Roses, butterflies & garden goodness at Antique Rose Emporium

On Saturday my mom and I drove out to Brenham, Texas, for the Antique Rose Emporium‘s Fall Festival of Roses, where I was one of the day’s speakers. A gray sky spit rain on us during the 2-hour drive, but it held off as we strolled around the nursery before my talk.

ARE’s 11-acre display gardens bloom with abandon in autumn, Texas’s second spring.

Lush bouquets of roses picked from the gardens adorned the nursery’s help desk.

First-time visitors may be surprised to see the gardens are not just beds of roses.

I love the gardens precisely because they’re not just roses, although of course the roses are lovely. I dislike the apartheid of traditional rose gardens, in which roses are grown separately from other plants. Mingling roses with other flowering plants and grasses creates a sense of fullness and an opportunity for pleasing color echoes, and bare, thorny stems are more easily disguised.

The gardens were alive with butterflies, especially queens.

They were particularly attracted to flowering amaranth celosia (Celosia spicata).

I also spotted a white-striped longtail…

…and a beautiful Julia butterfly enjoying lantana.

A lily pond, glimpsed through trees…

…was in full bloom too, despite the cooler temps of autumn.

I think this is a tropical waterlily, as the flowers stand tall above the pond’s surface and the leaves have toothy edges.

A charming sculpture of a boy flying a toy airplane stands nearby.

Wandering on, along a pathway edged with Philippine violet (Barleria cristata)…

…to one of several homestead-style buildings in the gardens. This building and others used to be filled with garden gift items, but on this visit they were mostly empty. The Antique Rose Emporium property — display gardens and event spaces — have been for sale for more than a year (and I’m already mourning its loss unless someone buys it to keep operating it as a nursery), and perhaps that has something to do with the scaling back.

An old log structure — the Corn Crib

Some of the many roses for sale

For wow power, check out this awesome braided-pot arbor. There are two such arbors at ARE, one at each parking lot entrance. (The other is pictured at the top of this post.)

How many pots went into the making of this, do you think? The sky vine-draped arbor in the background is striking too.

Pink roses fronting a picturesque stone house, another former gift shop now mostly empty

Leaning in for a sniff

Such nice framing of views through doorways and arbors

Along one wall, a face fountain partially obscured by fig ivy (Ficus pumila) spouts water into a small pool.

Flowery border of canna, Celosia spicata, and salvia

More annual amaranth celosia (Celosia spicata), beloved by butterflies

Looking out the back door of the little stone house at an herb circle and greenhouse

And at the herb circle, looking back

A purple greenhouse with fish-scale shingles adds cottage charm.

More roses for sale, with ARE’s iconic vine-smothered windmill standing tall

White rose

The central area of the display gardens has sassy signage…

…and dry-loving agaves, yuccas, and other succulents in interesting displays, like this tiered potted arrangement.

Children and children-at-heart enjoy the Beatrix Potter Garden, a playful space framed by a low, purple picket fence…

…populated by pot people with spiky agave hairdos…

…taking baths in galvanized tubs.

A squirrel finial on the fence offers a friendly welcome.

There’s a bit of Wizard of Oz mixed in here too. I remember seeing Toto last time I was here. This time I noticed a witch just past a stand of Philippine violet — or maybe she’s leftover from Halloween?

A wavy-pruned hedge and mint-green table and chairs create an inviting scene.

Another view, with shade-loving purple oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) in the foreground

Yellow firecracker fern (Russelia equisetiformis ‘Lutea’) cascades from an old well.

Purple path

No Southern garden is complete without a bottle tree.

Moving toward an open lawn you see some of ARE’s event spaces — rose arbors, a gazebo, and a tin-roofed house — rentable for weddings and other events.

Another sky vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) in full bloom clambers along a trellis near the house.

This tropical-looking Asian vine is a showstopper in the fall.

Stopping to admire what I think is a white-flowering variety of Philippine violet (can anyone confirm?), I spotted a fuzzy bee hard at work.

Across the lawn, a picturesque red chapel adds its own fall hue to an autumnal border of cigar plant (Cuphea ‘David Verity’), ornamental grasses, white mistflower (Ageratina havanensis), and red roses.

This is where the speaking events are held.

Blazing orange cosmos adds more color around back.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

More fall loveliness

Here’s my mom helping me out at the book-selling table. It was so nice to meet everyone who stopped by to chat or buy a book. If you were there, thanks so much for coming!

And thanks also to Mike Shoup of the Antique Rose Emporium for having me back out to speak! If you’d like to get a signed copy of The Water-Saving Garden, I left a few with Mike to sell in the gift shop, so stop by soon.

And if you’d like to read more about ARE’s gardens — with lots more photos! — click here for my post (the first of 3) from the Fall Festival in 2013.

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12 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Lovely. I thought they were already long gone. Maybe someone will step forward and take this into the future.
    One small warning about that celosia. It throws tiny seed everywhere and the germination is 100%. Plan to do a LOT of thinning, weeding, yanking…

  2. This place is fantastic. What interesting sheds, displays and that pot arbor is amazing.

  3. peter schaar says:

    Pam, I really enjoyed seeing you and hearing your excellent talk, from which I got some new ideas. And I especially enjoyed meeting your mom!

  4. Laura Munoz says:

    For some reason, I thought it was the second Rose Emporium location in San Antonio that was for sale/closing. I wonder if the economy is still impacting small businesses? The Rose Emporium is such a one-of-a-kind place. Places to purchase antique roses seem to be getting fewer. Hope your talk was a success!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      The ARE in San Antonio closed a few years ago. Mike, the owner, says he’s going to keep operating the mail-order rose business, so you’ll still be able to purchase ARE roses. It’s the property and gardens that are for sale. You’re right — it is a one-of-a-kind place. —Pam

  5. Katina says:

    That white flowering plant with the bee sure looks like White Philippine Violet…at least it’s the same plant that Bob Beyer gave me and said “this is Philippine Violet, the white flowering type”

  6. Robin says:

    Wow, what a lovely spot to enjoy gardens, and especially butterflies! I’m from Ohio, so I’ve never seen a Queen, and I’ve never heard of a Julia. Looks like I should visit some day.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      You definitely should visit Texas, Robin, and fall is a wonderful time of year here. But don’t wait if you want to see the Antique Rose Emporium. It’s for sale, and no way to know whether the gardens will remain open to the public once it sells. —Pam