Late fall is the season when John’s use of maples brings dramatic, impressionistic color to the woodland garden. In the Hallway, the Cloud Forest Sugar Maple, a critically endangered maple collected in El Cielo, Mexico, bursts into yellow. Visible behind it are reflective tall vertical trunks of Bald Cypress. Nearby, Oliver’s Maple bursts into orange then red. A Big Toothed Maple turns orange. Just across the creek, Acer rubrum turns that deep red so familiar to east Texans, while in the Arboretum a Sugar Maple glows yellow. These incredible displays are never guaranteed on any given year, but you definitely don’t want to miss them when they do appear.
In the light shade of savannah holly and pines, camellia flower buds have begun to open, revealing incredible colors and shapes that give a different meaning to the phrase “fall color.” Nestled among deep green glossy leaves, a panoply of flowers are adorned with huge golden stamens or ruffled double pink petals. Some are deep red, others white like porcelain. In the garden, over seventy camellia cultivars will be in full bloom by mid November, and many will continue blooming into March. The camellias of The John Fairey Garden have put on this glamorous show every year for decades, a spectacle that visitors surely don’t want to miss.
The dense dark heavily toothed foliage of old world hollies provides year round evergreen sculptures throughout the garden. Behemoth shrubs, like Ilex rotunda from Japan, or Ilex x wandoensis from Korea mark the entrance to new garden spaces. Yet it is during the winter season that they really stand out against deciduous flora with their bright red or golden berries. They also stand out against the new world dry garden plants, and there is no better example than the mega-crop of berries of Ilex x ‘Cherry Bomb’ near the blue Sonoran Palms on the Rain Lily Berm (see photo). The hollies, along with camellias, magnolias and azaleas, lend a sense of continuity from John Fairey’s home gardens in South Carolina.