The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, Tra La!


It is one of the advantages of living in South Texas that a lot of garden plants which must be sheltered and cosseted throughout bitterly cold winters up north, thrive here as well as wildflowers. And now that wildflower season has arrived, so has one of our two gardening seasons. In most places, there is only the one - spring and summer, but here we have two - spring and fall, when the weather is temperate and glorious, where palms and semi-tropical plants thrive. Still, there is a lot to be said for garden plants which are native to Texas or from a similar clime and native-adapted. One of the best sources in San Antonio for native and semi-native plants, and ideas about what to do with them is a nursery and sample garden hidden away on Evans Road, outside 1604 - the Antique Rose Emporium - which, contrary to the name, has more than roses for sale, and on display. Be warned, however; I use the word hidden without much exaggeration.

Although there are signs pointing the way, and another at the main entrance on Evans Road, the gardens and nursery are at the end of a bumpy dirt road which crosses Salado Creek and wanders up the low bluff on the opposite bank. A first time visitor might very well be dubious, upon first venturing along that road; even more on those few occasions when Salado Creek is flooded and one must come in the back way - a single lane track which skirts some warehouses, a couple of farm properties and houses, and threatens at every lightly marked turn to become someone's driveway. But at the end of it is a garden - landscaped with paths, quaint little buildings, pergolas and lawns - and a tall classic Texas windmill, all the better to show off the plantings.

The Emporium can give anyone with a green, or a semi-green, or even just a purple thumb, a fair idea of what can be grown in your Texas garden; salvias and mist-flowers, roses, scented verbenas and geraniums, jasmines and day-lilies . . . and herbs. An astonishingly wide variety of herbs can be nurtured here, year around. Why put up with a shelf of jars containing relatively tasteless dried green dust, when you can walk out the back door and pick fresh parsley, basil or thyme? The emporium offers all this and just about everything you need to make them grow well - organically. In the spring and summer, the gardens are alive with butterflies, bees and birds. (There are also a couple of resident cats - including Sylvester, the feline king of the Emporium, who turned up as a stray a good few years ago.)

If I wanted a nice bit of garden ornament - say, a gazing ball, or a pot glazed in jewel-colors, a bird-feeder or a bottle-tree, I would definitely check out the Rose Emporium first. Even just going there is as relaxing as a day in the park.