The historic Will Rogers Gardens is located within one of Oklahoma City's oldest parks.
Land for the park was purchased by City leaders in 1912, just five years after statehood. Before that time, the land was used as a dairy farm. In 1932, City Horticulturalist Henry Walters began to develop the northern portion of the park into the 30-acre garden visitors experience today.
Walters designed the Gardens' ponds, plant beds, overlooks and other structures. The red rock walls and several other park features were built in the 1930s under the Federal Works Projects Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) programs.
The park and Gardens were originally named Northwest Park since the park was located along the northwest corner of the Grand Boulevard loop, which was the City's original outer transportation route. It was renamed in 1936 to honor humorist Will Rogers, one of Oklahoma's favorite sons.
Ed Lycan Conservatory
The jewel of the Gardens is the Ed Lycan Conservatory, a glass-enclosed Lord & Burnham greenhouse inspired by 19th-century Victorian architecture. The greenhouse was first installed inside Douglass Park near NE 10th and Eastern Avenue in 1924, on what were the grounds of the original State Fair park. It was moved to the Will Rogers Gardens in 1936, and later named after Ed Lycan, the Parks Department's first employee.
For many years, the Conservatory served as a popular venue for flower shows and gardening exhibitions. A 2013 renovation project revitalized the historic structure, and the Conservatory now houses one of the state's largest permanent collections of cactii and succulents. It is also available as an event hall for weddings and other celebrations.
Charles E. Sparks Color Garden
The 2-acre color garden, nestled between the Gardens' two ponds, bursts with seasonal blossoms planted by Gardens staff as well as Master Gardeners with OSU-OKC. The Garden was originally built in 1938 by the Oklahoma Rose Society. It served as a dedicated rose garden and testing garden for a large variety of roses, featuring nearly 3,000 rose bushes during its peak. It is named after former Parks Superintendent Charles E. Sparks.
A recent rose blight forced park horticulturalists to re-design the Garden beds with a variety of Oklahoma-proven perennials and annuals, giving homeowners the opportunity to see how different combinations of plant materials can have a dramatic effect in a home landscape.
Margaret Annis Boys Arboretum
The rolling ten acres of the Margaret Annis Boys Arboretum features hundreds of varieties of trees, including Oklahoma native species as well as specimens rarely found in the state. The oldest trees in the arboretum were planted by horticulturalist Henry Walter in the 1930s. In September, 2009, the arboretum was renamed the Margaret Annis Boys Arboretum to honor the local philanthropist and gardening enthusiast who dedicated her many years to beautification projects on public lands in Oklahoma City. Thanks to a generous gift from the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, the arboretum now features an ADA accessible trail, plus new entry portals on the north and south side of the garden.
Will Rogers Gardens Exhibition Center
This 1960s building of late mid-Century design features an atrium lobby and three meeting spaces. The Center is the historic home for the Oklahoma City Council of Garden Clubs and hosts meetings for garden clubs as well as local non-profit hobby groups for a nominal fee.
Art in the Garden
Mother and Daughter, bronze
- Artist: Unknown
- Location: Charles E. Sparks Color Garden
This 6-foot tall bronze fountain is said to depict a mother's struggle to keep her daughter from crossing the threshold into adulthood. The sculpture was donated to the Parks Department in the 1930s by J.J. Culberson Jr., a local art collector who purchased the bronze from Munich artist Richard Aigner while on vacation in Paris, France.
Will Rogers Bust
- Artist: Tenny Stevens
- Location: West-facing red rock wall on the east side of Gardens' east pond.
The bust was commissioned by the DeMolays of Tulsa and dedicated in 1955.
- Artist: Jonathan Hills
- Location: Northwest corner of Margaret Annis Boys Arboretum, near NW 36th Street.
The growth and vibrancy of the Will Rogers Gardens served as inspiration for Seed, a 10-foot metal structure set atop a 3-foot concrete base. Artist Jonathan Hills says the form is meant to "represent a seed or pod which holds the potential or remnants of grow, beauty or transformation." Seed was installed in April, 2016 and was commissioned by the Oklahoma City Art Commission through its pre-qualified artist pool.