PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston June 2022

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Many of these plants are available to buy through the garden's nursery, and docent-led tours of the gardens are held regularly each month, when weather permits. While the garden is internationally renowned for the sheer size and scope of the collections, it's also acclaimed for its original and sculptural design. "John was an artist," Twaddle says. "He approached the creation of the garden exactly the way one does traditional western art making, with all the classical elements like repetition, contrast, texture, and the use of negative spaces; John was employing those out here with plants." Fairey trained as a painter — first at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and then at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell, and David Smith. He left his native South Carolina in the 1960s to teach design at Texas A&M in College Station, settling down on seven hilly acres in nearby Hempstead in 1971. He recreated the southern landscape from his youth, planting azaleas, camellias, and magnolias. Named Peckerwood — after the Texas plantation from the 1950s Auntie Mame novel and movie — the garden was renamed The John Fairey Garden after his death. Most of the plants in his original garden quickly died, but Fairey soldiered on, replanting with drought- and heat-resistant specimens and gradually adding acreage to the garden. In the late '80s, the Houston plant expert and nurseryman Lynn Lowrey introduced Fairey to native plants in Texas and Mexico, later taking him on a trip to the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains in northern Mexico to collect seeds and cuttings from rare and endangered plants. Carl Schoenfeld, a college student who worked at the gardens, joined them on the trip. It was the first of "JOHN ONCE SAID IT TOOK SIX YEARS OF LIVING HERE TO UNDERSTAND THE GARDEN, AND I'M BARELY TWO YEARS INTO IT." — Randy Twaddle The courtyard gate was designed and made by architect and blacksmith Lars Stanley. Opposite page, clockwise from top le: A wall that signals the entrance to the North Dry Garden is painted colonial blue in homage to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's Casa Azul in Mexico City. In the South Dry Garden, tall Yucca rostrata plants thrive among agave specimens collected in Mexico. The Palm Circle in the Arboretum was John Fairey's favorite place to sit.

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