Rosa climbing roses

Height: 1.8-9m (6-30ft)

Features: flowers spring to autumn

Soil: rich, well-drained

Site: full sun or partial shade

Modern climbing roses are either bredfrom true climbing species that originally grew in the wild, or they are the ‘climbing sports’ of cultivated hush roses-climbing mutations which can occasionally occur in bush roses. Climbing sports have flowers identical to their bush forms.

Climbers have a variety of flower sizes and clusters. The blooms are single, semi-double or double, mostly fragrant, and come in a range of scarlets, pinks, oranges, yellows, creams and white.

Most varieties now available are recurrent flowering (repeat flowering) – they flower at intervals from early summer until early autumn. The few climbers that bloom only once a year have floral displays spectacular enough to make up for their restricted blooming time. Some climbers produce strong stems, giving them a height potential far greater than most ramblers. The tallest varieties can be fanned out on house walls or trained up old trees to produce a shower of colour among the high branches. Less vigorous growers look most effective spiralling up pillars, pergolas and arches.

Popular varieties:

‘Aloha’ has double, rose-pink flowers of the hybrid-tea type. These are sweetly scented, recurrent flowering and rain-resistant. It is a moderate grower, reaching 2.4m (8ft), and is best trained up a pillar or along a low wall.

‘Altissimo’ has large, single blooms with blood-red petals and golden stamens. It is recurrent flowering but has only a slight fragrance. Reaching just 3.7m (12ft) high, it is suitable for boundary walls, fences and posts.

‘Altissimo’ ‘Antique’ is very vigorous, reaches 3m (10ft) high and has magnificent, very large, pink blooms with a pale centre and reverse. The intricate flower shape and luxuriant foliage are predominant features on a plant that flowers through to autumn.

‘Breath of Life’ has single, apricot to apricot-pink blooms of the hybrid-tea type. It is recurrent flowering, scented and excellent for cutting. The maximum height for this climber is 2.4m (8ft) and it is tolerant of most positions on walls or fences.

‘Casino’ has large, double, yellow blooms fading to soft yellow as they age. It is recurrent flowering with a sweet scent. The plants reach 3m (I Oft) high. Semi-hardy, they are best grown along a warm, sheltered wall.

‘Cecile Brunncr’, the climbing sport of the polyantha, has small, double, shell-pink flowers. Technically it is a recurrent-flowering variety, although the blooms decline in number as the summer progresses. The great advantage of this climber is its potential height of 6m (20ft), making it an excellent choice for training up an old tree.

‘Compassion’ has a profusion of large, double, apricot-pink blooms. It is recurrent flowering and strongly scented. New growth comes freely from the base but it is not sufficiently tall to cover a house wall, growing to about 3m (I Oft). Pillars, pergolas and arches make a more suitable support.

‘Danse du Feu’ (also called ‘Spectacular’) is recurrent flowering and has impressive, semi-double, scarletorange blooms but no fragrance. It reaches 3.7m (12ft) high and looks most effective covering a wall or screen.

‘Dortmund’ has large, single flowers with crimson-red petals, a white eye and golden stamens. It is a recurrent- ‘Aloha’ flowering pillar rose with no fragrance and reaches 2.4-3m (8-10ft) high.

‘Dreaming Spires’ is a recurrent-flowering, clear yellow climber. The large, sweetly scented, double blooms are borne in clusters. A moderate grower – 3m (1 Oft) – it is suitable for south-facing and west-facing walls and on pillars and screens.

‘Dublin Bay’ has large, double, deep red flowers that are slightly fragrant. It is recurrent flowering and a vigorous but not rampant grower, reaching 2.4m (8ft) high.

‘Ena Harkness’, the climbing sport of the hybrid tea, has sweetly scented, double, crimson flowers. The magnificent flush of early bloom is sometimes followed by the occasional bloom in autumn. At 3m (10ft) high, it is best planted against a south-facing wall.

‘Etoile de Hollande’, the climbing sport of the hybrid tea, has double, loosely formed, deep red flowers which are highly fragrant. It is a summer-flowering variety which reaches 3-3.7m (10- 12ft) high. Grow against a warm, sheltered wall.

‘Gloire de Dijon’ has double, buff-yellow blooms that are sweetly scented. It is a recurrent-flowering variety and one of the earliest to ‘Compassion’ bloom if grown against a warm wall. It reaches 3-4.6m (10-15ft) high and, despite its susceptibility to mildew, is extremely popular.

