Friday, March 21, 2014

Totally Texas -- Azaleas & dogwoods & more, oh my!

Betting on when azaleas will bloom is always chancy in Texas springs, but with flowering dogwood and redbud trees, tulips, daffodils and annuals as well as azaleas, there will be plenty to see at the annual Azalea and Spring Flower Trail in the East Texas city of Tyler, about ninety miles east of Dallas off I-20. The festival opens today and lasts through April 6.

Two official flower trails wend for eight miles through the city, beginning at grounds of the 1859 Goodman-LeGrand House & Museum, 624 North Broadway, just north of Tyler’s downtown square.

Drive slowly south, watching for the streetside signs directing visitors along the trails, which meander through several residential neighborhoods. Or download a map as well as a list of events from

For closer viewing, park and walk. When I visited last year, I found streetside parking and streetside flowers plentiful in the well-named Azalea District and Charnwood District (marked by signage). Parking is allowed on all streets except South Broadway. The Azalea Trails brochure lists South College Avenue between Lindsey Lane and Dobbs Street, and Belmont Drive between First and Second Streets as popular parking places.

Azaleas can be slow to open after a cold spring like this year’s. But the showcase gardens, most privately owned, are stuffed with plenty of other blooms as the azaleas prepare to take the stage.

The illustration for this post was taken April 3 of last year at the combined gardens of the Pyron, Edmonds, and Davis families, featured in Southern Living magazine. A WPA-era drainage project included stone walking bridges that spanned the gardens. A beguiling sign said, “you are welcome to walk through our back yard.” How often do you see an invitation like that? I accepted, and was charmed.

Although not part of the official trails, Tyler’s Municipal Rose Garden, 1900 West Front St., decks itself both in azaleas and camellias at this time of year. It also hosts an azalea planting demonstration at 1:30 p.m. today. (Bloom from the Rose Garden’s more than 30,000 roses is expected about mid-April.)

Also off the trail, but worth a short detour is the Ina Brundrett Azalea Garden on the campus of Tyler Junior College, 1400 E. Fifth St. Admission is free for the Brundrett Garden, Rose Garden, and Goodman Museum.

For still more East Texas flowers, nearby Tyler State Park on FM 14 (about two miles north of I-20), showcases wild dogwood trees around a central lake. Take a drive-yourself tour along two-land Park Road 16, looping around the park’s central lake for the price of a $5 day pass for ages 13 and older. There are plenty of places to pull out for photo opportunities and picnics. See for information.

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