Years ago when I was living in Brooklyn, working at Wave Hill and considering moving back to Texas, I learned about a garden in my home state that I'd never heard of: Peckerwood. Founder and artist, John G. Fairey named the place after the plantation in Auntie Mame (a film and theatre work with personal family significance for me) and for the woodpeckers that frequent the property.
Everything I knew then about high end gardening, I learned while living in New York City, but here was something artful and interesting in middle of nowhere Texas. Hempstead to be exact. I've been wanting to visit ever since.
They hold just a few open days each year for the public, so this spring I made a plan to drive down and visit my long time friend Rachel, who lives near Austin and accompanied me on the tour.
Perusing Peckerwood's website years ago, I was impressed by the collections of magnolias, palms, agaves and yucca, many gathered on expeditions by the founder. It struck me then as an extremely masculine garden and my opinion remains unchanged having seem it in person.
The plants are generally spiky, woody and evergreen, with the emphasis on green. Composed primarily of overlapping textures, form and shadows, the color palette is mostly monochromatic.
My former boss at Wave Hill, John Emanuel, used to say with disdain that perennial gardens "melt" when winter comes and the plants go dormant. He taught me the value of woody plants that outlive us and keep their strong forms all through the year.
It's plenty obvious that I have a weakness for flowers, but it's certainly easy to grasp the strength of this garden's bold statement which scarcely relies on bloom.
A garden full of flowers has you staring down at the plants the whole time. A garden like this compels you to look up, full of wonder, to see tall trees and other plant shapes framing the sky, providing awareness of your place in the universe and connection to something much larger than yourself.