Feb 07, 2012 12:07PM
● By Mike
Tyler Texas - Rose Capital of the Nation
From the anonymous sing-song verse of our youth, “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you,” to the immortal words of Robert Burns, “O, my luve’s like a red, red rose, that’s newly sprung in June,” the exquisite flower has been immortalized throughout time as a symbol of ever-lasting love. So, it’s no wonder that the heart of any woman skips a beat when presented with a dozen long-stemmed beauties. According to the legends of Roman mythology, the red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty.
Just a short drive from Southlake, around 99 miles or so, lays the East Texas city of Tyler, the county seat of Smith County. Tyler, affectionately known as the “Rose Capital of the Nation,” has grown from its humble beginnings on a hilltop in 1846 into a prosperous city with the charm and friendliness of small town America.
From Peaches to Oil to Roses
The sandy soil of East Texas combined with the year-round rainfall and moderate climate made Tyler a hub of agricultural activity for fruits, vegetables and flowering plants since before the Civil War. By 1900 Tyler and the surrounding area in Smith County was home to more than one million fruit trees, mainly the delicious peach. After a peach blight in the early 1900s decimated the county’s fruit industry area farmers began cultivating the fragrant rose, which was ideally suited to the growing conditions in Tyler.
The rose industry became a major business by the 1920s and after 20 more years passed more than half of the U.S. supply of rose bushes were being grown in and around Tyler. The oil business also sustained Tyler throughout the Depression after the economic boon that came with the discovery of the East Texas oilfield around 1930. After numerous oil companies and field developers brought their office to Tyler the city burgeoned into an important regional center for the oil and gas industry. From the scent of the peach blossoms to the black gold of the oilfield to the millions of rose bushes permeating the air with fragrance, the vibrant Texas soil has been generously giving back to the city of Tyler.
The Texas Rose Festival
According to the folks at the Tyler Rose Museum, members of the City’s Garden Club are credited with promoting a festival to showcase the rose industry in their town. With the rose growers, the Chamber of Commerce, and the town leaders working together it was the year 1933 when thousands of people first made their way to Tyler to visit the lovely town known for its colorful blooms. Ever since that first festival, the long-standing tradition has been held every year (with the exception of the World War II) bringing visitors from across the nation and around the world. The Rose Queen that first year was Margaret Copeland of Palestine, Texas but every Rose Queen since then has hailed from Tyler where little girls grow up with the dream of wearing the coveted crown.
The Rose Queen and her court, wearing extravagant gowns often designed around the theme of the year’s festival, are at the center of many of the annual events. For three days visitors are treated to a number of community wide happenings all planned to honor the Rose. The Rose Queen and her court are chosen by the President of the Texas Rose Festival Association who works within the organization for 4 years before ascending to the role of President. Each festival is the culmination of an entire year’s planning with long hours of work by hundred of volunteers. The theme for 2012 is The Grand Illusion and the dates have been set for October 18th through the 20th.
The Coronation is a not-to-be-missed experience with lavish gowns of every imaginable color culminating with the crowning of a new Queen and a spectacular crown rivaling that of Queen Elizabeth. The royal train placed on the Queen’s shoulders trails behind her endlessly with colors and patterns that will literally take your breath away. The Queen’s Tea is a favorite celebration, taking place in the municipal rose garden offering an opportunity for the public to mingle with the royal court in an enchanted setting. When we asked Mayor Barbara Bass to tell us her favorite event of the festival, she replied, “I enjoy the coronation and the Queen’s Tea. My favorite part is the Rose Parade that showcases the court as well as many community organizations.”
The Rose Parade takes place on the Saturday morning of the festival and meanders its way from the starting point on Fifth Street until it concludes in the Rose Stadium. The bands march along the parade route lined with people tapping their toes to the music while floats reminiscent of the Rose Parade in California move along graciously carrying the Queen and her court while other creative floats showcase local groups. Visitors can also enjoy the Palette of Roses Art Show, and hundreds of stunning floral arrangements at the Rose Show along with various other activities.
This elegant and beautiful community event has people returning year after year to take part in the magic. Imagine the intoxicating aroma resulting from the combination of the hundreds of thousands of roses in the displays at the Rose Show, the multi-colored varieties growing in the manicured beds in the Rose Garden and the thousands of rose bushes swaying in the gentle breeze over hundred of acres of rose fields.
From Buds to Bouquets
As anyone who has planted a single rose bush in their yard knows, cultivating roses is a time-consuming, painstaking task. Multiply that times millions of bushes and you begin to understand the complexity of maintaining hundreds of acres of rose production fields. The production cycle of a rose plant is two years from the preparation of the land to the mature crop that follows in the second autumn. With the detail involved and the skill required to coax beautiful blooms from the ground rose production can be both a time and cost intensive undertaking.
According to Texas A&M rose production has stabilized at around 5 million plants per year grown on approximately 500 acres within a 30 mile radius of Tyler by fewer than 25 growers. Most of the industry still consists of family owned businesses. The Texas Comptroller’s office states that about one-fifth of all commercial rose bushes produced in the U.S. are grown in Smith County, while more than half of the nation’s rose bushes are packaged and shipped from this area. The total wholesale value of the rose plant production and processing industries in the Upper East Texas region is currently estimated at $50 million per year, about a third of the estimated $150 million per year in ornamental plant production found in and around Tyler.
With the impact the rose industry has on Tyler, it isn’t surprising that Tyler is home to the nation’s largest rose garden. The Tyler Municipal Rose Garden is a 14-acre park, home to nearly 40,000 rose bushes representing at least 500 different varieties. From late April until Mid-November the garden blooms with beauty attracting more than 100,000 people annually for all corners of the world. In Mid-October, the Rose Garden becomes a key focal point of the annual Texas Rose Festival. Every year new events are added to the festivities. Mayor Bass commented, “Now that the Rose Festival has expanded into a three week event, Rose Season, I love the new events such as the Rose Marathon and the Festival on the Square Texas Music Concert.”
Beyond the Blooms
During your visit to Tyler you should also make time to visit the Caldwell Zoo. More than 2,000 animals from 250 species from Africa as well as North and South America call the 85-acre park with its natural habitats home. With a children's petting pen, two aquariums, picnic areas, and a café that overlooks an African savannah the Caldwell Zoo has something for everyone in the family.
Blessed with seemingly unlimited opportunities to enjoy nature, Tyler is also home to Tyler State Park with fishing, camping, boating, swimming, hiking and canoe and paddleboat rental. The 985-acre park wrapped around a spring-fed lake offers a picture-perfect spot for relaxation and a scenic break from the everyday hassles of life.
Full of natural beauty you don’t have to wait until the Rose Festival to visit Tyler and experience the charm the city has to offer. This year marks the 53rd annual Azalea and Spring Flower Trail beginning March 23rd and continuing through April 8th. This annual display is a floral delight full of azaleas, dogwoods and spring flowers lining an eight-mile trail along the red-bricked streets of Tyler. Stroll the beautiful gardens of old plantation homes where Azalea Belles chosen from local community young ladies and dressed in authentic southern belle style stand ready to welcome you and share their knowledge of the historic homesteads.
Tyler is truly a city of natural beauty inviting you to take a little time to literally “stop
and smell the roses.”