Cultivated throughout Asia over the last few thousand years, Prunus mume flowers in abundant successions January to March in hues from white to deep rose, double petals or single, and with the most incredible fragrance of winter. In striking contrast with nearby evergreens, the flowering apricot typically has dark flayed bark, glowing red twigs and even in some cultivars gnarly contorted branching. The most spectacular cultivar in the garden is ‘Pink Panther’ which has bloomed reliably even in warm winter months.
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 spiny dark evergreen leaves of Asian mahonias add texture to the woodland garden, while the tall leggy trunks and branches add form. Bright yellow flowers on spiraling racemes in winter, followed by dark bluish-black berries in mid-summer, attract pollinators and birds. But one of the true gems of the garden is a Mexican mahonia that John Fairey so fondly called the curly leaf chochoco because its small glossy bright green leaves have undulating leaf margins that provide quite a spectacle as they flutter in the wind. Whether allowed to grow as a rounded shrub or trained on an espalier, its yellow winter blooms provide dramatic winter color similar to its Asian counterparts.