Friday, February 28, 2014

Totally Texas -- Spring begins with daffodils

Mrs. Lee’s Daffodil Garden

Smith County Road 3103, Gladewater


“Whatever the date, the first day of spring for me is the day when the early trumpet daffodil blooms,” garden designer Elizabeth Lawrence wrote in A Southern Garden.

And so it is for me. Sure, there’s a vase of lemon-scented winter honeysuckle on my office table, scarlet flowering quince outside the window, cherries blooming at the nearby Dallas Arboretum. But show me the daffodils!  So I’ve been anxiously calling the number for Mrs. Lee’s Daffodil Garden in East Texas, hoping for word that the blooms are out. This week, instead of a sad recording about bad weather, a pleasant voice at the other end of the line informed me that the gardens are now open for viewing.

Of course, calling the late Helen Lee’s millions of blooms a garden is a bit like calling Dallas a little town on the prairie.

Four miles of graded roadway wind up hill and down through acres of blooms. Mrs. Lee began the garden fifty years ago by planting an entire boxcar load of daffodil bulbs on the land she and her husband had bought near the small East Texas town of Gladewater. And as daffodils do, the bulbs have multiplied. Several varieties of yellow and white daffodils spread the bloom period from February into mid-March.

Along the one-way, one-lane road, several designated parking areas allow drivers to get out and even closer to the flowers. Discreet signs ask visitors not to walk on or sit on the flowers. But daffodils’ clumping habit leaves room to walk among them to admire and take the requisite pictures of kids among the blooms.

There’s room in the parking areas to spread a picnic. The only other amenities are portable toilets at the gardens’ small lakes and cabin about halfway through the trail’s length. Luckily, there’s a gas station complex at the junction of I-20 and Texas Highway 270 before you head down a few miles of country roads to the gardens. A prominent sign marks the turn from Highway 270 to the first county road, with additional signs along the way.

While the daffodils are in bloom, Mrs. Lee’s Garden is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s free, but the nonprofit organization running the garden appreciates donations, which you may leave at the entry gate. The dirt road through the gardens is not accessible in wet weather, so if there’s a forecast for rain, call 903-845-5780 to be sure they’re open.

For more information, pictures, maps, and the history of Mrs. Lee’s garden, see

And while you’re near Gladewater, check out the town’s historic downtown, North Main Street, three blocks off old U.S. Highway 80 for antique shops and restaurants.

(Next Friday -- Staying in town for spring break? Stay tuned for suggestions for all ages!)

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