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.

Octopus’s garden patio at Cenote


I’d like to be under the sea, in an octopus’s garden in the shade. And so we were, one recent Sunday morning, on the lovely patio of Cenote cafe in east Austin.


A fierce metal octopus by 20 Digit Design holds court near the door, tangled in a net-like strand of twinkle lights.


Picnic tables on an expansive decomposed-granite patio offer plenty of outdoor seating, but it’s really the lush screening of palm, bamboo, Italian cypress, bamboo muhly, and star jasmine that makes this space so appealing.


Along the sidewalk, planted along a beachy picket fence, palmettos, sunflowers, and grasses entice you in.


A steel-and-wire arbor smothered in fragrant star jasmine welcomes you and screens diners from the busy street just outside. What a great place to enjoy a beautiful spring day.

He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been, in his octopus’s garden in the shade. –The Beatles (of course)

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

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

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.

Let’s take a walk around the garden


Live oak leaf and pollen season is finally over, and the patios are clean again, hallelujah! This calls for a spring garden stroll, so let’s go.


I’ve been playing with a squid theme on one wall of the upper patio. A couple of tentacle pots from Tentacle Arts contain squid-like Tillandsia xerographica, accompanied by a few metal squids and a ceramic succulent that looks like an anemone. I recently moved a table over here to display some potted plants.


In Moby’s old spot, a new whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia) is getting established. Grow, agave, grow! Behind it, the succulent wall has had a spring refresh and is looking good again.


A barbed-wire star gives a Texas twist to one of my new pie-pan succulent planters. A faded star outline on the fence shows where I used to have a different piece of garden art. Apparently I have a fondness for stars as well as squids.


I’ve also refreshed or tidied up the winter-weary pots on the porch steps.


Walking around back by the pool, you can see the soap aloes (A. maculata) in bloom.


I adore these showy, candelabra-like flowers, and so do the bees and hummingbirds.


The pond garden, with winter-bleached bamboo muhly (Muhlenberia dumosa) starting to green up again behind a curved line of ‘Color Guard’ yuccas. ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood balls anchor the “doorways.”


Opposite the yuccas, a curved line of blue-green heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) plays off the shed colors.


In a few more weeks, it’ll start blooming.


We gave the deck a refresh this spring, which included redoing the stairs. Once narrow, rickety, and squeezed onto the left side of the deck, we had them extended from the outer edge and widened to a generous 8 feet for better access to the garden. To make room for the new stairs, I had to dig up and move a few plants, but I like the simpler look. We also replaced the deck rail’s old, jail-like, vertical balusters with galvanized welded wire and the old lattice skirting with horizontal boards. Let’s walk up…


…and view the pond from the deck. The Louisiana iris is still blooming in the pond, adding a spot of rich color amid all the greens.


Walking up the side-yard path, you pass the Yucca rostrata, one of my favorite plants that’s really grown over the past couple of years. The pomegranate is blooming beside it. Beyond is ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress, which I’ve had to limb up for walking under it.


Up the path and looking back, here’s the opposite view. The upright vertical shrub on the right is ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon holly, and the little tree on the left, just past the blue pot, is weeping redbud ‘Traveller’.


Outside the gate, in the front yard, a Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) holds court by a bench. The golden shrub just visible in front is ‘Eureka Gold’ dwarf yaupon.


It colors up beautifully in spring but then goes green summer through winter.


Moving around to the front garden, the Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) lawn is greening up with warmer weather. It doesn’t exactly turn brown in winter, but it definitely takes on a tawnier hue during the cooler months. On the edge, Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa) is blooming. Wouldn’t that ‘Eureka Gold’ yaupon look pretty beside it? I’ll have to give that some thought. Paleleaf yucca (Y. pallida) looks good with it too.


The ‘Green Goblet’ agave near the driveway is recovering from antlering damage from the deer last fall, and putting on new growth.


And along the front of the house, in the shade of live oaks and a Japanese maple, native river ferns (Thelypteris kunthii) create a cool, lush look along a dry stream.

Thanks for coming along with me on this garden stroll! Are you changing up anything for spring in your 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

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

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.

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

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