As winter gradually gives way to spring, thoughts turn to gardening, emerging flowers and spending more time outdoors. What better way to enjoy the bounties of Mother Nature than a trip to a garden or arboretum?
East Texas is blessed to have an abundance of such outdoor venues to enjoy, but visiting one in particular should be on everyone’s garden bucket list.
Also on my short list of favorite gardens are two outside of East Texas that are worth the trip to visit.
Each of these garden beauties has a claim to fame and an outstanding reputation.
Tyler Rose Garden
Opened in 1952, the Tyler Rose Garden is the largest city-owned rose garden in the country. It boasts having more than 600 varieties or roses and over 32,000 bushes producing roses of every color imaginable.
The varieties of roses found include antique or heritage roses, hybrid tea roses, miniatures, floribundas, grandifloras and shrub-type roses.
From mid-April to mid-June and again from mid-October until the first frost of the season, you will find most of the flowers in its over 14 acres of terraced rose beds in full bloom.
The smaller gardens within the Rose Garden grounds include the Meditation Garden, which features three ponds with Japanese koi. A lovely Amish-built bridge spans one of the small ponds.
The Shade Garden has many varieties of Japanese maple trees and is a pleasant spot to sit back and reflect on life.
Walking trails lead visitors to the Camellia Garden and the many fountains and other water features dotted throughout the complex.
People travel from all over the world every year to photograph and enjoy the Tyler Rose Garden.
While visiting the garden, take time to see the Tyler Rose Museum, located within the Rose Garden Center, which overlooks the garden.
The museum displays rose queen gowns and other items from the Texas Rose Festival held every October. Vintage photographs show early rose queens wearing the beaded gowns that are now on view in the museum.
The four-day Texas Rose Festival celebrates the flower that made Tyler famous. Events include the Rose Queen’s Coronation, a large parade, the Queen’s Tea held in the Rose Garden and the Rose Show in Rose Garden Center.
Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum
Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Matthaei Botanic Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are treasures maintained by the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan.
One of the most famous areas in the 700-acre complex is the Peony Gardens. Featuring over 350 historic varieties, the garden produces up to 10,000 peony blooms at its peak. It is the largest heirloom herbaceous peony garden in North America.
Started in 1922, with donated flowers, the garden opened to the public in 1927. Many of the original peonies are still thriving.
Strolling among the incredible beauties is a favorite rite of late spring for many visitors. Walking trails, including some that are wheelchair accessible, crisscross through the complex.
A hike alongside the part of the Huron River or its branch, Fleming Creek, that runs through the complex, is a treat any time.
While strolling on the Fleming Creek Trail, you might encounter deer, geese, ducks and other wildlife. The ecosystems within the complex include woodlands, prairie and wetlands and serve as excellent examples of the rich biodiversity of Southeastern Michigan.
The conservatory houses an impressive collection of tropical plants, including many species of orchids and bromeliads. An entire section is devoted to desert plants.
Green Bay Botanical Garden
This 47-acre Green Bay Botanical Garden is a wonder in every season. Since opening in 1996, the garden has garnered the support of over 500 volunteers. Their dedication and love for their work shows in every corner of this Green Bay, Wisconsin, jewel.
From koi ponds tucked in a flush of irises and native stone to an amazing collection of daylilies, this garden has surprises around every curve of its many winding trails.
Whimsical touches are every where. Unexpected statuary peek from behind clumps of trees or bushes. Tunnels of vines and plenty of places to sit make this a quiet retreat in the middle of a city.
The garden even has a "necessary facility" that resembles a hobbit house! Yes, you can duck into the hillside, just like Bilbo! The garden even features a living flower kaleidoscope.
Tamra Bolton is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in East Texas.