Nursery tour: The Antique Rose Emporium

My weather wish was granted over the weekend: cool temperatures, blue skies, decidedly fall-ish weather. It was perfect for a Saturday trip to Independence, Texas, and a pilgrimage to the Antique Rose Emporium. Along with Barton Springs Nursery and Natural Gardener, it’s one of my favorite nurseries in the Austin area. (This is a stretch, as the Emporium is located an hour and a half east of Austin, but being able to stroll its grounds for an hour is worth the drive. As an added attraction, Blue Bell Creamery is located in nearby Brenham; for only a dollar, you can enjoy a large scoop of the best ice cream in the country and bring home your own paper Blue Bell hat as a souvenir.)

Planted amid the rolling, green fields of tiny Independence, the Rose Emporium’s 21-year-old display gardens enthrall me on every visit. You enter the nursery from one of two gravel parking lots, each punctuated by an arch of stacked and braided terracotta pots. These folks want to wow you at every step.

Tempting paths beckon in every direction. I can never decide which way to roam first: the sunny rose display, the playful children’s garden, the ponds, the labyrinth, the ornamental-grass garden, the nursery’s several gift shops located in old log cabins and other antique structures amid colorful cottage gardens?

At the heart of the Rose Emporium, three features stand out: a towering, vine-covered weathervane, reminiscent of the plains . . .

. . . majestic, twin bald cypresses growing along a creek . . .

. . . and, of course, seemingly an acre of roses for sale. Aside from the potted roses in the retail area, the display gardens teem with mature shrub roses, climbers, noisettes, teas, ramblers, floribundas . . . the list goes on.

When my nose isn’t buried in rose petals, I admire the various garden rooms on the property. Under the sheltering arms of one of the cypresses, a cedar seating arrangement looks like the perfect spot to relax with a glass of iced tea.

The xeric garden, planted high and dry on a graveled berm (not unlike the one in the David-Peese garden), showcases yuccas, agaves, desert willows, native grasses, sotols, and cacti.

Across the gravel path, the children’s garden mixes metaphors to fun effect. Both a Wizard of Oz and Beatrix Potter theme vie for attention, but it’s all a hit with kids. Fenced by pint-sized, purple pickets, part of the garden is dedicated to rows of vegetables, with Peter Rabbit accessories. The rest includes a yellow-brick road leading under a low arbor, an antique bicycle with a basket leaning against a tree, and a tin man who’s found a heart.

And Toto too.

Oh, everyone’s got to have a bottle tree these days. This colorful one goes natural on the skeleton of an old cedar tree (juniper actually, but we stubbornly call ’em cedars here in Texas).

Farther afield, a pole tepee draped in morning glories stands at the center of a winding brick labyrinth.

A yaupon holly sags under the weight of its beautiful red berries.

The chapel, painted a New England-ish shade of red, looks old but was constructed in 1998, though the front door “with English stained glass transom is over 100 years old,” according to their website.

In the churchyard, a tongue-in-cheek pot graveyard will crack you up as well.

Decidedly Green Man-like figures stand at either side of the chapel’s entrance—a bit of paganism at the door of the church? (Interestingly, I read on the internet that Green Men frequently appear in English medieval church architecture.)

Wine-colored shrimp plants, bunched en masse near the chapel, echo the building’s rich color.

If ever there’s a time to visit this ornamental-grass garden, last weekend had to be it. Gusts of cool wind hissed through the grasses, waving their feathery inflorescences in all their beautiful colors and textures. From front to back: Gulf Coast muhly, purple fountain grass, and Lindheimer muhly (I think).

More of the grass border, as viewed lengthwise.

And more. If you had the space, what fun it would be to dedicate an entire section of the garden to ornamental grasses for one grand fall display like this one.

At the rear of the display gardens, a restored Victorian house stands amid trellised roses, cottage-garden beauties like Mexican mint marigold and crinum lilies, and both natural-cedar and painted arbors like the one pictured here.

Crinum lily

Heading back to the retail side of the nursery, a series of fenced gardens attracts your attention. Here, a working kitchen garden bursting with produce in raised beds almost makes me want to try my hand at vegetable gardening.

