Monday, November 18, 2013

Last Chance Tour of The Antique Rose Emporium San Antonio Gardens

How do you say goodbye to a special garden?  At least we had a purpose in mind when my friend Melody and I arrived at the gardens of the now-closed Antique Rose Emporium in San Antonio recently.  We were there to collect seeds for the Warrior and Family Support Center gardens where we volunteer.   We also knew this would be our last chance to visit these gardens which had been a source of inspiration for so many San Antonio gardeners over the last fourteen years.

At first glance from the parking lot very little had changed in the fifteen months since they closed their San Antonio location. Roses in full bloom greeted us just as I remembered from previous visits.

 The front entry looked the same as always though it seemed a bit empty without most of the plant displays

We had discussed on the drive over that it would probably look like a ghost town....

....and it did.  A beautifully landscaped ghost town.  Only the tumbleweeds were missing.

Fittingly we had a rare cloudy day to match our mood.

The bright orange cosmos were going to seed giving us a good reason (excuse) to be here.

Our seed gathering task completed, I headed off for a tour of my favorite spots which is basically every part of these gardens.  For those of you who know the gardens well this will be tough to see, but it has remained a beautiful spot to the end.

The cedar gazebo with a white and blue garden walk looked beautiful. 

A crinum still blooming among the white roses in November

The now-empty bottle tree and on the right is the way the tree looked when the nursery was open.

The gardens looked surprisingly good with all the late summer rain.

As I walked through the gardens I reminisced with Robbi, the manager of this location, and Melody about my first visit five years ago when I didn't know the names of most of these plants.  Now I know almost all of them and many are in my own gardens.

More of that brilliant orange of the Cosmos accent the perennials and roses in the center garden.  Still magical.

Here the Cosmos mix with Mexican Bush Sage

The gardens look ready for the holidays with the red shrimp plant and cedar deer in another section

Gregg's Dalea as groundcover on the other side

I followed the path to the Hacienda

Silvery yuccas and a Texas Mountain Laurel 'Silver Peso' grace the entrance with Autumn Sage at their feet.

Agave parryi carries the silvery theme around a nearby border

The Hacienda lawn has seen its last wedding.

The fountains were still bubbling in the blue adobe courtyard

Clerodendron ugandense blooming against the blue wall.

One more look at the huge yucca with the strappy silver leaves and a reminder I never did ask the name of this one.

The adobe courtyard

The green between the bricks are self-seeded flowers and not weeds.

The arcade spanning across the two courtyards

Changsha orange tree loaded with fruit

Tempting but I didn't pick any
Darkness was falling and we headed home after more than two hours walking and talking with Robbi in the gardens.  Behind the shed you can see the empty rose display.  All the roses and other plants from the sales area were moved to the Independence location near Brenham.

Back on the road, I hopped out to move the rope.....

...and we took one last look back.

The faded writing requests  "Visit your local independent nursery or garden center to find our antique roses locally".   An excellent idea no matter where you live or what type of plant you are looking for.

There's no way around the news so I'll just put it out there as is:   The property has been sold.  The gardens will be removed and the land put to another use.

For those of you who loved visiting these gardens over the years, I hope you enjoyed this "last chance" tour and you can always take a trip to The Antique Rose Emporium gardens in Independence.


  1. It's a beautiful garden with all the plantings and structures. Shame it had to close and to know that the garden will be removed too.

  2. So sad. Thanks for documenting that such a lovely place existed.....That color blue, which is famous from Frida Kahlo's Blue House in Coyoacan, Mexico City, has got to be the best color to offset a garden or to use in pottery. The orange of the Cosmos would also look good next to the light blue of Plumbago. I saw some Beauty berry bush in one of your pictures. I am having trouble growing it here. Maria

  3. Shirley, what a beautiful tribute to the gardens that inspired me and so many others. It was special to be able to visit there one last time. I will always have wonderful memories of A.R.E. from the plants I bought there that are now growing in my own garden. Thank you for the photos as keepsakes too!

  4. We live close by and I often took my kids there to enjoy the gardens. My own garden is filled with plants I bought there. We have missed our trips there. I am so sad to hear the new owners will be removing the gardens! Thanks for the wonderful photos and a last goodbye.

  5. This makes me so sad. I loved visiting these beautiful gardens -- so much closer to Austin than the Brenham location, plus there's just something magical about a garden with roses and adobe walls. Thanks for the last look, Shirley. RIP, SA ARE.

  6. Oh wow. I've visited the one near Brenham and based on the photos they look very similar. It is too bad the gardens will be removed, it would be nice if they let folks dig them up or sold them for charity.

  7. Oh! Throughout this post, I kept hoping that someone would come along and make something special out of this property. But then you stated that the gardens will be removed?!! Oh, no! I can not imagine having such beauty destroyed. So sad that the nursery had to close, but it's devastating to think that the new owners didn't see what they had in front of them. Thanks for the final tour. Still beautiful.

  8. Makes me want to cry. Thanks for a lovely last tour.

  9. I'm so sorry I never got down there, while it was open. It looks like such neat garden.
    I'm also sorry that it didn't sell to someone who would bring it back as a garden center.

    Thanks for the final, goodbye tour.

  10. But but but...what will happen to all the plants? They won't just be "plowed under" I hope!

    1. We won't really know but several gardens are hoping for a digging opportunity.

  11. I'm sad and I don't live anywhere remotely close to San Antonio. How can anyone buy that property and take out such a beautiful mature garden?

  12. That's a hard passage to learn about for those of us who have visited, or as in my case, ordered from, those great rose people, fondly known as "rose rustlers."

  13. Oh Shirley....this is so sad....

    You sure did give it a beautiful goodbye with those lovely pictures and words...

  14. Too sad...You have memorialized it beautifully,

  15. I hope the new owners will read this post and not just bulldoze 'sight unseen'. What a beautiful garden for a restaurant or retreat center. I can't believe how well it is doing without any help. Gives me some food for thought.
    Thanks for the great last memories.

  16. What a beautiful garden, it's too bad I was not close enough to visit there sometime. The blue adobe is wonderful, it is so picturesque. I enjoyed seeing the garden though it is so sad that many great gardens end this way. It would be great to turn this into a park. I'm trying to imagine living in a garden like this...

  17. Really miss these grounds, no place like it in FW. I am so glad to see the gardens still look beautiful. Hopefully someone will scoop this place up and open it to the public again.

  18. Wow, (tear drops from eye) that is quite ... sad. I, like the others, hope that it won't simply be ploughed under. It would be a great place for weddings and photo sessions, if nothing else. Do you think it's part of a trend of local family nurseries closing? We had a long-lived family garden business close here in Madison this summer, too, and it was so sad to visit it for the last time--even though it wasn't my favorite one.

    1. It was very popular for photos during its days as an event venue. We kept hoping someone would keep it open but that is not to be.

  19. There's such a feeling of loss when one of our favorite independent nurseries closes. I'm sorry, Shirley, for the loss of this special place and am very sad to hear that the property has been sold and that the gardens will be removed. Until the end of your post, I was hoping that someone would buy the property and love the gardens.

    1. Thank you Peter, it's tough to take for the many local gardeners who loved visiting these gardens.

  20. What a wonderful and inspiring garden, its closing is a loss to all gardeners.

  21. I loved all their roses but never saw this nursery...what a beautiful tribute no preserved in sad.


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