History & Horticulture

Spring is in the Air in Houston

River Oaks Garden Club ushers in the spring season with its annual Azalea Trail.

By Sarah Douglass March 8, 2016

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Rienzi House is part of the annual Azalea Trail

Image: MFAH

After an extremely mild winter, even milder than usual here in Houston, spring is already in the air. While some may be dreading the onslaught of allergy season others are ready to bask in the visual beauty that comes with it. The beloved and time honored Azalea Trail, presented by River Oaks Country Club every March, is in full bloom, giving Houstonians an opportunity to welcome the season.

“We want people to come and learn about gardens, see what different styles can be done and show people what others have done with all different houses; old or new, big or small,” says Cathy Brock, co-chair of public relations for River Oaks Garden Club. “They sort of mix it all up. It gives people ideas about gardening and homes.”

The club bloomed back in 1927 when 27 women living within the River Oaks neighborhood came together to celebrate spring and help others recognize Houston’s flowering beauty. In 1935, the seed for Azalea Trail was planted. Initially named Garden Pilgrimage, the event was intended to raise money for River Oaks Elementary.

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Bayou Bend Collection & Gardens

Image: MFAH

Today, the historic tradition stays alive, bringing thousands of Houstonians to the walkable three-mile trail through some of the city’s most beautiful homes and gardens. The Garden Club has stuck to its roots and continues to donate all money collected during the event to organizations across Houston.

“Our proceeds will go to different organizations. They tend to be garden related; it can be for a school garden, something in Memorial Park, it just sort of depends,” notes River Oaks Garden Club co-chair Carmen Knapp. “People come to us with a grant asking us for the money and a committee comes together and decides on which ones to help.”

With seven stops, the trail weaves in and out of historic properties such as the club’s headquarters, The Forum, along with private homes and the Museum of Fine Arts' Bayou Bend Collection and Rienzi House. In addition to witnessing incredible gardens full of azaleas, the tour also takes guests inside the beautiful homes decorated with flower arrangements created by the Garden Club’s very own members.

“Our club has some very talented flower arrangers. They come up with a concept and a plan so a lot of the tour is also about the flower arrangements in the homes, as well as the gardens of the homes,” Knapp says.

With hospitality and Texas charm, the River Oaks Garden Club successfully keeps the small-town-community vibe alive in the country’s fourth largest city.

“It lets people just enjoy being outside amongst beautiful flowers,” Brock adds. “I think it shows how open we are here in Houston and how we love to meet new people and share ideas on all kinds of things, gardening as well as home décor. It has just become sort of a very important legacy for the city.”

March 11–13. 11–5. $10–25. See website for locations. riveroaksgardenclub.org

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