Friday, February 22, 2013

Totally Texas -- A host of golden daffodils

Mrs. Lee’s Daffodil Garden

Smith County Road 3103

Gladewater, Texas


The modest listing near the back of a magazine intrigued me: Millions of daffodils, just south of Gladewater. As many trips as I’d made to East Texas and I’d never heard of this?

The website said the garden was open around mid-February through March “or until the daffodils are no longer in bloom.” Even though daffs were barely in bloom in my Dallas neighborhood, the recorded message I got at (903) 845-5780 said the gates were open. So I went.

About two hours east of Dallas, and a few miles down unpromising-looking county roads, I found them -- graceful yellow blooms so abundant I could believe the claim of “millions.” They covered the East Texas hills in multi-acre sheets.

The winding dirt road through the garden seemed longer than its four miles, because I drove at a walking pace, not wanting to miss any of the scene. Several designated parking areas let drivers get out for even closer looks. Although discreet signs ask visitors not to walk or sit on the flowers, the bulbs’ clumping trait leaves room to walk and take pictures, including the requisite “baby in the flowers” photos.

As in any outdoor area, keep an eye out for less than friendly critters before seating your children. However, what I saw looked pristine -- not so much as an ant bed.

To make the garden -- actually part of a nearly 1,000 farm -- more picturesque, the late Mrs. Helen Lee and her husband built a log cabin on a hill overlooking a lake converted from a gravel pit. Walking paths around the cabin take visitors across bridges over the small “Lake Josephine,” named for Mrs. Lee’s mother.

The garden really is all about the flowers -- parking spots have room to spread a picnic, but the only amenities are portable toilets near the cabin, about halfway along the trail’s length. Luckily, there’s a gas station complex a few miles away, where visitors from the metroplex will turn off I-20 onto Texas Highway 271. A prominent sign marks the turn from 271 onto the first county road, with supplemental signs along the way.

Mrs. Lee’s daffodils are free, although the foundation that now supports them appreciates donations. During bloom season, the garden’s gates are open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Allow at least half an hour for the drive and a picture stop or two. Trails in the garden are not accessible for wheelchairs or strollers, but there’s plenty to see just from car windows. For detailed directions, see

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