In Tyler – blooms, bounty and beauty abound by Diane Morey Sitton
With its rich horticultural heritage and abundance of natural beauty, it’s no wonder that Tyler, Texas, known as the “Rose Capital of America”, holds bragging rights to the largest rose garden in the country. But some of the most outstanding private gardens in East Texas lie amidst the region’s hardwood forests, rolling hills, and majestic lakes, as well.
Recently, six of those gardens — all belonging to Master Gardeners — were showcased during the much-anticipated return of the Home Garden Tour, back again after a four-year hiatus due to Covid and the historic arctic weather onslaught. The annual event is sponsored by the Smith County Master Gardener Association, a volunteer organization under the umbrella of Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service. And this year, creativity, expressions of individuality, and ideas were more prevalent than ever.
Besides the vibrant show of salvia, lantana, canna, coneflower and other region-friendly bloomers, there were herbs tucked in tubs, succulents thriving in brightly painted cement blocks, and zinnias growing in a bathtub. Garden art ranged from bottle trees to brightly painted wooden pallets to bronze statues. Azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, magnolias and Japanese maples were plentiful.
“Cottage chaos” was the theme at Jeff and Susan Buntz’s garden, south of Tyler in the suburban community of Bullard. Their former-weekend-getaway-turned-permanent-residence sits on the tree-studded banks of Lake Palestine. Here, Japanese maples share the space with Old Blush roses and Natchez crape myrtles, among other selections, but it’s Susan’s attention to detail that give the garden its special charm. Not to be deterred by their weight, Susan attached a trio of antique gates to a second story wall. Below, colorful zinnias grow in a mini bathtub. In the backyard, a blue teapot attached to a large tree trunk serves as a birdhouse.
There were birds aplenty at C&C Sanctuary, also in Bullard. A work in progress, this three-year-old home garden – the creation of Clifford Burke and Cynthia Siegel — is a Certified Bird Sanctuary and Wildlife Habitat. Besides lantana, butterfly bush and other bird-, butterfly- and bee-luring plants, there were 18 bird feeders, as well as numerous birdbaths and other water features scattered throughout multiple theme gardens.
But this bird-nurturing garden isn’t just for wildlife. Multiple benches, chairs, and loveseats extend an invitation to sit a spell and be lulled by the soothing sounds of wind chimes, burbling water and bird song.
Lessons in gardening – vegetable gardening – awaited tour-goers at Dana and Nannette Anderson’s home in Tyler. Here, in their sunny backyard garden, squash grows alongside rows of beans and other seasonal crops. But it was the raised, repurposed metal tanks filled with basil, sage, rue, cilantro and other herbs that caught the eye … especially of those folks who prefer the convenience of waist-high gardening.
At Cathy and Jim Swindells’ home, the focus shifted to recreation and relaxation at their poolside pergola. Beds of pastel flowers — luscious larkspur, blue salvia, purple pansies, along with pink daylilies, petunia, and phlox, to name a few — framed the large structure in a tranquil wash of late spring color. Elsewhere, Little Gem magnolias and Japanese maples, along with camellias, dogwoods and hydrangeas provided understory to towering oaks.
Towering trees were prevalent at Shirley and Victor Long’s garden, as well, but it was the oversized hanging baskets, quaint garden art, and vegetable patch decorated with a scarecrow and a collection of galvanized buckets, pails, and watering cans that gave the landscape its English cottage-style persona.
Especially enchanting was the theme-building vignette consisting of rabbit art, watering cans, vintage hand tools and other items — all in shades of tan, gray and white — crowned by wall art reminiscent of a Victorian birdcage.
At the Preddy’s garden in Tyler, well-established beds filled with bulbs, perennials, native plants and pass-along favorites dominated a sloping side-yard garden. The beds flank large stairs that connect a sun-splashed patio with a shady upper-level. Features here included a custom pergola and trellis.