Contact us

Social Climbers

There is little to beat the spectacle of a climbing or rambling rose in the summer. There are not many other plants that can flower so profusely and in such a variety of colours and shades and take up a relatively small area on the ground compared to the enormous vertical space they can fill. There are many that will also repeat-flower all summer long as well as into the autumn months and I think, that for the small amount of effort they need, they give back in spades.

A lot of people ask me what the difference is between a climbing rose and a rambler. The short answer is that climbers tend to produce stiffer stems in smaller numbers while ramblers have more whippy shoots with smaller flowers and in larger numbers and these tend generally not to grow so long as new shoots are being produced at ground level more frequently.

Ramblers work better with a lot of helping support from either trees or shrubs or any structure, but certainly something good and strong.  Some will leap up into huge trees, particularly exciting to see is the Rambling Rector which grows to a massive six metres high and wide at least and will quickly scramble over any unsightly building.  Another very vigorous rambler and guaranteed to find its way speedily up any huge tree is Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’.  I have seen this rose in action at Kiftsgate Garden in Gloucestershire and it is truly a sight to see. It is said that “if the rose ever seized its chance it will become the ramparts of a Sleeping Beauty palace all by itself” – and it’s easy to see how!

Pruning and training these roses is relatively easy, if sometimes a bit prickly and time-consuming. I have often come home from a day of rose pruning bleeding from both arms! The first job is to prune away any dead or dying stems or wood and cut it back to new growth to encourage vigorous replacements.  At this time of year it is a bit too late to start pruning but if your rose is neglected and looking worse for wear, now is better than never.

The flowers usually appear on the side-growths on the stem and it is important to encourage new shoots at every node, the node being the small v-shaped mark on the stem. You will notice that buds emerge from this point.  Climbers do prefer growing horizontally, so a pergola or a well-wired wall or trellis framework is ideal.  I also like to train them in the early spring by twisting the long stems from the previous year around a support of either metal or hazel or willow as the stem will flower where it has been bent.

There are some climbers and ramblers that seem to thrive on neglect and need little attention, however, most will benefit from pruning and certainly feeding as well as keeping on top of any pest control.  These roses can also be susceptible to greenfly and rust as well as black-spot.  However, if you are not keen on using chemicals, which I am not, then there are simple rules that can be applied, and this can be used with all types of roses.

  1. Plant your roses in full sun where they will get plenty of light and any moisture will quickly evaporate. Black-spot loves damp.
  2. Plant them giving them space for air to move around them and this might help the spores to be blown away
  3. Water at ground level so that the roses don’t get damp
  4. Remove and dispose of any infected leaves as soon as possible and do not leave them lying around. Don’t put them in the compost as this simply adds to the problem
  5. Keep your garden clean and clear up infected leaves in the winter months
  6. Choose disease resistant plants

For removing greenfly, I have found that the best way is to either encourage ladybirds, as their larvae adore eating green fly or to use a mild water and washing up liquid mix and put into a hand spray and give them a good squirt of the mixture. I am hopelessly drawn to the old fashioned climbing roses such as Zepherine Drouhin, an extremely reliable and gorgeously pink rose.  I’m also quite partial to the beautiful and graceful Madame Alfred Carriere, with it’s very long flowering period, sometimes until Christmas, with a shower of gorgeous pale-pink noisette flowers.

I have grown many Rosa New Dawn, with it’s silvery blush-pink flowers which deepen towards the centre and are produced in clusters. It is a vigorous and disease resistant plant and flowers from July to September. A favourite rambler would be Rosa Albertine, with reddish-salmon buds that open into large pink flowers with a very strong scent. This can be susceptible to black-spot if not planted in a suitable position.

To see wonderful roses, visit Iford Manor near Bradford on Avon or visit Susan Fremantle at Hill Lodge at North End, Batheaston, as her garden is listed in the National Garden Schemes Yellow Book and is open at certain days throughout the year.

Leave a reply