Knowing I would miss the actual first day of the group itinerary, I front loaded a couple of extra Austin days leading up to the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling. There would be no way to see that day’s private gardens but I wanted to at least see the public things the group would cover on that first day and a few side trip suggestions in our pre-Fling materials had captured my attention–high on the extras list was a road trip to the Antique Rose Emporium about 2 hours east of Austin in the small town of Independence, Texas.
This 8 acre display garden, event venue and retail nursery was established in 1984 by Mike and Jean Shoup. Holding a Masters Degree in Horticulture and growing woody perennials for the landscape industry and retail centers since 1976, Mike grew weary of the green shrub grind and turned his attention to finding plants native to Texas which could fill the same purpose as those ubiquitous go-to foundation plants currently in favor. It was on one of those plant finding forays that Mike first encountered everblooming roses growing happily in desolate and uncared for country areas. His fascination with and acquisition of what he calls “pioneer roses” or “survivor roses” became the foundation of the Antique Rose Emporium. In addition to the roses available in the retail garden center they have a huge mail order inventory and ship all over the continental United States. Mr. Shoup is also the author of Empress of the Garden, a gorgeous coffee table book laden with photos and growing tips.
Upon pulling into the gravel parking lot I have to say it looked exactly as I thought it would–like the garden of a family well settled into their land for generations. The retail part of the business is tucked beautifully and naturally into an area overflowing with shaded beds, borders, vintage buildings and whimsical garden art.
The Beatrix Potter themed Children’s Garden overflows with all things Peter Rabbit! Friendly squirrels top the fenceposts on the purple picket fence.
In the foreground you can see a great stand of blue Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’, a Texas native mealycup sage. It is growing in many large perennial colonies all over the display gardens and at about 30″ high is much taller than the mealycup sages I see in California garden centers. I learned that it was found at the Central Texas gravesite of Henry Duelberg by Texas horticulturalist Greg Grant who introduced it along with a white mealycup sage found at the grave of Henry’s better half–appropriately called Salvia farinacea ‘Augusta Duelberg’.
A variety of pathways, brick and gravel, offer approaches to the display gardens and historic buildings on the site. This one, smothered in a green canopy just begs you to walk through with the promise of wonderful things on the other side.
A second homage to the humble terra cotta pot marks the entry to retail plant area. I had seen this wonderful sculpture in an article in Southern Living Magazine years ago and have never stopped talking about how to add a similar feature to my garden.
The 2 story McKnight-Hairston stone home originally sat on this acreage. The homestead included a detached kitchen, smokehouse, milk house, corncrib and barn. Only ruins of the detached kitchen remained when the Shoups purchased the land. The stone kitchen has been restored and is surrounded by a period cottage garden and a perennial border.
There are a number of locations in the display gardens which are very popular for weddings and community events. Above you look past these HUGE rebar tuteurs covered with roses and other vines to a picturesque white gazebo. It was very cloudy throughout my visit but at this point it looked as though the skies would open up at any minute.
One of the most appealing things to me about these display gardens and the variety of spots to hold formal and informal gatherings was that they look exactly like what they are–country gardens. They are not manicured and clearly face all the challenges a home gardener with a large property would face–too many plants and not enough hands. They looked as though nature was really at work here: annuals reseeding, bees and butterflies pollinating, roses resting to bloom once again, real life, real gardening!
The drive from Austin was wide open and easy. The gardens were inviting and inspiring and I know would be different upon every visit. Thank you to the Antique Rose Emporium for being one of the Garden Bloggers Fling Austin 2018 sponsors. You can read more of their story and check out their online mail-order rose catalog at http://www.antiqueroseemporium.com