Tyler, Texas Botanical Gardens

March 26th, 2023 by

It’s no coincidence that Tyler, Texas, is called the Rose Capital of the World. In fact, our city is responsible for handling 75% of all roses in the United States and is also home to the nation’s largest rose garden. In today’s post, we’ll discuss everything about the Tyler Rose Garden, including tours, events, and exhibits — enjoy.

What Is the Tyler Rose Garden?

The Tyler Rose Garden is a 14-acre garden with thousands of rose bushes and flowers. This garden is also home to the Tyler Botanical Garden, which consists of three other gardens: the Heritage Rose Garden, the Shade Garden, and the IDEA Garden. In other words, not only can visitors enjoy the roses of the Tyler Rose Garden, but they can also enjoy the wonders of the flowers and plants of the Tyler Botanical Garden at the south end of this unique location.

Tyler Rose Garden

The land on which the garden is located was originally purchased by the City of Tyler in 1912 for a recreational park and fairgrounds. Then, in 1938, Dr. Horace McFarland, director of the American Rose Society, submitted an application to the Works Project Administration (WPA) requesting funds for the construction of a municipal rose garden. This application was accepted, and a federal grant of $181,255 was issued. The grant was used to construct a balcony, stone picnic pavilion, stairs, and several garden features.

WPA landscape architect Keith Maxwell then drafted the plans for the rose garden, which were later revised by Henry Thompson, a local nurseryman who was killed in World War II and to whom the park was eventually dedicated. Work on the garden was interrupted by the war, but when it resumed, Robert Shelton, Jr. saw to its completion.

Before it opened, the soil was completely transformed because roses and most flowers don’t grow in red clay soil. The Tyler Rose Garden officially opened in 1952, and thanks to the more than 3,000 rose bushes donated by local nurseries, the Tyler rose industry grew exponentially. Today, the garden is recognized by the American Planning Association as one of Texas’ greatest public spaces and by the National Register of Historic Places as a national treasure.

The Heritage Rose Garden

The Heritage Rose Garden was a sensory garden established by the Tyler Lions Club in the 1970s. Then in 1986, the Gertrude Windsor Garden Club took ownership of the garden and changed its purpose to a garden of historic roses in a landscape setting. It was in 1993 that the Smith County Gardener volunteers offered their help and became partners in the Heritage Rose Garden, later to become the primary and sole caretakers.

This garden is a display of the antique roses and southern heirloom plants that our ancestors grew in their gardens. Like native plants, antique roses are disease-resistant and easier to grow and propagate than modern and hybrid roses. To preserve and pay homage to the era of antique roses, caretakers allow them to grow into large bushes with minimal pruning. The Gertrude Windsor Garden Club continues to support the Heritage Rose Garden by welcoming visitors to the Tyler Botanical Garden Arbor.

The Shade Garden

With numerous picnic tables and benches, a bubbling fountain, and thousands of azaleas and camellias, the Shade Garden is the largest of the three displays. It offers a relaxing and serene atmosphere where you and your loved ones can escape the world for a few hours.

The Shade Garden — originally called the Camellia Garden in 1960 — is a 2-acre space that houses a wide selection of woody shrubs, Japanese maples, herbaceous perennials, camellias, and azaleas. This garden was designed and planted by the Tyler Camellia Society — hence its original name. However, in the early 2000s, the Smith County Master Gardeners conducted trials of shade plants in beds called the Shade Garden, and that’s where the current name comes from.

What makes this garden even more impressive and magical is that you can visit it any time of year, as the plants and trees bloom in different seasons. November and early December is the best time to see the Japanese maples at their peak; from late fall to early spring, you’ll see the camellias in full bloom; and from late March to early April, you can enjoy the beauty of the azaleas.

The IDEA Garden

Established in 1999, the IDEA Garden is a thinking ground designed to provide an enjoyable experience for the casual visitor and to inspire innovative ideas for seasonal homeowners to use in their gardens. It was created by Keith Hansen, former Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist, and Sue Adee, a Smith County master gardener. The name IDEA stands for Innovate, Demonstrate, Educate, and Apply.

The IDEA Garden is a multifunctional garden that resembles a typical backyard and features more than six hundred varieties of trees, grasses, flowers, ground covers, and shrubs. Some of these plants are modern or hybrids, but they’re all well adapted to the East Texas area, so they tend to resist disease and grow taller and bigger than non-native species.

This garden has benches and a pergola so that, as in the Shade Garden, visitors can enjoy the striking landscape that has been created. The IDEA Garden is also a nationally recognized site, having won the Search for Excellence Award from the International Master Gardener Conference.

Events and Tours

The Tyler Rose Garden hosts five annual events:

  • Tyler Azalea and Spring Flower Trail (late March through early April).
  • Rose Sunday Celebration (last Sunday in April).
  • First Tuesday in the Garden Series (September through November).
  • Bulbs to Blooms Sale and Conference (October).
  • Texas Rose Festival (October).

The Smith County Master Gardeners are available to conduct tours of both the Tyler Rose Garden and the Tyler Botanical Garden for groups of 10 or more. Reservations can be made by email with 30 days’ notice. Please note that due to the construction of the Rose Complex Master Plan, hours change frequently; however, the garden is open from sunrise to sunset and is free to the public.

We hope this post has inspired you to visit one of our most treasured places in the city. At Classic Toyota, our mission is to provide our community with all the information they need to make their time in Tyler the best it can be. For the best automotive service in the area, don’t hesitate to contact our team.


Tyler Rose Garden 2 by formulanone is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0

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