Take a Trip on the Tyler Azalea Trail this Spring

Guy and Joan Pyron's azalea garden
Photo: Ralph Anderson

For more than 60 years, the people of Tyler, Texas, have welcomed warm weather—and thousands of visitors—with a floral display that will dazzle any flower-lover.

01 of 08

The Tyler Azalea Trail

The Tyler Azalea Trail Gardens of Tyler, Texas
Ralph Anderson

Great gardens can spring up in surprising places. Believe it or not, the star attraction at the annual Tyler Azalea Trail had its origin in―of all things―the Depression.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to put the country back to work, WPA employees took on all kinds of projects. In Tyler, they built some of the beautiful redbrick streets and oversaw the construction of a big drainage project. Spanned by stone bridges, it runs through the backyards of homes in a community that was once surrounded by cotton fields.

02 of 08

Three Families

Guy and Joan Pyron, Don and Bonny Edmonds, and Gordon and Margaret Davis
Ralph Anderson

Fast-forward several decades. Tyler's small-town charm convinced lots of city folks to call it home. Far from dividing the current homeowners, that WPA drainage project with its old-world-style stone bridges helped bring them together, transforming three separate gardens into one. The centerpiece of the Tyler Azalea Trail, it draws thousands of tourists every spring.

All three sets of neighbors―Guy and Joan Pyron, Don and Bonny Edmonds, and Gordon and Margaret Davis―moved to Tyler from other parts of Texas. And because their homes were in the heart of the town's historic Azalea District, they all created gardens that were unique to their personalities yet had a common thread: amazing azaleas.

03 of 08

The Pyron Garden

Guy and Joan Pyron's azalea garden
Ralph Anderson

The sign says, "You are welcome to walk through our backyard." They mean it too. Guy and Joan Pyron have what they call a "hands-on garden." They've never had an overall plan, and they love doing all the work themselves because, as Joan puts it, "you can just get down and play with it." She doesn't even consider it labor: "Ironing is work, but not gardening."

04 of 08

Giving Back

Guy and Joan Pyron's azalea garden
Ralph Anderson

Their adventure in tourism began, Guy says, when they would sometimes see people standing on the sidewalk, looking toward their backyard. At first, they personally invited folks in, but as the crowds grew, they just put out a little welcome sign. "It is gratifying to see people enjoying the garden," Guy says. "Tyler has been good to us, and this is our way of giving back."

Joan has a spiritual take on it: "I think this is God's garden, and he lets me tend it. That's why we share it." No wonder so many visitors tell them that their garden "must be what Heaven is like."

05 of 08

The Edmonds Garden

Don and Bonny Edmonds azalea garden
Ralph Anderson

For years, the Edmondses had driven by the tired Cotswold-style cottage with overgrown landscaping, and there was just something about it. When it finally went on the market, they jumped on it―and its jungle of a yard. "It was Tarzan-and-Jane-like," remembers Bonny. "You could have swung through the yard."

It took Don five years to get rid of the English ivy that had taken over the trees and old flowerbeds. He also cut down big privet hedges blocking the view from the street. The Edmondses even spent a week in England, including the Cotswolds, soaking up inspiration.

06 of 08

English-Inspired Gardens

Don and Bonny Edmonds azalea garden
Ralph Anderson

Though many of the English gardens they saw overflowed with flowers, Don was drawn to those that were more manicured. "I'm really a clip-and-design kind of guy," he says. When they came home, he and Bonny set about adding azaleas, sculpture, and order. Now that the garden has become a showstopper, they're more than willing to share it.

The visitors drop in year-round, including one busload of Japanese tourists who had stopped to admire the garden from the street when Bonny and Don invited them in. "Part of the group was a choir, and they gathered together and sang to us a cappella," says Don. "It was beautiful."

07 of 08

The Davis Garden

Margaret and Gordon Davis azalea garden
Ralph Anderson

It's simple; it's natural―that's the way Margaret Davis describes the garden she and her husband, Gordon, created. Simple doesn't always mean easy though. To get the look they wanted, the Davises took out the former owner's railroad-tie flowerbeds and then added 11 tons of stone and more than 1,000 azaleas.

The result looks like the Augusta National Golf Club, with masses of colorful azaleas all mixed together along a perfect lawn. "I'm a fanatic about the grass," Margaret admits. Gordon adds, "We just go for the color, and we don't worry if we get too many in one spot."

08 of 08

Gardener's Lesson

Gardener's Lesson
Ralph Anderson

Like their neighbors, Margaret and Gordon enjoy sharing their garden. "We love people," Margaret says. "And you know, it's a testimony to what God has given us."

Take a lesson from these three Texas families. The next time you spot the neighbors admiring your azaleas, daffodils, or roses―invite them into the garden. Friendships, too, can bloom in the springtime.

More Information: To find all the information you need about visiting the Tyler, Texas, Azalea Trail, visit www.tylerazaleatrail.com. The trail is primarily a driving experience through quiet neighborhoods with brick streets, but you can also walk parts of it.

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