Design & Décor, Living with Style, Travel Notes


A Fashionable Garden: the Texas Rose Festival

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I may not have made it to England for garden tripping this year (or last) but a visit to the Texas Rose Festival in Tyler was the next best thing! Since Private Newport is first about gardens, this year’s Festival theme “Secrets of the Garden,” seemed tailor-made for a post this fall (before Thanksgiving to dos distract us). As I sat spellbound at the Queen’s Coronation, it was very clear why the 88 year old Festival has earned its moniker as the Southwest’s foremost floral pageant. Appropriately, the show began with the “Rose Growers Duchess” in the most clever visage of a garden gate we’ll ever see. Wonderfully scripted voiceovers added wit to the visual images on stage (noted here under each costume).

The Garden Gate: “In search of a clue to begin our journey, we find ourselves in a thick morning fog, which slowly begins to reveal a delightful garden. Then, a slight motion beckons us to look more closely. A grand iron garden gate becomes visible, and we instantly know that this is the beginning of a thrilling adventure!”

The “thrilling adventure,” a taste of gardens around the world from the American South to Country French, was carried out via 53 exquisite costumes interpreting our favorite flowers, shrubs, and insects (as well as garden decor). Aaah, if only space permitted me to highlight each one…

Many of the Court costumes are designed to allow the girls to perform (a modified version of) the famous “Texas Dip.”

The Texas Rose Festival was started in 1933 by Tyler’s city father’s to attract business to this small town two hours south of Dallas and celebrate their rose-growing heritage. They well succeeded! Tyler’s roses are as famous now as oil, cattle and cotton to Texas (English rosarian David Austin has his American headquarters here).

Crocus: How in the world does she know it’s spring?
Such welcome color that she brings!
Bursting through cold and icy ground…
No longer to be winter-bound!
A splendid thrill of purple and gold…
The sight of her never gets old!
Calla Lily: This golden trumpet of rebirth…
A symbol of beauty and of mirth.
Her elegant collar is so refined…
Only God could have designed.
What lovely serenity she will give…
To the garden where she doth live!
Ivy: Such a dainty, quiet, creeping green…
We never know where all she’s been!
A flourishing, verdant spectacle…
Climbing up the garden wall!
Lush and gorgeous e’er she grows…
Where she stops, no one knows!

Each year’s court is composed of the latest generations of families that have participated over the 88 years…siblings, second cousins, aunts, great uncles (yes, official duties are carried out as much by men as by women). College-aged young ladies from Tyler make up the “Ladies-in-Waiting” to the Rose Queen’s Court while friends with strong ties to families from Tyler participate as “Duchesses.”

Wisteria: Cascading purple raindrop blooms…
Surrounding us with her fragrant perfumes…
Twists and twines where she so pleases…
Wafts of sweetness in the breezes.
A welcome treasure in the spring…
Enough to make the angels sing!
Butterfly: A tale of magical transformation…
And they say with much elation, …
“From our cocoons we will appear…
We are not lost, never fear!
Spectacular and wondrous is our new dress…
Looking ever so fabulous after our rest!”
These fluttering beauties on petals high…
Are a stunning pair of…BUTTERFLIES!!
Iris: So regal are her elegant petals
Unfurling on different levels…
Valor and faith she doth symbolize…
An explosion of beauty before your eyes!
In a French garden, meant to be…
Our radiant and lovely “fleur de lis”!

In addition to the beauty of the Show, I was deeply touched by a strong spirit of community and a commitment to volunteerism on a grand scale that has preserved these traditions, couched in graciousness and generosity.

Clover: Amongst the many tulips red…
Her vibrant green lace makes a bed.
The velvet sea of quaking leaves…
Forms a tapestry of countless weaves!
What a peaceful, lovely pleasure…
For a quiet stroll of leisure!
Topiary: From upon a ladder’s high ledges,
It’s time to shape her pretty edges.
Each critical snip is very precise
She will look so very nice!
How lovely she is with her formal trim…
Ready to pose on every whim!
Bumblebee: How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every fragrant flower!
Her sting could be a painful one,
One we might regret.
But her gorgeous dress of black and gold,
Will soon make us forget!

And the presentation closes…”What a thrilling adventure it has been to unlock the most splendid secret of the garden! Few things in this world are more stunning, more fragrant, or more cherished than the ROSE…the sensational SECRET of the GARDEN! She is the symbol of grace, happiness, and gentleness… radiating splendor and regal majesty as her sweet perfume is an enveloping cloud of delight! She is the most breathtaking and most enduring flower in history…the perfectly exquisite…PINK ROSE!!!”

Jacob Climer, a native Texan and now New York costume designer, pulled out all the stops this year as the incoming new designer for one of the largest Rose Festivals in their history–from the young male “pages'” attire to the beautiful Queen Anna Grace Hallmark’s gown with its sixteen foot train (which was meticulously constructed in six months by over twelve seamstresses). Note Anna Grace’s initials on the train and an embroidered bouquet comprising each flower represented by the Ladies-in-Waiting dresses.

With the warmest appreciation to my wonderful new Tyler friends for a Texas Rose Festival experience that was charmed beyond words…good for both heart and soul. Thanks for the memories. xox B


All photos courtesy of James French Photography.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

2 thoughts on “A Fashionable Garden: the Texas Rose Festival

  1. Wow! That must have been so fun. The dresses are works of art and architectural excellence! Only in Texas, right?! Bigger is better. ☺️💕

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