Next door, a diminutive, purple greenhouse offers up a selection of succulents and a few decorative items.

Inside, in one corner, a black-eyed Susan vine twines its way up a couple of stakes.

One of the more charming features of the Rose Emporium is its multiple, honor-system gift shops. Throughout the grounds you’ll stumble on old stone houses, log cabins, and garden sheds, slightly decrepit but clean and packed with garden ornaments, pots, tools, hats, et cetera. No employees standing guard. No cash register nearby. No security cameras, so far as I can tell. If you see something you like, you tote it out to the central check-out building and pay there. If you just want a place to sit and rest a spell, you can do that too. Each house or shed has a shady porch or two with generous swings and benches.

Terracotta pots for sale

When at last your spouse’s patience has expired and it’s time to go, you walk under a heavily shaded loggia to the check-out building. Of course, more garden gifts await you inside. But what I covet is this arbor, and its dramatic transitioning from sun to shade. Most of my visits have been at hotter times of the year, and then the arbor provides cool relief from the sun. This time I found shelter here from the brisk wind, and it felt several degrees warmer beneath the draped vines. At home, wouldn’t this be a great spot for a dining table and friends sitting around with glasses of wine?

Alas, at last it was time to leave. My only consolation was knowing we were heading to the Blue Bell Creamery in nearby Brenham. And sweet consolation it was.

19 Responses

  1. For Seven Years we have been saying ‘let’s go to the Antique Rose Emporium one of these days’, but never actually did it. I had no idea of the many charms awaiting, thinking only that there were a bunch of unusual rose bushes for sale!

    Pam, have you ever emailed a link for your garden blog tours to the places you’ve so beautifully photographed? Do the Antique Rose Emporium or Natural Gardener or Laguna Gloria have any idea of how wonderful your travel articles are?

    You also talked about Shoal Creek Nursery before – Philo & I passed it on the way to somewhere else, stopped in and found several things we’d been looking for. I quite enjoyed that nursery, but it was your words that made me stop.


    It really is worth the drive, especially if you can make a day of it and visit Brenham too.

    Thank you for your compliments on my “tours”! I haven’t sent the nurseries anything about my posts on them, mainly because I’m not writing about them for profit or paid publicity, and I don’t want to come across that way. I have talked to Colleen, the owner of Barton Springs Nursery, about the garden blogging scene, however, and given her my site address, and I’ve encouraged her to set up a website for her great nursery—even just a one-pager with a few photos and the hours of operation. BSN is one of the few nurseries I frequent that doesn’t have a website, and I really believe that every business these days needs one.

    Regarding the Open Days tour, I did email a couple of the owners about my online tours of their gardens (I had email address for only two people). I got a very nice email back from the landscape architect who designed the Stone House Vineyard garden, and subsequently the homeowner emailed me as well. That was nice. I really enjoyed making a personal connection with the people behind that lovely garden. —Pam

  2. bill says:

    I have never noticed the “cemetery plot” in my visits. I agree with Annie in Austin – you have a talent for travel writing or garden tour writing.

    Thanks, Bill! —Pam

  3. r sorrell says:

    I’m still itching to go there, but I’m afraid I’ll miss the window this year. I’ve seen the pictures on the Rose Emporium’s site, but your photos gave me even more to look forward to.

  4. June Tarr says:

    Oh darn!!! I wish I had been tagging along with you. I don’t know how I would have gotten it all home though…I have ordered some roses from them since I went with you on one of your treks and they are beautifully wrapped and a large size. Compared to the ones I have ordered from Park Seed in S.C., which come about two inches high. for the same price.

    It was funny reading the comments because I was thinking all the way through that you should be employed by a magazine! It’s almost as good as being there. love ya, mom

  5. Jenn says:

    Gorgeous tour. Thanks for taking us!

    You’re very welcome. —Pam

  6. pmo3ws says:

    I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your gardening site. Always a pleasure to visit. I can’t decide which garden I love the most! There are so many wonderful ideas to think about or should I say “dream” about for ours at home!

