History of the Gardens

The Mercer Legacy

In 1949, Thelma and Charles Mercer purchased a 14.5-acre tract of natural land along Spring Creek in Humble, Harris County, Texas.

Initially, Thelma Mercer was someone who, in her own words, “didn’t know one plant from another” but soon became an accomplished horticulturist spending much of her time digging flower beds, planting and potting plants, which over the next 24 years, became a garden paradise.

Husband, Charles Mercer, a Lt. Colonel (Ret.) was a decorated soldier and recognized engineer. Together, they began to selectively clear this “wild, wooded, burned-out area” to make room for trees such as dogwoods, parsley hawthorns, rusty black-haw viburnums and several species of hawthorns.

Thelma also planted large camellias that are still seen throughout the central garden and introduced several exotic tree species that are still growing beautifully, including gingko and bauhina. Over those twenty-four years, Mrs. Mercer planted numerous plant specimens that now form an impressive collection.

Charles’ abilities as an engineer were utilized on many projects.  One such project remains a favorite place at Mercer for photographers and children, known as “Thelma’s Pond,” a small pond with koi and large goldfish. When Thelma commented that she would like to have a pond, Charles had her layout the design with a garden hose, he then dug and constructed it. It became a joint endeavor as he did the concrete work and Thelma laid the bricks along the edge.

In 1973 Charles retired and the Mercers made the difficult decision to relocate to the Rio Grande Valley. Rather than see their beloved paradise in which they had invested so much labor and love be bulldozed by commercial developers, they wrote to Harris County Precinct 4 officials recommending that the county purchase the site.  Although the Mercers were not wealthy, they offered the property to Harris County Precinct 4 at a price far below its market value with a stipulation that it would grow and be maintained as a garden and horticultural education facility serving the people of Harris County, providing them the joy and tranquility it had given them. And, so it has.