A combination of sandy soil, year-round rainfall, and a long growing season make the Tyler area ideal for rose propagation. First known commercial production began here in the 1870s when industry pioneers such as G.A. McKee and Mathew Shamburger (1827-88) sold rose bushes along with other nursery stock.
Business expanded in the 1920s as more nurserymen began growing roses. Production was increased by new growing methods such as irrigation, introduced in 1924 by A.F. Watkins. The Texas Rose Festival was started in Oct. 1933 to publicize the industry. Scientific plant research, begun in the 1930s by J.C. Ratsek, Dr. E.W. Lyle, and others from the Tyler substation of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, was implemented by organization of the Texas Rose Foundation, Inc., in 1945.
The Tyler Rose Garden, a 22-acre municipal park, was created in 1952. Nurseries donate the many varieties of plants, which are cared for by the city.
Today the rose industry is vital to the economy of Smith County. In 1973 the value of bushes and flowers shipped around the world by local nurseries totaled $9,000,000. One-half of the rose bushes produced each year in the United States come from the Tyler area.