Large paddle-shaped shiny leaves give this distinctive cold hardy shrub a shaggy tropical look. Old growth is green to glaucous, in contrast with chartreuse new growth, especially striking in summer. During spring, within the dense crown may be found numerous small white flowers on inflorescences eventually forming oval bluish drupes on female plants. Best grown beneath a deciduous tree with good drainage, this evergreen prefers summer shade and winter sun.
Ferns occupy quiet shady woodland spaces, protected from summer heat by cooler microclimates. Under pines and savannah hollies, around camellias, piper and aspidistra, ferns are an indispensable component of John Fairey’s palette because of their wispy delicate texture and green hues. Visitors usually agree upon seeing the arching bronze new growth of the maidenhair fern, a new species collected in La Trinidad, Mexico. Even more spectacular is the big and blue Phlebodium pseudoaureum (rabbit’s foot fern), also collected in Mexico. Acres of pyrrosia and thelypteris, along with selaginella and ribbon fern, soften the landscape and scale down the summer heat.
For a garden that has a timeless feel, it is entirely appropriate for it have a large number of Cycads, a group of plants whose lineage may be traced to the Jurassic Period. Unfortunately, almost every cycad in the wild is threatened in its native range, lending importance to the conservation efforts at The John Fairey Garden. Many resemble palms, such as the sago palms and dioons, and prefer the dry garden environment. Others, such as Ceratozamia and Zamia, prefer some shade and regular water. Zamia integrifolia, or coontie, is ubiquitous in the garden and is the only cycad native to the United States. Glossy green foliage, very attractive pinnate leaves and amazing seed cones make the coontie a real attraction to visitors.