East Texas is home to spectacular gardens that are some of the best of their kind in the nation.
The Tyler Rose Garden, The Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden and Mrs. Lee's Daffodil Garden each attract thousands of visitors who marvel at nature's display of beauty.
And perhaps best of all, the gardens are free and open to the public for all to enjoy.
Tyler Rose Garden
By the early 1900s, Tyler had staked its claim as Rose Capital of America because most rose bushes in the United States were being grown in the area.
The city, with the help of growers, created the rose garden in the early 1950s as a must-see destination for rose lovers.
Covering 14 acres, the garden is the largest city rose garden in the nation. Thousands of visitors come each year to marvel at the beauty produced by 40,000 blooming rose bushes spanning 500 varieties of roses.
Also along the garden's paths are fountains, gazebos and smaller specialty gardens.
The garden is most spectacular from spring to fall when the roses are in bloom and fill the terraced landscape with color and an unmistakable fresh fragrance. Each October, the garden creates a picture-perfect setting for the popular Rose Queen's Tea, one of the events of the Texas Rose Festival.
Smaller gardens are tucked along the outer areas of the rose garden and are worth exploring. The Heritage Rose and Sensory Garden features more than 50 varieties of heritage roses and many perennials. The IDEA Garden displays new and under-utilized plants that grow well in East Texas.
The meditation garden has pools and a wooden gazebo. In the Vance Burks Memorial Camellia Garden, trees provide a shade for large camellias. Nearby, the East Texas Daylily Society maintains daylily beds.
The adjacent Rose Garden Center houses the Tyler Rose Museum and a gift shop.
Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden
Nacogdoches is home to the eight-acre Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden. Located on the eastern side of the Stephen F. Austin State University campus, the eight-acre garden holds the distinction of being the largest azalea garden in Texas.
The Azalea Society of America and area nurseries provided many of the original plants that were on view when the garden was dedicated in 2000.
The 46 beds contain about 6,500 azaleas, 200 camellias, 200 varieties of Japanese maples, 180 varieties of hydrangea and 400 ornamental trees and shrubs.
The university also has the Mast Arboretum, Pineywoods Native Plant Center, Gayla Mize Garden, Kingham Children’s Garden and SFA Recreational Trails and Gardens.
The Azalea Society of America has designated Nacogdoches as an Azalea City of America and the state legislature has designated the city as the Garden Capital of Texas.
Mrs. Lee's Daffodil Garden
Mrs. Lee's Daffodil Garden near Gladewater attracts visitors who come to see its rolling hills covered with millions of daffodils.
It is a sight that leaves people in awe.
The garden sits on property owned by the estate of the late oilman T.W. Lee and his wife, Helen, off U.S. Highway 271 between Tyler and Gladewater.
In 1954, Mrs. Lee purchased a boxcar of daffodil bulbs from Holland and had them planted on 28 acres. She also had a replica of a one-room pioneer log cabin built overlooking one of two lakes.
Each February and March, the daffodils turn the hills into a sea of yellow.
When Mrs. Lee died in 1984, she bequeathed that the garden be opened to the public during the blooming season.