Tyler's Municipal Rose Garden almost didn't happen.

It's true. Take a look back at the history of the garden in the video above, and learn about the two men who made it happen.

Tyler is known for its roses, in part due to The Texas Rose Festival which began here in 1933, and because of our 14 acre rose garden, which is the largest in the nation.

Rose growers were attracted to this area as far back as the mid 1800's. Nursery production for the fruit trees began in Tyler decades ago, before a disease known as San Jose Scale destroyed the peach orchards here. From peaches, they shifted to growing roses.

Plans were drawn up for the Rose Garden, after President Roosevelt granted $181,000 in Works Progress Administration funding for the development of the fair grounds and municipal park project. This grant was the largest ever approved by the WPA.

Henry Thompson was selected to design the Garden. He had studied horticulture and landscape architecture at Cornell University. He had planned to incorporate multiple garden styles from all over the world into the garden, but World War II arrived and halted production. Thompson did not return home from the war, and the mantle was picked up by a second man.

Bob Shelton loved roses and gardens, and he decided to help continue the pursuit of the garden. He became superintendent of Tyler's Parks and Recreation department, and sought help to turn what had become an eyesore into a rose paradise.

Despite experts telling him that he would not be able to grow roses in the planned location, he found away. Hauling in sandy soil and creating beds, he saw a living catalog of roses installed. In 1952, the garden became a reality.

The garden has grown to include over 500 varieties of roses, and over 40,000 bushes.


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