Smith Co. IDEA Demonstration Garden

As the first class of Smith County Master Gardeners began their internship in 1994 they speculated about having a community project that would educate people about composting. They began to develop a plan for a "Compost Demonstration Site" and along the way realized that their dream included more than just composting. The idea of having a garden that demonstrated what could be grown in a typical backyard began to take shape.

A plan was developed to utilize an unused plot of ground in the world famous Tyler Rose Garden. A basic design was developed and approval for the project was gained from the Tyler Parks and Recreation board and the city council of Tyler. The garden was named IDEA, which is an acronym for Innovate, Demonstrate, Educate and Apply.

Funding was granted to the City of Tyler by the East Texas Council of Government with the cooperation and participation of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission. The Smith County Master Gardeners worked to raise additional funding and procure the plant materials to be used in the garden with the guidance from the Smith County Extension Service Horticulturist. The City of Tyler Rose Garden employees provided invaluable assistance, particularly in developing the site initially, in pouring the concrete and building arbors.

The garden opened in May 1999. Visit the IDEA Garden and discover a backyard setting, much like you might find at any residence. Located in the Southeast corner of the Tyler Rose Garden, this multipurpose demonstration garden is designed to stimulate ideas for use in your own garden.

At the front of the garden, a large perennial display, "the rainbow border", presents year-round color. Backed with a black metal fence and arbors, the border display is only the prelude to the garden itself.

The 8,000 square foot IDEA garden offers a tranquil setting, designed for the serious gardener seeking new ideas or for the enjoyment of the casual visitor.

The garden features more than 90 varieties of flowers, trees, shrubs, grasses, ground cover and bog plants. Some are new or currently under utilized, but all are adapted to the Northeast Texas area.

Also featured are new plant promotions and plants being tested and evaluated for use in our region. All plants will be grown in an environmentally friendly manner using water conserving methods.

The IDEA Garden features several composting methods. Included are simple three-bin systems, which can be easily constructed by the home owner. Also on display are several commercial bins, designed to accelerate the process of creating compost.

Don't overlook the information on vermicomposting, using worms to turn household waste into rich compost. An increasingly large part of the material going to landfills is yard waste, all of which can be composted and put back to use in our landscapes. Even your kitchen vegetable waste can be added to the compost.

Education is a central feature of the garden, and literature boxes throughout the garden provide information on various subjects. These publications are also available online as Adobe Acrobat files for printing just like the original.

At the International Master Gardener Association Conference in August 1999 at San Antonio the IDEA Garden received one of eight "International Search for Excellence" awards. At the Texas State MG Association meeting in June 2000, the IDEA garden project was awarded 1st place as the best project in the state.

Take a photo tour of the IDEA Garden

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