Climbing Roses – Rosa

Roses are not, strictly speaking, climbing plants, and have to be tied to their supports, although their thorns help by hooking into the material of the fence or upright. Species roses make good climbers. Many of them climb much higher than any cultivated roses and, being disease-resistant, they do better than modem roses in the dose conditions near to walls and fences. R. banksiae (Lady Banks’ rose), vigorous, growing to 6m (20 ft), has white or yellow fragrant flowers, but is not reliably hardy and needs a sheltered south wall. R. filipes, with dusters of white single flowers is a very vigorous climber, up to 12 m (40 ft), and has a cultivar called ‘Kiftsgate’ with bigger flowers. R. multi-flora (polyantha rose) grows to 4.6m (15 ft) in height and width. It is a parent of the modern polyanthus roses, carries white flowers, and has a number of cultivars with different coloured flowers – ‘Camed (pink), ‘Goldfinch’ (yellow) and ‘Platyphylla’ (mauve and pink).

Climbing Roses - Rosa

Ramblers are not much planted these days because of their many disadvantages. They produce only one flush of flowers, they need a lot of careful pruning to stop them becoming leggy, with bare basal stems, and they are disease-prone. Justifiably more popular are the modem climbers which give repeat flowering, need little or no pruning, and are disease-resistant. Recommended are ‘Handel’ (cream flowers with a pink edge), ‘Schoolgirl’ (apricot), ‘Compassion’ (pink and apricot, very fragrant), and ‘Danse du Feu’ (crimson). All these climb to about 3m (loft). A Victorian climber which goes to 6m (20 ft) is ‘Mme Alfred

Carriere’, which carries a succession of white fragrant flowers right through the summer. It is also suitable for a north wall, and so is ‘Mme Gregoire Staechelin’, which has only one flush of enormous fragrant pink blooms in June. General care: Roses are tolerant of most soil types, but the site must be prepared by the addition of liberal amounts of compost, followed by mulches and feeding with fertilizers once the roses are planted. Container-grown plants can be put in at any time of year, and bare-rooted plants up to April. Roses prefer a sunny site, and because of their need for water must be planted at least 30 cm (12 inches) away from the base of any fence or wall, and 60 cm (2 ft) away from the base of any existing tree. To encourage flowering, climbers must be trained horizontally on walls or fences, or fan-trained. If they are allowed to go straight up they will flower only at the top. Propagation: Take 22.5-cm (9-inch) long cuttings of the current year’s growth in September, removing all but two leaves. Make a 15-cm (6-inch) deep trench in the garden, put some sharp sand in the bottom insert the cuttings, and fill in the trench. In a year they should be ready for planting out.

Pests and diseases: Black spot and powdery mildew are the chief problems, both controllable by fortnightly spraying with a fungicide. Rust is less common, but can be fatal if it gets into the plant tissues. Prevent by keeping the roses well watered, and spray with zineb. Aphids on the young flower buds can be controlled by spraying with malathion or a systemic insecticide.

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