Monday, February 28, 2022

The nursery at the John Fairey Garden

During my October trip to Austin, Pam Penick and I visited the John Fairey Garden in Helpstead, Texas. We had prior permission to visit, since the garden is only open on certain days—being the hostess that she is Pam had arranged everything. 

We passed this enticing sight (below) walking up to the visitor's center. Pam was all business, heading to introduce herself and get things squared away, where as I naturally veered towards the plants for sale. 

It took absolutely everything in me to walk on by, knowing (hoping, praying) that we'd finish up here once we'd walked the garden. I did stop to take a photo of this monster-sized Amorphophallus titanum however...

Today I am fast-forwarding to the end of our visit, when the plant shopping did finally occur. It was right after we oohed and aahed over Dixie Friend Gay's fabulous mural (here) that we finally wandered over to the greenhouses.

The beginnings of a massive crevice garden perhaps?

Looking to the right, and an "off-limits" area...

And looking to the left, where I was immediately smitten with this display...

As anyone who has read Fearless Gardening, or attended one of my book-talks probably knows, I am a fan of plants raised up on a pedestal or plinth. These are no exception. 

I would love to come across pipes like these I could use in my garden.

As for the plants for sale, they were a carefully curated collection.

Clean, healthy, well labeled.

I was on my best behavior only because I was flying back home with limited plant hauling capabilities.

Baby kalanchloe...

There were several mangaves.

Kalanchoe luciae or Kalanchoe thyrsiflora? I do not remember

Those big leaves drew me in.

A plant I'd never heard of, and note that tempting price!

It's in the Euphorbia family.

I would have loved to take one of them home with me...

That new growth color! That long tail!

It's a ficus!? 

"Ficus religiosa or sacred fig is a species of fig native to the Indian subcontinent and Indochina that belongs to Moraceae, the fig or mulberry family...The sacred fig is considered to have a religious significance in three major religions that originated on the Indian subcontinent, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Hindu and Jain ascetics consider the species to be sacred and often meditate under it." (source)  

Looking around the nursery I realized they're not just selling plants brought in to move quickly and make a few quick bucks on. Rather they've got special plants that must be descendants of ones John Fairey himself collected on his plant-hunting expeditions back in the day.

Ficus tannoensis, collected in Taiwan according to the label.

Ficus formosana

Manihot walkerae

"Manihot walkerae, commonly known as Walker's manihot, is a species of flowering plant in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae, that is native to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the United States and Tamaulipas in Mexico. The specific name honours amateur botanist Thelma Ratcliff (Mrs. E. J.) Walker, who discovered the type specimen near Mission and La Joya, Texas in 1942. Walker's manihot generally grows under the branches of larger shrubs and trees. In Texas, this species inhabits xeric slopes and uplands in thorny shrublands." (source)

Unfortunately I did not get a shot of the label for this begonia, probably thinking that I would remember it's name—which I do not.

I do love it when an agave pup escapes through the container's drainage holes.

So, did I buy anything? Of course I did! A small Agave xylonacantha. I am really bummed that I didn't take a photo of the table it was on, along with it's brothers and sisters. There were so many of them!

Unfortunately it's lower leaves have started to dry out since arriving in Portland and adjusting to life in the basement for the winter. It's hardy to the mid 20's though, so maybe I'll pot it up, give it a light drink and put it out in the shade pavilion greenhouse. In case you're wondering why I bought this particular agave, just look at those teeth!

If you live anywhere near the John Fairey Garden you should definitely plan to visit, and buy plants too! I'll have more photos from the garden soon. 

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All material © 2009-2022 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. I'm always impressed by a garden with a professional looking nursery on-site like that one - it bodes well for the quality of the garden itself. It appears garden has staff or volunteers well trained in plant propagation. And I'm glad you were able to fit a specimen into your luggage.

    1. The garden, to my mind, is first and foremost a collectors garden. From the website: "The garden is widely acclaimed for the originality of its design, its education and conservation programs, and its exceptional collection of over 3,000 plants, including many endangered and rare plants from Mexico, North America, and Asia."

  2. That Ficus religiosa, with the long tail... I looked it up. It can become a humongous, massive tree with the most impressive trunk. Definitely good to meditate under. The escaping Agave pup made me smile. Precious.

  3. Thanks for the tour. That Begonia is enormous and beautiful! I hope to get back to that part of Texas again one of these days, and I'll have to add John Fairey Garden and the nursery to the list of potential destinations.

    1. Definitely check it out Beth, be sure to look at their website for open days.

  4. I'm glad your aloe is hanging in there until spring arrives. My Mexican summersweet, Clethra pringlei, from JFG is in the ground and has survived many hard freezes this winter. Hoping it'll put on some growth this summer.

    1. Good to know I'm not the only one who sometimes types "aloe" when I mean "agave". Fingers crossed winter is over for both of us!

    2. Hah - yes, sorry. Agave! I pulled all my succulents out of the garage and house yesterday, so either I've just guaranteed another freeze for Austin or spring is really around the corner.

  5. I was hoping for a post about their nursery, and here it is!

    I love that Agave xylonacantha. I totally would have bought one.

    BTW, it's Kalanchoe luciae.


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