A free-to-visit garden is not to be sniffed at – but then again, some of them are. Few visitors to a rose garden can resist leaning in to inhale the fragrance. We seem hard-wired to think ‘scent’ the moment after we think ‘rose’.
Shakespeare’s ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ can’t take all the credit. Scent associations trap memories like flies in amber in a lifetime’s layering of impressions.
My own layers include years working alongside a major rose garden, but the seed took root as a child.
For example, being allowed in to Mama’s tiny, v-shaped rose garden which became increasingly hazardous to small people as summer ripened the roses to overspilling the path. I don’t remember smelling the roses, or even the sight of tumbling flowers, more the eye-level tangle of thorny foliage. But I must have smelled them, often, as I only have to linger over the thought of a rose’s scent to be taken back there, peeping over the garden gate.
Then there’s Dad leaving rose petals in jam jars of water in a sunny windowsill to make rose water and encouraging my sister and me to savour its sweet spiciness. Wild roses encountered on young rambles in the Lancashire countryside.
Our own, equally tiny garden, crammed with the classics of the time, Rosa ‘Peace’, Rosa ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and a pretty pink, cream and yellow floribunda growing over lily of the valley, violas and Welsh poppies. Mum’s lovely summer bud vases of English Roses cut from her garden that drop their petals too soon with a sigh. You could say roses are a family thing.
Over the last decade, rare visits to the Antique Rose Emporium have added a Texan flavour to my lifetime’s rose layers. The sheer quality of light is memorable, before we even start on the roses.
There’s an argument that the best garden centre is the one closest to your doorstep, but some are more of a joy to visit, much more memorable.
Regular readers may remember that my favourite nurseries all maintain display gardens. The Antique Rose Emporium’s garden is designed to show us ways to grow roses and how to combine them with other plants.
Lovers of Antique Roses (usually called Old or Heritage Roses in the UK) will find soul-mates in Brenham, of the human and plant varieties. While some of the plants on offer are rare, others are widely grown.
Survivor roses would not still be with us were they not full of character, disease-resistant and trouble free. They are more likely to be scented.
The pictures here are from visits to the Antique Rose Emporium in April and November. As always, the roses, where named, are offered for sighing over, not as recommendations. Different climates call for different varieties and I’ll leave all that firmly with the experts.
Rose lovers would say roses are not plants we grow, they’re plants we live with, each with their own character. I seem to see hints of that in the pictures.
Since roses are associated with romance, the Antique Rose Emporium has a chapel where weddings and anniversaries can be celebrated. Rose festivals are held there too in happier times.
The daisies in the background (Chrysanthemum x rubellum ‘Clara Curtis’) made it over to Texas from their ‘birthplace’, Happy Valley in Llandudno, Wales, where we often went for family holidays. It’s a small world!
Even if roses are not your thing, there are still many attractions. I recently shared a picture of the path maze and you’ll find a good sprinkling of garden art.
To find out more, check out the Antique Rose Emporium’s website and add them to your to-visit list, for if you’re ever in the area. I’m confident you’ll have as happy a time there as my sweetheart and I always do.
The address of the nursery and garden is:
Antique Rose Emporium, 10000 FM 50, Brenham, Texas 77833
Please check the website for opening times.