Special Delivery: Southern Antique Roses

Not all roses are created equal

Photo: Courtesy of the Antique Rose Emporium

Roses are always a nice thought for Valentine’s Day, but not all of them are created equal.

Just ask Mike Shoup, owner of the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas. In the early eighties, after years working in the big box nursery business, Shoup made a remarkable discovery that changed the course of his professional life in a very unlikely place: a cemetery. “What I found is that roses planted a hundred years ago in honor of loved ones in overgrown cemeteries thrived,” he says. “I thought roses had to be fussed over and sprayed. But I realized that these older roses were time-tested survivors that are a whole lot different than modern roses bred as cutting flowers.”

Photo: Antique Rose Emporium

Madame Alfred Carriere roses.

Today Shoup raises and sells (and ships) more than 400 varieties of heirloom and antique roses inspired by that fateful trip. They boast wonderful stories and, in many cases, extraordinary fragrance. “I think Southerners love them because they have a unique nostalgic value,” Shoup says. “And the best time to plant them in the South is now. If you plant them in summer you’re dealing with a flower under a lot more stress because it hasn’t established its root system.”

Madame Alfred Carriere roses in bloom.

So what’s his favorite Southern rose to gift to a lifetime love—and enjoy for a lifetime? The Madame Alfred Carriere, a creamy-white fragrant climber. “It is one from the Noisette family of roses first bred in South Carolina, and the flowers droop a little when they are blooming so they almost look like they are dripping,” says Shoop.

Doesn’t that sound romantic?

*Editors’ Note: Not all roses will arrive in bloom, but stay tuned for spring buds.