The Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden in Historic Nacogdoches
The Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden is a 8-acre public garden situated in a 50 year old loblolly pine forest on the banks of La Nana Creek in the University District. It was created between 1997 and 2001 as a project of the Horticultural Department of Stephen F. Austin State University with the assistance of area nurserymen, the Azalea Society of America, and public and private donors.
One of the largest in the state, Mize Azalea Garden contains 46 informally shaped beds connected by over one mile of named walking trails that meet at the Council Ring, a central location from which the entire garden may be viewed. The informal garden is based upon a natural design that takes into account ecological sensitivity, indigenous plantings, and the Council Ring, gardening ideas that have been associated with the work of Jens Jensen (1860-1951) and the Chicago Prairie group of landscape architects that valued the American impulse to preserve local plantings in a natural setting of uninterrupted space as a preference to the exotic geometric compartmentalization of previous traditions. The beds are a mosaic of complex variable shapes, many following the irregular pattern of soft-pointed triangles that are outlined by the pleasing curves of meandering walkways, the whole design comparable to a huge earthen stained glass window reflecting through the canopy of tall pines the prismatic colorations of the more than 8000 plants that have been arranged to present colors throughout the year.
The garden contains 6,500 azaleas, 200 camellias, 200 varieties of Japanese maples, 180 varieties of Hydrangea, and 400 ornamental trees and shrubs. There are 511 different named cultivars in the Azalea Collection, some of which are showcase varieties being introduced by growers in Texas and across the South. The Camellia Forest Loop contains 200 cultivars including the fall blooming Camellia sasanqua and the winter blooming C. japonica. The special collections of unique ornamental woody species includes cultivars of the Japanese Plum Yew, Chinese Witch-Hazel, American Smoke Tree, and the Chinese Fringe Tree.
Mize Azalea Garden is the focal point of historic Nacogdoches' Azalea Trail that includes over 20 miles of garden displays in the residential districts and is scheduled each year between March 22 and April 5 during the peak blooming season.³ Nacogdoches recently became the first city in the United States to earn the distinction of "Azalea City of America" by the Azalea Society of America and has been selected to host the international organization's annual convention in 2007.
(Next Picture: Fredonia Hotel)