Azaleas and Spring Treats
By Rick Stryker
GARDEN VARIETY: East Texas bursts forth in spring blooms that can be appreciated from curbside or sidewalk at any time, or during special events in communities like Tyler and Nacogdoches. Courtesy Ronald Rang
The charm of Tyler's historic residential districts is worth experiencing any time of the year. The Brick Streets Historic District encompasses 29 blocks of mid-19th-century to mid-20th-century residential, commercial and institutional development. The Charnwood Residential Historic District encompasses 12 blocks of late 19th century and early 20th-century residential development. And the Azalea District is Tyler’s largest residential concentration of early to mid-20th-century dwellings.
In the spring, when the Azalea & Spring Flower Trail partially goes through these districts, the experience is exceptional. The region’s oil booms have provided resources to build magnificent and varied structures and neighborhoods, but the devotion to ornamental horticulture, especially roses and azaleas, has given Tyler its signature reputation for beauty. It’s remarkable that this reputation has been earned through the individual efforts of homeowners since the 1930s. In fact, the Chamber of Commerce recognized this phenomena by establishing a marked five-mile route initially featuring 60 homes.
In 2017 the 58th Annual Azalea & Spring Flower Trail features many miles of gardens and a plethora of community events. The official greeters of the Azalea Trail are Azalea Belles, young women who dress in antebellum gowns and are chosen from high school and home school families.
Azalea & Spring Garden Trail: Tyler Convention & Visitors Bureau; 315 N. Broadway; (800) 235-5712; visittyler.com; visittyler.com/azaleatrail
Nacogdoches Azalea Trail and the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden Nacogdoches is located in an area inhabited by Caddo Indians as early as A.D. 1250 and is the site of the earliest European settlement in Texas. In 1779 Don Antonio Gil Y’Barbo established the community near the site of an abandoned mission, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de los Nacogdoches, built by the Franciscan Antonio Margil de Jesús in 1716.
Nacogdoches is designated the Garden Capital of Texas, with 15 noteworthy gardens among its local offerings. Of particular note, the eight-acre Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden is the largest such garden in the state. Located on the campus of Stephen F. Austin University, the public garden, built between 1997 and 2001, features 7,000 azaleas and 300 camellias, hundreds of varieties of Japanese maples and hydrangeas, and 400 rare ornamental trees and shrubs. The project, headed by the university’s Mast Arboretum, receives assistance from the Azalea Society of America, the City of Nacogdoches and nurserymen across the South.
BRIGHT SPOT: Visitors stroll through the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden. Courtesy Bruce Partain
Each spring the devotion of local homeowners to the Garden Capital of Texas designation is reflected by the Nacogdoches Azalea Trail. Three self-guided driving routes cover 25 miles of residential streets and are divided into trails named for the azaleas they feature, including the Southern Inca Trail, the Evergreen Azalea Trail and the Fashion Azalea Trail. Each trail begins at the Charles Bright Visitor Center located at 200 E. Main St. in the heart of the charming Downtown Historic District.
Along with the Nacogdoches Azalea Trail, guided tours of the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden are offered every Saturday afternoon along with a variety of special events during the Azalea Trail season.
Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau; nacogdochesazaleas.com; 200 E. Main St.; (888) 564-735; visitnacogdoches.org
OTHER SPRING TRAILS:
79th Annual Dogwood Trails Festival: Davey Dogwood Park Palestine, TX 75803; (800) 659-3484; Last two weekends in March and the first weekend in April; visitpalestine.com
82nd Azalea Trail: River Oaks Garden Club; 2503 Westheimer Rd.; Houston, TX 77098 (713) 523-2483
From the Spring 2017 issue of Authentic Texas magazine.