ISSUE 34  |  Heat Waves

A Texas Garden Where the Rare and the Endangered Flourish

August 26, 2015 4:00 PM

BY Michelle Slatalla

An hour’s drive north of Houston is Peckerwood Garden, with seven acres of rare and vanishing plants–many of them desert specimens that architecture professor John G. Fairey brought home from the high mountains of northern Mexico during more than 80 plant-collecting expeditions over the past 30 years.

Fairey, an architecture professor at Texas A & M University, bought the Peckerwood property more than 40 years ago. He gradually created his oasis of a garden, figuring out through trial and error which plants would thrive in a inhospitably windy, dry climate. Unfazed after a tornado uprooted all the trees on the property in 1982, Fairey started again from scratch.

In the 1980s he got the idea to collect rare native specimens from Mexico, where little or no attempts have been made to catalog the flora since the late 19th century. Over time Fairey’s plant collection has grown to more than 3,000. Most are native to Texas or Mexico and many have not been grown in cultivation before.

Although Fairey lives on the property, he has created the non-profit Peckerwood Garden Foundation, supported by the Garden Conservancy; for a schedule of dates when the garden open to the public, see Peckerwood Garden.

Photography by Marion Brenner.

Above: Fairey’s house is a two-story, corrugated steel sided building with a shady patio. it is surrounded by a dry garden in gravel.

Above: a palette of blue and gray leaves looks cool even under the hellishly hot Texas sun.

Above: A fountain empties into a reflection pool.

Above: At the end of a gravel path edged by Satsuki azaleas is an art gallery shaded by a pergola.

Above: In front of a pergola is boxwood ‘Graham Blandy’ and ‘Golden Sword,’ a variegated yucca.

Above: Near a creek, Fairey has created a woodland garden with dappled light.

Above: Oaks and cypresses grow along the creek’s shoreline.

Above: An acorn on an oak tree.

Above: A courtyard paved in pea gravel and flagstone; Texas artist John Walker’s side-by-side sculpture is titled “Positive and Negative.”

For more of our favorite Texas gardens, see:

N.B.: This post is an update. It originally ran on June 27, 2013 as part of our Dry Gardens week.