The Tyler Botanical Garden (located within the Tyler Rose Garden) is home to three unique gardens, all designed, funded, and maintained by the Smith County Master Gardeners.

The IDEA Garden was the 1996 brainchild of former Smith County horticulturist Keith Hansen and the late Sue Adee, Master Gardener extraordinaire. Keith wanted a garden in a backyard setting which would give visitors ideas to incorporate into their own home landscapes.

This was a daunting project because the area for the garden was a waste area and did not have soil suitable for growing plants. All the soil had been removed during the 2nd World War and used to build a football stadium nearby. In 1952, the City of Tyler started using the space as a dumping ground and brought in sludge and other waste material. The first order of business in 1996 was to amend the soil and prepare the area for gardening. All this took several years, and it was not until 1999 that the garden was completed. An acronym for Innovate-Demonstrate-Educate-Apply, this demonstration garden was dedicated in 1999 and expanded in 2001. This garden has received many awards, including the Search for Excellence Award at the International Master Gardener Conference in 1999.

The IDEA Garden features a “backyard” setting, much like you might find at any suburban residence. Located in the southeast corner of the Tyler Rose Garden, this all-volunteer display garden is designed to stimulate ideas for use in average homeowners’ gardens. At the front of the garden, a large perennial display presents year-round color. Backed with a black metal fence and arbors, the border display is only a prelude to the garden. The 10,000-square-foot IDEA Garden offers a tranquil setting, designed for the serious gardener seeking new ideas or for the enjoyment of the casual visitor or tourist. A pergola and benches welcome visitors to sit and savor the garden’s beauty.

The garden features hundreds of varieties of ornamental plants. Some are new or currently under-utilized, but all are adapted to the East Texas area. Also featured are new plant promotions and plants being tested and evaluated for use in our region. One entire area showcases those plants designated by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service as Texas Superstars.

The IDEA Garden features a simple three-bin composting system that can be easily constructed and provides a reminder to recycle organic materials and keep them out of landfills. The IDEA Garden is also an official Monarch Butterfly Waystation. Since the garden is maintained with an environmentally friendly Earth-Kind touch, it is also a great place to see many other pollinators and beneficial insects.

A beautiful bronze statue, entitled “A Woman’s Touch” is in the garden as a tribute to the late Sue Adee. Adee was in the first Smith County Master Gardener Class in 1994 and was the first president of the organization she helped create.


Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. He is the 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, his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine ( or follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens.” More research-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at and