Keepin' Tyler Rosy

The Texas Story Project.

Tyler rose garden
A beautiful rose garden in Tyler.

No other town in Texas lays claim to a budding heritage quite like Tyler’s. Tucked serenely in the Piney Woods, Tyler is home to some of the state’s most bountiful rose gardens, including the largest municipal rose garden in the country. With 32,000 blooming bushes in 600 varieties just in this one garden, it’s not hard to see why Tyler is known as the “Rose Capital of America.” However, Tyler wasn’t always known for its roses.

In the 1900s, fruit orchards became increasingly important to the area. There were more than one million fruit trees, mainly peach, in the county. When a peach blight wiped out much of the fruit industry, many farmers turned to growing roses, which proved ideally suited to the climate and soil of the Tyler area. By the 1920s, the rose industry had developed into a major business, and by the 1940s, more than half the U.S. supply of rose bushes was grown within ten miles of Tyler.

In 1933, the flourishing rose business gave rise to the Tyler Rose Festival. It was first organized by Tyler Garden Club members, local rose growers, and the Chamber of Commerce to showcase the importance of the rose industry to Tyler. The first festival was such a success that the organizers decided to make it an annual event, and in 1936, during the Texas Centennial, it was renamed the Texas Rose Festival.

Today, the Texas Rose Festival takes place every October and attracts thousands of visitors who gather to enjoy the parade and rose show and to meet the Rose Queen and her court who wear lavish gowns and costumes custom-designed each year to fit the theme of the festival. The event has blossomed into a month-long affair called Rose Season, during which Tyler celebrates the budding bed of roses with horticulture workshops, garden tours, community events, and other festivities.

The rose industry is still booming in Tyler. In 2014, two of Tyler’s oldest rose businesses, Certified Roses Inc. and Sexton Nurseries, joined forces to become one of the nation’s largest rose producers. A master plan for renovations to the Tyler Rose Garden was approved, which includes creating social areas, complying with American with Disabilities Act, adding restroom facilities within the garden, adding a café and areas for children, and converting the queen’s court into an amphitheater for concerts.

Take time to stop and smell the roses in Tyler!

Holli Conley, CTE, TDM, is an East Texas native who likes to spend her time keepin’ Tyler rosy as the Assistant Vice President of Marketing for the Tyler Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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