DescriptionThe Tyler Municipal Rose Garden in Tyler, Texas, is the nation’s oldest and largest municipal garden. The garden features more than 38,000 bushes, and 600 cultivars, spanning 14 acres of beautifully manicured grounds. It is open year round and free to the public with approximately 200,000 visitors annually.
Following a failed peach crop in early 1900’s, roses were chosen by East Texas farmers because of Tyler’s desirable climate and soil conditions. By the 1920’s, roses were a major industry, and by 1940’s, more than half of the US rose supply was grown within 10 miles of Tyler.
The development of the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden began in 1938 as a project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Upon graduation from what would develop into the school of Landscape Architecture at Cornell University, Laura and Henry Thompson were enticed to come to Tyler, Texas and join Allen Hills to collaborate on the design of a municipal garden with the backing of the WPA. Laura, the first female landscape architecture graduate of Cornell, found herself immersed in the design of what would become the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden. Based on European garden design with emphasis on symmetry and manicured green space, the trio began the plans and at the same time started a nursery business. The winds of WWII interrupted the design plans and installation for the municipal garden. Sadly, Henry Thompson did not return from active duty as a pilot in the war. The business relationship did continue between Laura Thompson and Allen Hills as designers and landscape suppliers to complete what is known as the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden in 1952.
Tyler Municipal Rose Garden is appealing to both local residents and visitors. It offers outstanding educational programs for gardeners and inspirational opportunities for photographers. A favorite and very popular part of the property is the Heritage Rose and Sensory Garden, which is an old fashioned garden with over 30 varieties of antique roses dating from 1867 and many Southern heirloom plants. In the 1970’s the Tyler Lions Club developed the Sensory Perception Garden for the blind on an acre of the property. In 1986, the Gertrude Windsor Garden Club adopted the area to showcase and educate the public about antique roses, and a bench and arbor were built in honor of the founder of their club, Gertrude Windsor. In 2017, the Gertrude Windsor Garden Club partnered with Historic Tyler, Inc., to hand clean and repair the historic brick arch that was the original North entrance to the garden. In addition to the preservation of the brick arch, new horticultural plantings were installed to enhance this landscape feature. Roses, holly trees, and boxwood were placed with an artistic eye to draw garden visitors to the original entrance. Garden benches were donated and installed to allow visitors to view the entire garden from the high point in the landscape and review the plaques denoting the history of the garden. In 2021, the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden was awarded a Restoration Fund Grant through the submission of the the grant request by the Gertrude Windsor Garden Club from the Garden Club of America. Funds were requested to repair horticulture damage sustained in this part of the garden from Superstorm URI in the winter of 2021.
The unique, award winning, IDEA demonstration and educational garden is designed for gardeners looking for inspiration and is a project of the the Smith County Master Gardeners. The Vance Bucks Memorial Camellia Garden, Edna Lankart Daylily Collection, and the Meditation Garden near the reflection pools are also favorite spots. There are many beautiful walkways, water features, and other charming details that adorn the property.
The Tyler Rose Museum sits adjacent to the Rose Garden and houses documents and memorabilia sharing the history of the rose growing industry in East Texas and the Texas Rose Festival, which is an annual event, held every October. The Texas Rose Festival showcases the importance of the rose industry to Tyler. During the festival, the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden hosts the Queen of the Rose Festival, her ladies in waiting and out of town duchesses, in their exquisite costumes, for an outdoor tea party. Open to the public, the Texas Rose Festival welcomes the Tyler community and out of town visitors to the Queen’s Tea for a beautiful afternoon celebration.
The Tyler Municipal Rose Garden has been designated a National Treasure on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019, listed on Livability.com’s top most inspiring gardens in the USA, and is a 2023 Lone Star Legacy Park award recipient.
The expert and dedicated staff, Smith County Master Gardeners, local garden clubs and community support are an integral part of the success and growth of the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden.
The city of Tyler invites you to … “Stop and Smell the Roses” in our beautiful municipal Rose Garden, Rose Capital of America!