The Peaceful Habitations is located on the south side of the Guadalupe Valley between Boerne and Sisterdale and the hills on the property are the last high ground before the river. The view from the top of the hills is spectacular, extending about eight miles to the north across the valley, about five miles south toward Boerne, about twenty-five miles northwest toward Luckenbach, and fifty or more miles east toward Canyon Lake and New Braunfels. This high ground has always been desirable and inhabited, judging from the Commanche arrowheads we still find occasionally on the sides of the hills.
The land was settled by German immigrants in the 1840's and 1850's, and the third and fourth generations of some of these families still live on the surrounding ranches. In fact, two of our roses, Gilbert's Red and Gilbert's Pink, were taken as cuttings from plants at a neighbor's homestead that were brought to Kendall County by his great grandmother in the 1850's.
Although the Peaceful Habitations began as a working cattle ranch, it has gradually evolved into a place of unique beauty and serenity. Two adjoining properties were purchased in 1967 and operated as a single ranch for many years. During this period, the primary emphasis on was on the traditional agricultural and recreational industries of the Texas Hill Country: raising beef cattle and hunting white tailed deer. Although the cattle and deer still roam freely through the pastures, a non-traditional and dramatic transformation began in 1983.
It was in the spring of that year that an abandoned field approximately six acres in size was enclosed with deer-proof fencing to permit a small orchard to be planted with plum, pear, apple, nectarine, and peach trees. The neighbors were skeptical in the extreme, because the approach was non-traditional. Dire predictions ranging from drought to devastation by deer were freely given to the "crazy city folk". But the fencing was quite effective, if a little frustrating to the deer, and the once abandoned field was quickly changed into a place of unique beauty and quietness.
The deer-proof fence that was originally intended to protect the fruit trees, was soon covered with climbing roses. Once again, the neighbors were quick to tell us that we were wasting our time because "roses never did - and never would grow in the Texas Hill Country".
Since we knew essentially nothing about growing roses at the time, we just dug holes in the native dirt and caliche and stuck the roses in the ground. This was our first lesson on low maintenance and very hardy roses, and the roses we planted in the spring of 1984 flourish on the deer-proof fence to this day. The fence that started out as a strictly utilitarian object has been transformed into a focal point of great beauty.
In the spring of 1953 I had purchased a Cecile Brunner "Sweetheart Rose" and planted it for my mother on her farm southeast of San Antonio. When she moved to the ranch north of Boerne in 1967, she dug the rose up and took it with her. Unfortunately, she planted it under a huge oak tree, and it eventually declined and perished. She tried to find a replacement for this little "Sweetheart rose" but actually bought several specimens of a semi climbing variant of it. This time she planted the roses in partial shade, and they survived and grew large enough to require periodic pruning to keep them from impinging on the walkway.
One day in the spring of 1994, Fernando, who until that moment had never exhibited any green thumb tendencies, was trimming my mother's roses. Looking at the clippings on the ground, he wondered if some of them might be convinced to grow. So he took two little branches and stuck them in the ground near the cabins on the south side of the ranch. The place where he planted these cuttings was, in fact, the site where an old house had burned to the ground in the early 1960's, so it was essentially an ash heap. Fortunately, Fernando did not tell the roses that they had no chance of survival, and they promptly rooted and grew into six-foot shrubs that were continuously covered with blooms.
Within a matter of months I had fallen hopelessly in love with these wonderful low-maintenance roses. I am told by reliable authorities, notably my wife and Fernando, that I never do anything on a small scale, and my transmission only seems to have two gears: park and full speed. Well, this turned out to be a great confirmation of those observations. There was an open area at the top of the orchard that we had used from time to time as a vegetable garden. Suddenly, it was filled with antique roses obtained from nurseries and from my friends at the Texas Rose Rustlers. I would go to a Rose Rustlers' cutting exchange, and would come home with 30-50 new varieties, which I promptly rooted and planted in the garden. In short order, the first garden was full to overflowing with beautiful roses and intoxicating fragrance.
In the months that followed, there was a great surge of building that included flower beds, tripods, arbors, and paths defined by cedar logs. Soon the word was spreading and people were coming from near and far to see this "diamond in the rough" nestled among the hills and oaks. By the fall of 1997 we had accumulated sufficient stock to permit us to open on a limited schedule for retail sales, and the Peaceful Habitations Rose Gardens began operations.
By November of 1998, the original garden was full to overflowing with roses, so a new garden area was laid out it a pattern that is reminiscent of old fashioned town squares. Now we are heading down the hill side, inter planting beautiful roses with the original fruit trees. In a few years the full six acres will be filled, but then there is an adjoining 25 acre field, and another 20 acres across the road and then .... well, you just never can tell.
Last updated 03/23/2001