John G. Fairey’s eyes widen when he is asked to name a favorite plant, as if he’s been asked to choose his favorite child. “Why, all of them,” he replies softly in a sandpapery Southern lilt. And given his surroundings—some 3,000 species of rare and endangered plants at Peckerwood, his 40-year-old, renowned private garden near the Texas town of Hempstead—you’re rather inclined to believe him.
Rarely has there been a more unprepossessing lot for an extensive residential landscaping project: a scrubby two-acre parcel shaped like a pie slice and dominated by a steep hill bordering a busy and loud thoroughfare in Austin, Texas. When designer Rick Scheen went to examine it for the first time, large culvert pipes stuck up through the ground in a ditch, trash was strewn everywhere, “and there were some really bad views of tear-down houses,” he recalls.
I first learned about the world of homecoming mums when I was wandering the aisles of a Houston Hobby Lobby with my friend Jenny and my college boyfriend, both native Texans. Suddenly, I turned into an aisle of giant (and I mean GIANT) corsagesque-things. "What are these?" I asked. (I was born in Texas, but I wasn't raised there, so I am not culturally Texan.) They looked at me with surprise and Jenny said, "Mums. Didn't you have these growing up?"
Historians enjoy recounting a heated battle that played out in the Texas Legislature in 1901. The debate was over a flower—specifically, deciding on one that was emblematic of the state, and appropriate for its official flower. One legislator argued for the cotton boll, another for the cactus blossoms. But, fortunately for anyone who has enjoyed the blue rolling hills of a springtime in Texas, a group of women on the floor—representing the National Society of Colonial Dames of America—were ardent advocates of the bluebonnet (Lupinus subcarnosus). The women won.
Discover Marfa, Texas, where amazing gardens are coaxed out of the arid landscape.
Rolling hills carpeted in green, limestone that glows a pinkish gold in the setting sun, and miles and miles of river, dammed into sections referred to as lakes, define the Texas Hill Country that surrounds Austin. It is here, 35 minutes northwest of the energized capital city, where you'll find more than 1,000 species of trees, flowers, herbs and vegetables on 19 lakefront acres designed to nourish the body and soul. This is Lake Austin Spa Resort, which is quite simply, really darn pretty.