NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Nacogdoches is home to the largest azalea garden in the state and with the Azalea Trail winding through the city, tourists come from all over to see the 500 different varieties of azaleas.
Barbara Stump helped design the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden off University Drive as part of her masters project at Stephen F. Austin State University.
Now after 15 years, the garden is the largest in the state and boasts azaleas of all different shapes, sizes, colors and fragrances.
"We started in 1996 with an overgrown area that was a dump and we have since then cleared out a lot of under story of privet, cherry laurel, poison ivy and a few dead trees." said Stump.
Stump, SFA horticulture students and a team of volunteers maintain the 8-acre garden year around and it's no easy job because of the sheer number of plants.
Stump says there are, "520 cultivated varieties, 20 species azaleas. We have over 7500 plants and we have both evergreen and deciduous azaleas."
The garden is already full of color despite the cooler weather that has delayed many blooms. Stump says in the coming weeks the garden will look like it's on fire.
The azaleas will bloom for about 6 weeks because we have so many," said Stump.
The garden was dedicated and named after Ruby M. Mize by her daughter Dorothy (Mize) Wisely who donates money toward the upkeep of the garden.
Stump said "She [Dorothy] said I'm going to pick option number 2 which was this garden that we had started and so we have an endowment. We get a distribution every year. Each year they do some different things. Like this sign was the most recent purchase."
Stump says the garden is dazzling during azalea season but they have plants that bloom during all seasons to keep the garden beautiful year round.
Barbara and her volunteers will give guided tours through the garden every Saturday in March from 1-4 PM.
For more information on the Azalea Garden: