Students develop proposal for
sustaining Peckerwood Garden


A proposal aimed at providing sustained financial security for a place one lifestyle magazine writer called "one of the world's great gardens" has been created by students in the Master of Science in Land Development program at Texas A&M.

The 40-acre Peckerwood Garden near Hempstead, Texas, established 39 years ago by John Fairey, a Texas A&M architecture professor, is a repository for more than 3,000 varieties of rare and unusual plants from Mexico, Asia and the United States.

"Part conservation project, part laboratory, it has quite literally changed the face of American gardening," wrote Deborah Nevins about Peckerwood in the March 2004 issue of Departures magazine.

The garden is also home to a superb collection of Mexican folk art Fairey acquired during his many plant and seed-gathering expeditions to Mexico.

Though Fairey has offered his garden and art collection as a gift to Texas A&M University, the university has been reluctant to accept it because of the cost of sustaining it, said Geoffrey Booth, Youngblood Endowed Professor of Land Development and Master of Science in Land Development Program Coordinator, who led the student project.
"Students conceptualized, designed, and structured a development proposal that could provide financial security to the garden, diversify the use of the site while increasing its value, attraction and profile, and enhance the research, teaching and service dividend from the project," said Booth. "It's a proposal that could help Waller County and the Texas A&M conserve and preserve this unique treasure."

The students’ proposal calls for the creation of The Magnolia Event Center, a conference facility that would provide an income stream for the garden by hosting weddings, corporate retreats, proms, birthday celebrations and banquets and could also be used to teach gardening, art and cooking classes through the Texas A&M University System's AgriLife Extension Service.

Students also proposed the establishment of a real estate development, "The Grove at Peckerwood Garden," as part of a fundraising campaign to build the Magnolia Center and contribute to the garden's endowment.

The garden’s foundation, they suggested, could reward the first eight donors contributing $300,000 or more with a life estate and building rights to a single family dwelling pad at the grove, which would be carefully tucked into the dense forest area of the western part of the garden property.

Additional funds could also be raised, said the students, through an expanded onsite nursery.

Students traveled to Peckerwood Gardens July 2 to present its report to Fairey and a number of special guests including Ann Taylor, executive director of the Urban Land Institute, Mark Smith, a Houston-based architect and project director, and Miriam Olivares, a geographic information systems specialist for Evans Library.

The students’ detailed presentation included specifics on market analysis, development entitlement, deal structure and capital campaign, infrastructure and services, design, finance and marketing strategy.

Peckerwood Garden's website can be accessed at

A video about the garden, produced by Austin's PBS affiliate, KLRU, can be viewed on YouTube.

Pam Penick, who operates a landscape design business in Austin, blogged about her trip to the garden at

Deborah Nevin's "Departures" article can be read online at


- Posted: July 12, 2010 -

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Contact:   Phillip Rollfing, or 979.458.0442.


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