    Thanks! —Pam

  7. I haven’t been to the Rose Emporium in several years. It’s nice to see the familiar as well as some new things. But what about the bed of roses? That was my favorite garden pun–a garden with a rusting bedstead in it surrounded by flowers. I hope it’s still there.

    I, too, have encouraged Barton Springs Nursery to set up a website. The owners are good friends with a good friend of mine; it’s difficult for any small business, especially in Austin, to survive if it’s not wired.

    I didn’t see a bed of roses, M, but maybe I just missed it. Closer to home, Shoal Creek Nursery uses several old bedsteads to display their flowers. —Pam

  8. Carol says:

    I’ve heard of the Rose Emporium, and your wonderful pictures and commentary make me wish I lived just a wee bit closer to Texas than Indiana. I agree with the others, your travel posts and picture are outstanding. I enjoyed the visit this evening.

    Thank you, Carol. I’m sure Indiana has its share of gardeners’ treasures. I’d love to visit them on your blog sometime . . . (hint, hint). :-) —Pam

  9. Barbara Clark says:

    Thanks for giving the rest of us a window on your world. You’re such a talented writer and photographer. One of these days I hope to read a book by you. I feel a little bit younger and lighter and happier every time I read one of your blogs!

    Wow, thanks, Barbara! You made my day. Thank you for visiting and commenting. —Pam

  10. Lost Roses says:

    I’ve heard of the Emporium, and now thanks to you I’ve seen it! I’m surprised you got so many pictures, I’d still be standing at the gate goggling at the twined terracotta pot arches. Great tour!

    Oh, I goggled for quite a while. In fact, on this trip, I pretty much just goggled and shot pictures, knowing I was going to post about it. I don’t think I actually purchased anything, but I certainly have found plenty to bring home on previous trips. —Pam

  11. Taryn Hamby-Holmes says:

    I am looking for a Marie Antoinette Rose, do you know where to find one?

    Thank you


    Hi, Taryn. No, I don’t know anything about that rose. I suggest you go to the Antique Rose Emporium website to see if they carry it. —Pam

  12. Dawn says:

    Thank you for creating such a beautiful and helpful website. I love the photos you’re included. Everything is so inspirational. Your garden is lovely as well. You’re very talented.

    We moved to Austin from Florida one year ago and are trying to learn how to make our small garden into a beautiful wildlife santuary. Your site is my favorite thus far.

    Dawn in NW Austin

    Thanks so much, Dawn, and welcome to Austin! Our region may have a harsh climate to garden in, but there are lots of gardeners here and lots of beautiful gardens to be inspired by. Happy digging! —Pam

  13. […] Antique Roses A-Z. BSN gets their antique roses from the Antique Rose Emporium, another wonderful nursery out in Brenham. […]

  14. jenn says:

    Wow, great post! I enjoyed every minute. I loved your pictures and all of your observations. I would love to get to ARE. I have many roses from there, but I want to go explore. Thanks for a great read!

    The Antique Rose Emporium is a delight to explore. Both locations, Brenham-area and San Antonio, have large display gardens. I hope you get to visit one someday. —Pam

  15. […] my post on the Brenham Antique Rose Emporium, click here. For a previous post on the San Antonio Antique Rose Emporium, click […]

  16. Sarah Ganhs says:

    I love this SOOO much I bookmarked it! I am going to make some of these things in my garden, Thanks for sharing. They make me happy!


  17. […] 5-7: Fall Festival of Roses at the Antique Rose Emporium, Independence, TX A three-day event in ARE’s gorgeous display gardens outside Brenham, Texas, with popular speakers like author and radio personality Felder Rushing and […]

  18. […] you’re interested in a fall visit to the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, click […]

  19. […] Pergolas and Vertical Structure Vertical gardening isn’t just for those challenged by a lack of gardening space. If you are lucky enough to have a large property, vertical structure can give human dimension to a wide, open space, like this series of peaked arbors leading to a gazebo at the Antique Rose Emporium. […]