Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas, and Memories of Roses

Romantic tumble of roses at the Antique Rose Emporium

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.

Shrub and antique roses
Ivory, pink, salmon and apricot roses

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.

Apricot rose

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.

Garden vista
Garden vista

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.

Plant benches
Benches full of companion plants for 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.

Red roses with double poppies and larkspur
Red roses with double poppies and larkspur
Flower border in April
April highlights: it wouldn’t be Texas without bluebonnets
Rambling roses trail over the gazebo railings
Rambling roses trail over the gazebo railings
Rosa 'Peggy Martin'
Rosa ‘Peggy Martin’

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.

Pale pink antique roses
Pale pink antique rose

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.

Rosa 'Marchesa Boccella'
Rosa ‘Marchesa Boccella’ has a strong, rich fragrance

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.

Rosa 'Penelope'
Rosa ‘Penelope’

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.

Salmon pink rose
Salmon pink rose
Rosa 'Perle d'Or'
Rosa ‘Perle d’Or’
Antique roses
Ruffled rose with button eye
November roses
November roses
Rosa 'Cornelia'
Rosa ‘Cornelia’
Rosa 'Graham Thomas'
Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’
Rose with beetle
The display gardens attract beetles, butterflies and bees
Pink rambling rose
Pink rambling rose

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.

Antique Rose Emporium Chapel
The Chapel is a popular wedding venue

Antique Rose Emporium Chapel with daylilies

Rose posy on a decorative plinth
Rose posy on one of two decorative plinths at the Chapel entrance

Flower arrangement with roses

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.

38 Replies to “Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas, and Memories of Roses”

  1. What a place! No wonder people want to get married there. All roses are beautiful, but my favorites are the rugosas that grow wild in Maine, usually at the coast. To me, they are the smell of summer and the seaside. I love how you wrote about the way scent brings back memories of summers and gardens past.

    1. I thought it would be a virtual trip for those who live too far away to visit, especially those legally confined to local areas as we are in England and as I know you are out of free will in Maine.

  2. I wish I could get my roses to sweep right down to the ground that the Peggy Martin you show (a name I haven’t come across before so I’m presuming it’s US only). My only grip with scented roses is that they seem to bloom only once a year whereas I love the twice yearly flowers on most of today’s roses. If I should ever get to Texas (not likely now) I will surely make a beeline for that garden.

    1. You’ll love it. They specialise in everblooming roses as well as the once flowering kind including plenty of fragrant ones. I always think the term is slightly optimistic but they’ll certainly repeat flower in flushes.

  3. Who does not love the smell of roses ? For me the best garden center is not the closesed,, we jump over the Dutch border (only after corona !!) to by our plants.

    1. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? I can imagine that would be very tempting – Holland has a reputation for supplying plants to the rest of Europe. Let’s hope you can safely go there soon.

  4. Loved your photos and the walk through the roses. My mother married into the name Rosenfeld (I kept my birth name). She gravitated to clothing and decorative patterns with roses and filled our small yard with varied color rose bushes. A favorite place to hide and sit as a child.

    1. That’s a lovely name. You’ve reminded me of something they say on the Antique Rose Emporium’s website:’ these are captivating plants, and once taken with them you’re likely to never be the same.’

  5. So many lovely roses. Although I only have a few I do have to have at least one as they remind me of my dad who grew roses. I stopped for several years as I didn’t have the time to spend looking after them properly. There is nothing like the scent of old roses. And the phrase “…drop their petals too soon with a sigh” is the reason I never have cut roses.

    1. My dad preferred to see them on the plant. I dug up his hybrid tea roses some years after he died. They had seen far better days, but I still felt guilty about it. I sometimes think I’ve been paying a rose penance ever since.

  6. After I recovered from your first words about gardens not to be sniffed at, I was reading along contentedly, if wistfully, and then I got to the Perle d’Or buds. Full stop, full swoon. Then the partly-opened ruffled Cornelia, and the next two. Thank you for the magnificent buds! I covet those bouquets. And I loved your ever-green garden memories.

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