There is nothing more romantic than living in a rose-covered cottage or walking under an arbor or pergola covered in fragrant roses. Climbing roses can add a colorful vertical accent to almost any garden.
Climbing roses need a sturdy structure—an arbor, pillar, pergola, or lattice—on which to grow. Make sure your structure can support the weight of your climber. Although some climbers stop growing at 10 or 12 feet, others can reach 30 feet or more in height. Unlike beans or peas, roses will not voluntarily climb a structure, so it is up to you to get them onto the structure. It is remarkably frustrating to have a beautiful arbor but a rose happily growing in exactly the wrong direction!
Site your rose carefully. Like all roses, climbing roses want full sun. Once trained on a structure, your rose will not be as easily moved as a non-climbing rose that you can simply dig up and relocate.
Plant your rose 12 inches or more from the structure, not right up against it. Note that if you are planting up against a house or shed, overhanging eaves may reduce the amount of rain water that hits the ground and you will need supplemental water.
Leaders vs. laterals
Climbing roses have two types of canes—leaders and laterals. Leaders are the long canes that come out of the ground and are usually the ones you attach to your structure. Lateral canes come off of lead canes and produce flowers.
Training the rose
The more parallel to the ground your lead canes, the more laterals they will produce, and the more blooms you will have. A climber growing straight up an arbor will only have blooms at the top. Therefore, you want to train the lead canes to grow parallel to the ground on a supporting structure. It is much easier to train a climber on an arbor, pergola, or lattice structure than on a column or pillar. If you want to wrap your climber around a pole, wrap the lead canes as parallel to the ground as possible.
Young canes are the most supple and amenable to bending or shaping. Plan on tying up your climber several times during the growing season so you can work with new growth. Twine and string are good choices for tying canes. They are softer than wire, which can cut or damage the canes.
Continuing care and pruning
The care of climbing roses is similar to that of their non-climbing brethren. They need the same fertilizing and watering regimen. They are susceptible to the same diseases. However, pruning climbing roses is different. Remove dead, damaged, or diseased canes, but let the healthy lead canes grow long to suit both your taste and your structure. You should also prune back the laterals to keep them in check and to promote re-blooming.
To learn more about pruning climbing roses, contact your local rose society. The Asheville Blue Ridge Rose Society serves Western North Carolina. Visit their website at www.ashevillerosesociety.org or contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers’ “Gardening in the Mountains” lecture series will present a talk on rose care and disease resistant roses at the County Extension office, 49 Mt. Carmel Rd., on Thursday, July 21, 11:30 to 1. Call 828-255-5522 to reserve a seat.
Article written by Judy Deutsch, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.