit, Peckerwood, and for another interesting garden discussion from The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Daylily Society is organizing a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

Next Garden Spark talk is my own, includes book and garden tour

After hosting two other speakers this spring (Scott Ogden and James David), I’ve decided to offer a talk of my own for my fledgling Garden Spark series. On May 18, I’ll present “Water-Saving Gardens That Wow,” which will also include a signed copy of The Water-Saving Garden and a pre-talk guided tour of my garden.

Update 4/3/17: ***THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT. If you’d like to hear about future Garden Spark talks, please get on the mailing list. Send me an email and let me know you’d like to be added.***

“The recent Texas drought taught us that conserving water in our landscapes is crucially important. But that doesn’t mean our gardening options are limited to cacti and rocks! I’ll talk about design techniques that make the most of natural rainfall and simple ways to conserve water in your garden. I’ll also inspire you to create outdoor spaces that are so beautiful and inviting, it’s hard to believe they are water thrifty.”

Speaker bio: Pam Penick is author of The Water-Saving Garden: How to Grow a Gorgeous Garden with a Lot Less Water and the bestselling Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard. She’s a contributor to such magazines as Garden Design, Country Gardens, and Wildflower, and her photographs have appeared in many books and magazines. On her award-winning blog, Digging, she offers an inspirational mash-up of garden tours, design tips, posts about drought-tolerant plants, and plenty of examples of water-saving gardens. She lives, gardens, and shakes her fist at the plant-noshing deer in Austin.

After the talk, I’ll have light refreshments to enjoy.

What: Garden talk by Pam Penick, “Water-Saving Gardens That Wow,” including a signed copy of her book The Water-Saving Garden and a pre-talk guided tour of Pam’s garden

When: Thursday, May 18, 2017, 7:30-8:30 pm. Pre-talk garden tour begins at 6:30 pm.

Where: Private home in northwest Austin (zip 78759)

How to attend: Send me an email requesting an invitation, and I’ll send you the link to the event page. By the way, email-list subscribers (just ask, and I’ll add you) get advance notification of these limited-attendance events.

Please note: Ticket sales are final. If the event doesn’t fill or is cancelled due to any unforeseen reason, full refunds will be given.

Garden Spark is a speaker series on garden design, open by invitation and hosted in my home. Admission goes entirely to compensate our excellent speakers.

To hear about future Garden Spark talks, send me an email and let me know you’d like to be added to the email list. Talks are limited-attendance, and invitations are sent first to those on the email list. If any spots remain, talks are announced publicly on Digging.

What is Garden Spark?

Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by top-notch design speakers out of my home, and I’m calling it Garden Spark!

Garden Spark talks are for anyone with an interest in gardening, garden design, and learning from design experts. You won’t find anything else like this in Austin! I know because I’m always looking for garden presentations geared to avid and experienced gardeners, by well-known designers and authors, and they just don’t come around that often.

Hosting at home keeps down expenses and creates a fun, intimate experience for a small number of guests: just 30 people. To attract excellent speakers I’m paying them a fair speaker fee, raised through ticket sales. For the cost of a movie, drinks, and popcorn, you can enjoy seeing a great garden speaker in a cozy, personal setting. I expect to host 3 to 4 talks per year.

Speakers will be announced on the Garden Spark page as well as in blog posts. Subscribe to Digging to have my blog posts delivered to your inbox. And if you join the Garden Spark email list, you’ll get advance notice of upcoming talks (and I’ll never share or sell your email address).

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

Spring stroll at the Wildflower Center


After speaking at the Native Plant Society of Texas Spring Symposium, held at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center last Saturday (and a big thank-you to the organizers and wonderful audience members!), I strolled the gardens with my dad, who was visiting from North Carolina. The early spring show is underway, with Mexican plums and Texas redbuds playing a starring role this week.


You always know when a Mexican plum (Prunus mexicana) is blooming because it scents the air with a spicy fragrance, attracting bees and other pollinators.


I miss this cotton-flowered native tree, which I used to grow in my old garden. I like the underplanting of charming golden groundsel too.


A closer look at the golden groundsel (Packera obovata) — like drops of sunshine.


Nearby, the Family Garden was pretty quiet, although a few adults were exploring the play features…


…like the stumpery, where big tree trunks offer balance-beam fun. Bundled branches stand like a chorus line of winter-bare trees.


Sweet-scented Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) climbs a trellis on a limestone wall.


Its golden trumpets glow against a blue sky.


Heading toward the observation tower, I spotted a sword-leaved Harvard agave (Agave havardiana) sending up a bloom spike resembling an oversized asparagus spear.


Dad and I climbed the tower and admired its spiraling stone top from Robb’s Roost, a small rooftop garden halfway up.


We were rewarded with a lovely view of native coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) in bloom.


A wider view reveals the handsome, rusty-steel trellis it’s growing on.


Heading back into the tower, here’s a peek at the domed brick roof.


Throughout the garden, Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), our state’s most stunning, spring-blooming tree, is still in glorious bloom, but our unseasonable heat is quickly fading the flowers. Go enjoy some deep whiffs of grape Kool-Aid fragrance now, while you can.


I did!


Last year’s faded foliage, like cinnamon-colored bushy bluestem grasses (Andropogon glomeratus), still stand. But spring blossoms of Mexican plum and other plants are bringing spring freshness back to the garden.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The upcoming talk with James deGrey David has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added. Subscribers get advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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