‘Golden Showers’ is probably the most popular climber and has large, bright golden-yellow flowers. These are fragrant and resistant to rain. It reaches 2.4m (8ft) high and is very free flowering.

‘Guinea’ has double, sweetly scented, dark velvet-red flowers. A strong recurrent flowerer, it reaches 2.4-3m (8-1 Oft) and looks effective trained against a wall or trellis screen.

‘Handel’ has double, cream-white flowers tipped carmine that are moderately sweetly scented and borne either singly or in clusters.

‘Dublin Bay’

Though resistant to rain, both mildew and black spot can be a problem. A recurrent-flowering variety, it reaches 3-3.7m (10-12ft) high. Train up a wall or pergola.

‘High Hopes’ has beautifully formed, double, light pink blooms with a moderate scent. A recurrent flowerer with copious dark green, healthy foliage, it grows to about 3m (10ft) high on walls, pillars and arches.

‘Iceberg’, the climbing sport of the floribunda, has semi-double, white blooms that are slightly fragrant. It is recurrent flowering and reaches a maximum height of 3m (10ft). Mildew can be a problem in the autumn.

Joseph’s Coat’ has remarkable clusters of medium-sized, double flowers which turn from yellow to scarlet as they age. It has dark green foliage and is recurrent flowering. A moderate grower at 2.7m (9ft), it is also popular as a hedge.

‘Kathleen Harrop’ is a sport of ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ and is similar to it in everything but colour. The pretty, pale pink blooms share the same delicious scent. It grows to about 2.7m (9ft).

‘Laura Ford’ is a breakthrough in roses. The miniaturized flowers and foliage entitle it to be called a miniature climber. It is recurrent flowering and the clusters of small, yellow roses are produced on a plant that will grow to about 1.8m (6ft). It is suitable for low walls and pillars.

‘Lavinia’ has clusters of large, double, pink blooms with a pleasing fragrance. It is a recurrent flowerer and grows to about 1.8m (6ft), making it ideal for pillars.

‘Leverkusen’ has large clusters of medium-sized, semi-double, pale yellow blooms. It is summer flowering and only slightly fragrant, with a maximum height of 3.7m (12ft). This is a useful variety as it tolerates cold, exposed conditions.

‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ has white, pink-flushed blooms of the old- ‘Golden Showers’ ‘Handel’ ‘Iceberg’ ‘Meg’ ‘Mermaid’ fashioned noisette type. These are strongly scented and produced in great profusion. It is recurrent flowering and reaches 4.6-6m (15-20ft) high.

‘Madame Gregoirc Staechelin’ (also called ‘Spanish Beauty’) has large, double, pink blooms of the hybrid-tea type. The magnificence of the blooms – with waved petals and a particularly heady fragrance – makes up for the fact that it only flowers for a few weeks in early summer. It is a vigorous climber, 4.6-6m (15-20ft) high, making it suitable for training against the north-facing wall of a house. Watch out for mildew.

‘Maigold’ has semi-double, fragrant, golden yellow flowers. Normally it flowers only once a year, in late spring, though thorough deadheading may encourage another flush. It reaches 3.3m (1 1 ft) high and is suitable for growing against a wall.

‘Masquerade’, the climbing sport of the floribunda, bears large clusters of slightly fragrant blooms which open yellow, then turn pink and red. It is summer flowering, although a later flush may appear if early flowers are deadheaded before the hips form. It reaches only 2.4m (8ft) high, so is best trained along a fence.

‘Meg’ has clusters of large, semi-double, apricot-pink flowers. It is sweetly scented but rarely recurrent flowering, though occasionally there may be a few late blooms. The maximum height is 3m (10ft) -grow it up a pergola, pillar or old tree, or along a fence.

‘Mermaid’ has single, scented, cream-yellow flowers. It is a recurrent-flowering climber – one of the tallest, reaching 7.6-9m (25-30ft) high. Train it up a south-facing or west-facing house wall where it is lesslikely to be affected by frost.

‘Morning Jewel’ has medium-sized, deep pink flowers with a slight fragrance. Recurrent flowering in small clusters, it is a good variety for a pillar, growing to about 2.4m (Sft) high.

‘Mrs Sam McGredy’, the climbing sport of the hybrid tea, has double, copperorange blooms and bronze-tinted foliage. It is recurrent flowering, wirh profuse blooms lasting well into autumn. It reaches 3.7m (12ft) high and looks effective against a wall.

