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Stop and Smell the Roses


April 29, 2021

The Gertrude Windsor Garden Club Rescues Heritage Roses

Remember grandmother’s sweet-smelling roses? That intoxicating smell of heritage roses is scenting a corner of the Tyler Rose Garden in Texas, thanks to early efforts by The Gertrude Windsor Garden Club (GWGC). Heritage roses are the ancestral stock of modern hybrids, introduced in 1867. The Rose Garden is filled with 38,000 hybrid roses, but the fragrance wafting from the Heritage Rose Garden’s aromatic 19th century garden roses ensures a steady stream of visitors.

In 1985, when GWGC became interested in the revival of old-fashioned roses, they were offered an abandoned sensory garden overlooking the Tyler Rose Garden. Over the years, fundraisers created walkways, built structures for climbing roses, added benches, a rear arbor dedicated to Gertrude Windsor—the club’s namesake, and of course, more roses.

In 1993, Smith County Master Gardeners became partners with GWGC, along with extension experts and the Rose Garden staff. In 2006, the Master Gardeners took over maintenance of the cottage rose garden, adding companion plants often found in early Texas gardens.

GWGC continues its fundraising role to refurbish or replace garden structures, redesign the heritage garden entrance, add a central arbor, and restore the historic north entrance of the Rose Garden. While Covid-19 restrictions prevented GWGC’s 2020 fundraiser featuring Margot Shaw, editor of Flower magazine, community support for the garden never wavered. 

In addition to their work with the Heritage Rose Garden, GWGC has assisted with wildflower landscaping at Merrick Park and the University of Texas at Tyler campus as well as Windsor Grove beautification, the Mayor’s Tree Tyler Initiative, and the Woldert Park Monarch Butterfly Waystation. 

The club has six gardens featured in the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Gardens.  RavenwoodChilton Oaks, Holly Cottage Garden, Royal Tulips Garden, Royal Oaks, and B. J.'s Gardens. A seventh garden, the Tapestry Garden, was recently accepted.

For over thirty years, the GCA’s Garden History and Design Committee has partnered with the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Gardens to preserve and highlight significant aspects of gardening for the benefit of researchers and the public. At the core of the Archives is a collection of over 3,000 glass lantern slides from the 1920s and 1939s along with approximately 35,000 35mm slides that were donated to the Smithsonian by the GCA in 1992. Through its national network, GCA volunteers continue to expand the collection by photographing and documenting gardens each year for consideration by the AAG. The GCA collection at the AAG is searchable through the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archive.



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