Very rare in cultivation, this slow-growing shrub is among the few that maintains a dense form in medium shade without pruning. Blue-green above with fuzzy golden undersides, its attractive foliage is reminiscent of the cool-climate big-leaf rhododendrons that we can’t otherwise grow here, and therefore lends a unique presence in the garden you’d otherwise expect to see in the Pacific Northwest. With such amazing foliage, you won’t care that the flowers are tiny and ornamentally insignificant.
In the heat of the summer, as cool season bloomers are a distant memory, the gingers begin to hit their stride. Hedychium, Kaempferia, Curcuma and Globba erupt in impressive displays of form and color, making for prime photo opportunities for our guests. Pictured here is Hedychium coccineum ‘C. P. Raffill’ (common name, Hedychium) with its fantastic red-orange inflorescences and Curcuma elata (common name, Hidden Ginger) which flowers first as it returns from dormancy. Though impressive, this summer experience is quite easy to miss due to the short-lived nature of many ginger blooms and the fact that many are tucked away in shady nooks or heavily mulched beds. Fortunately, many of the gingers are available in the nursery so you can take a few home and enjoy them in your garden.
A number of Texas wildflowers have been mainstays at The John Fairey Garden for many years. Spring visitors will have fond memories of the long-blooming Delphinium on the Rain Lily berm and the tiny complex iris, Herbertia lahue, or Prairie Nymph, that dots the meadow. By summer, attention turns to more dramatic displays. Pictured here is Ipomopsis rubra, (common name, Standing Cypress) a biennial which spends its first year as a small feathery bun, then during the second rockets into a bright red flower spike! Also pictured is Yucca rupicola, collected in the Hill Country, blooming in a bed of blanket Flower. Not visible in the photos are the many bees and other pollinators that are simply addicted to these wild flowers.
John Fairey believed that silver and blue-green colors have a cooling effect as the plants shimmer in the wind. This is certainly true of many palms in the garden. Set high atop the Rain Lily Berm, the Sabal uresana probably have the most dramatic effect on visitors as they glimpse the deeply shadowed silvery blue-green leaves and hear the rustling of the fibrous leaves in the wind. The sound has been likened to the dull burbling and rippling of water in a stream. On the other side of the garden, a stand of Brahea moorei palms, collected in the montane forests of eastern Mexico, displays dramatic golden inflorescences and leaves with silver underside. As visitors walk the winding paths through pine and oak, camellia and mahonia, evergreen palms with a tropical flair wave their silvery blue leaves.