In 1993, Dr. Bill and Susie Tyler donated 10 acres of farmland on the western edge of Owensboro to the city with the stipulation that eight acres be used for a botanical garden and two acres be left for native wildlife habitat.

This year, the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden is celebrating its 30th anniversary and remembering its founders.

The Tylers were surprised Wednesday morning when they walked into Independence Bank, 2425 Frederica St.

The garden’s board members broke out in applause, and the Tylers stopped in their tracks, looking around to see what was happening.
“What a surprise,” Susie Tyler said.

Dorothy Reid, visual display coordinator for the bank as well as a garden board member, had turned one of the four display windows just inside the bank into a tribute to the Tylers.

There were photos of them, replicas of the hot air balloons that used to be part of the Dazzling Daylily Festival, several garden tools and quotes from people in the community.

Former Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said simply, “Without Bill and Susie, there would be no botanical garden.”

In June, Daviess Fiscal Court voted to approve a budget that included $100,000 for the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.

Mattingly said the allocation is because the garden “is one of the cultural programs that bring tourists in from other states.”

Wednesday, Reid said, “We wanted to honor Bill and Susie for the past 30 years. They’re very humble.”

Laurna Strehl, the garden’s executive director, said, “It’s such an honor to have Bill and Susie here to show them love for all they’ve done in the last 30 years.”

She added, “These are exciting times. We’re going to make you proud.”

In September, the garden launched a $2.8 million capital campaign that includes a $1.1 million event center where The Cottage is today.

Today, the 18-acre property includes a large herb garden, a rose garden, an English cottage garden, a Kentucky symbol quilt garden, a Japanese memorial garden, an ericaceous garden, the Moonlite Children’s garden, the University of Kentucky Extension display garden and a Western Kentucky University experimental garden.

Friday, the garden will host a Kentucky Derby pre-party at 6 p.m. at the WeatherBerry Home, 2731 W. Second St.

“This is our first one ever,” Strehl said. “It’s something to raise funds and to honor Bill and Susie.”
Bill Tyler said they were completely surprised by Wednesday’s event.

“It’s such an honor to be able to serve our community,” he said. “The botanical garden is a good way to do it.”


Originally published in Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer by Keith Lawrence
April 13, 2023