In the 1970’s the Tyler Lions Club developed an acre in the southwest corner of the Tyler Rose Garden into the Sensory Perception Garden for the Blind. This garden included several old garden roses for their exceptional fragrance. In 1986 the Gertrude Windsor Garden Club adopted the area to educate the public about antique roses. For fourteen years the club highlighted heritage roses in a landscape setting, along with shrubs, herbs, bulbs, ornamental grasses, perennials, and annuals. They designed and built a lovely arbor with a bench overlooking the garden in honor of their founder, Gertrude Windsor. Large Muskogee crapemyrtles created a defined backdrop for this popular corner of the rose garden.
In 1993 the Smith County Master Gardeners became partners with the Gertrude Windsor Garden Club, Dr. Brent Pemberton formerly of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton, and the Tyler Rose Garden to maintain the Heritage Rose Garden. In 2006 the Master Gardeners took over the ongoing maintenance and funding of the Heritage Rose Garden featuring antique roses and other companion plants found on early Texas homesteads.
The current vision for the Heritage Rose Garden is a beautiful old-fashioned cottage garden displaying antique roses and true Southern heirloom plants that would have grown in our grandmothers’ and their grandmothers’ gardens. Included are “Texas Tough” pass-a-long perennials, heirloom bulbs, and reseeding old-fashioned annuals. The roses will be allowed to grow just as they grew in early Texas gardens into large shrubs with only minimal pruning. Plants will be pesticide free and will only be irrigated once a week in June, July, and August. Antique roses are survivors because they are tough and not demanding of attention, pesticides, or irrigation.
In the last several years, two new beds were added that feature collections of true tea roses (Rosa x odorata cultivars) and China roses (Rosa chinensis cultivars) both parents of modern hybrid tea roses. In addition, those antique roses designated as Earth-Kind® roses or Texas Superstars® by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service have also been featured. Unfortunately, most of the roses froze to the snow line during the devastating 2021 freeze and are in the process of recovering.
The Gertrude Windsor Garden club continues to collaborate with the Smith County Master Gardeners to provide upgrades to the garden including the beautiful wrought iron arch at the entrance.
The Smith County Master Gardeners are volunteers trained by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to provide horticultural education and information to the citizens of Smith County. They volunteer in the Heritage Rose Garden each Tuesday morning.
The Shade Garden, IDEA Garden, and Heritage Rose Garden are all part of the Tyler Botanical Garden located within the Tyler Rose Garden which is free to the public and is open seven days a week. If you would like to make donations to the upkeep or development of the Heritage Rose Garden, contact the Smith County Master Gardener Help Desk at 903-590-2994.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is author of Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Heirloom Gardening in the South, and The Rose Rustlers. You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com, read his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com), or follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens.” More science-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggieturf.tamu.edu and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.