Regents award honors
A&M architecture prof

John Fairey’s Peckerwood Garden is
home to many rare, unusual plants

John Fairey, professor in the Department of Architecture at Texas A&M University, recently earned the Regents Professor Service Award, an honor recognizing faculty members who have provided exemplary service to not only the university, but also the community and the state of Texas.

One of Fairey’s most significant contributions is the 19-acre Peckerwood Garden, a collection of over 3,000 plants including many rarities from the Southern United States and Mexico. The professor describes his collection as “an environment that stimulates all of the senses, including the most elusive of all, our sense of time.”

The garden, located near Hempstead, Texas, also serves as a research facility to test the climatic adaptability of plants from around the world. Peckerwood is also the setting for a number of distinctive outdoor sculptures and a collection of folk art from both Mexico and the United States.

“Peckerwood is a garden with a mission to encourage other gardeners to see a beauty in landscape that is consistent with our plants and climate,” Fairey said. “It is a pioneering garden exploring new plants and cultivation methods. It is a garden that looks to the future, not to the past.”

In 1998 the Peckerwood Garden Conservation Foundation, a non-profit organization, was formed to ensure the preservation and development of the garden and its diverse educational and conservation projects. The foundation’s purpose is building Meso-American relations and reestablishing a common heritage that lies in their shared ecological and cultural experience.

Fairey purchased the land that forms the nucleus of what is today Peckerwood Garden in 1971, after coming to A&M in 1964 to teach first-year architectural design. After a tornado destroyed the high canopy of trees on the garden site in 1983, Fairey was provided the opportunity to explore new directions in the garden that better reflected his ideas about space and allowed him to experiment with new plant material.

Today, the garden provides a number of institutions and plant conservancies with a variety of plants. Among them is the University of California-Berkeley’s collection of rare and endangered species. Berkeley’s Meso-American collection consists mainly of plants provided by Peckerwood.

One of many comments in Fairey’s nomination for the Regent’s Professor Award said Peckerwood Garden, “shaped by John’s inquiry and quest, conserves, protects and makes available to the world an important horticultural heritage. This is service of the highest order.”

During his career, Fairey has earned a number of awards for his work with the plants in Peckerwood Garden, many of which were gathered on expeditions into remote areas of Mexico. In 1996, he received the American Horticultural Society’s American Horticulture Award for his explorations of Northeast Mexico.

Other honors Fairey has received include the American Native Landscape Award, the American Institute of Architects’ National Teaching Award and the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award.

Peckerwood Garden is open to the public on select dates between March and October. For directions and more information about Peckerwood, visit the Web site at

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John Fairey

Click picture to visit the Peckerwood Garden Web site.