‘New Dawn’ bears a profusion of small, semi-double, shell-pink blooms. It is recurrent flowering and fragrant, reaching 2.7m (9ft) high. It has a bushy habit which makes it suitable as a pillar rose or for growing through a hedge.

‘Parkdirektor Riggers’ has large clusters of semi-double, blood-red flowers. It is vigorous, recurrent flowering and reaches 3.7-4.6m (12-15ft) high. Mildew and black spot can be a problem.

‘Pink Perpetue’ has deep, two-toned pink flowers appearing in early and mid summer, and again in early autumn. The blooms are double and slightly fragrant. Though it reaches only 1.8-2.4m (6-Sft) high, it spreads well, making it a good variety for a low wall or fence.

‘Rosalie Coral’ is a recurrent-flowering miniature climber with clusters of double, clear orange flowers. The blooms are slightly fragrant and turn scarlet as they age. It reaches about 1.8m (6ft) and is ideal for covering low fences.

‘Royal Gold’ has double, deep yellow flowers that are slightly fragrant. It is recurrent flowering and reaches 2.4-3m (8-1 Oft) high. Grow it in a warm, sheltered position, preferably up a south-facing or west-facing wall.

‘New Dawn’ ‘Schoolgirl’ has large, double, apricotorange blooms – an unusual colour for a climber. It is recurrent flowering, fragrant and reaches 3-3.7m (10-12ft) high. Unfortunately, it can be very leggy and bare at the base if pruning isn’t done well.

‘Summerwine’ is a single, medium-sized, pink variety with red stamens and a moderate scent, flowering recurrently in small clusters. The lush, dark green foliage and extremely vigorous growth – 3.7m (12ft) – make this an ideal plant for large walls.

‘Pink Perpetue’ ‘Swan Lake’ has large, double, white blooms of the hybrid-tea type, tinged pink in the centre. They are slightly fragrant and resistant to rain. It is recurrent flowering and reaches 2.1-2.4m (7-8ft) high – ideal ‘Royal Gold’ for training up an arch, pillar or pergola. Black spot and mildew can be a problem.

‘Sympathic’ has double, bright red blooms of the hybrid-tea type. It is recurrent flowering, fragrant and resistant to disease. Maximum height is 4.6m (15ft).

‘Warm Welcome’ is a climbing miniature rose which grows to 1.8m (6ft), making it perfect for low walls or pillars. The small clusters of orange-red, miniaturized flowers have no scent and are produced continuously from early summer to late autumn.

‘White Cockade’ has double, white blooms of the hybrid-tea type. It is a recurrent-flowering variety, with a profusion of slightly scented flowers lasting well into autumn. Reaching 1.8-2.4m (6-8ft) high, it is suitable for training along a fence or up a pillar.

‘Zcphirine Drouhin’ is a climbing bourbon rose with semi-double, richly fragrant, carmine-pink blooms and no thorns. It is a recurrent-flowering variety, often with an autumn display more spectacular than the summer display. It reaches 2.7m (9ft) high. Mildew can be a problem.


Plant bare-rooted roses between late autumn and mid spring, during warm, dry spells; container-grown roses can go in at any time of year, as long as the ground is not frozen or waterlogged.

Like all roses, climbers need rich, well-drained soil. Most varieties thrive only in full sun, but one or two will tolerate partial shade.

Prepare a planting area of at least 1.2x 1.2m (4x4ft) for each climber. After planting, keep the ground free of weeds.

In mid to late spring, mulch both recently planted and established roses, then feed them once a month from late spring to mid summer.

As the plant grows, train it up the support. Climbers against walls and fences should be trained into a fan shape: fasten the main shoots as horizontally as possible to encourage the flower-bearing lateral shoots to grow.

Wind the shoots of roses trained up pillars and pergolas around the support in an upward spiral. No climbers are self-supporting, so they need to be tied with wire.

Pruning methods are the same for all climbers. Do not prune until the second year. Then cut back the lateral shoots in the autumn and remove the tips of unripened growth. Remove old or unwanted growth at the same time. Deadhead all varieties if you can reach them.

Propagation: This is best left to the nurseryman.

Pests and diseases: Black spot, the most common rose disease, may develop on the leaves, eventually causing them to drop off. Mildew sometimes affects leaves, stems and flowerbuds. Rust appears as bright orange pustules in spring, then develops into yellow patches on the leaves in summer, gradually turning black in autumn. The leaves will eventually drop. Greenfly may be found in iarge numbers on the tips of growing shoots.

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