Thursday, February 18, 2010

Climbing and Rambling Roses for Cold and Mild Climates



Cl. Old Blush

Louise Odier
Aviateur Bleriot

Aviateur Bleriot



Great Western

Reve d'Or

Francois Juranville

Marechal Neil

Leontine Gervais

Reverend James Sprunt


"Barfield White Climber"


If you’ve ever been to England or mainland Europe, or even northern California in July, you likely noticed quaint landscapes punctuated by ten or twelve foot tall "rose pillars" of vigorous climbing roses that had consumed wooden poles or larch tree trunks sunk into the soil. Here in America most of our landscapes are sorely lacking in vertical design elements, and "rose pillars" are an elegant solution since several rose varieties, if grown on their own roots, will Jack-And-The-Beanstalk their way up a pole in a few seasons. So why not embellish your landscape with their heart stirring visual drama and drifting fragrance?

"But this isn’t cool damp England" you might say and I agree....about three hundred million of us are jostling for water that once supported scant wildlife and scattered tribes of Native Americans. But as a permaculturist-hippie type left over from the 70’s I enjoyed a lush rose-filled landscape (170 varieties) my 15 years in Denver with just 3 deep waterings per month using a low tech hose and old-fashioned oscillating sprinkler. No lawn, DEEPLY mulched beds, and appropriate plant choices are key. My rose pillars, and those of my clients, thrived year after year, each a stunning, fragrant exclamation point celebrating summer. Several nurseries and reliable mail order houses sell own root plants of very undemanding roses that have blessed my customers with decadently beautiful rose pillars you can easily bring into your toxic sprays and anal-retentive pruning schedules, just a spring feeding and fall training of new growth and re-mulch every 2 years.

Use a posthole digger to sink a rough hewn 10 foot long landscape timber 2 feet down into the soil, then dig a 20 inch wide and deep hole right next to it. Fill the hole half way with compost, set in your own root rose, and replace the soil you dug out till the poor thing looks half buried alive in a dome of soil, mulch it with 6 to 8 inches of chipped mulch from a tree trimming service and give it a DEEP hand watering to saturate the entire area. The poor little dear will barely protrude from this! Water it weekly with gray water from your kitchen (use a mild detergent like ‘Earth and Sky’) and feed it every late April with either ‘menhaden fish meal’ from a feed store or ‘Mile High Rose Feed’ and it will soon send up long limber shoots you can easily train up the pole. Oddly, autumn is a great time to plant own root roses in cold climate areas and you may well find them on sale.
Training is easy. Pound about twenty three inch long flat head nails all up and down the pole, then use strips of panty hose to tie each cane to the nails. One pair of panty hose will yield about 20 flexible plant ties if you cut off the rump and toes, and cut each leg into 10 equal lengths..... gather those nylon "hoops" onto one hand and use the other hand to stretch them taut about a dozen times and watch them roll themselves up. Make one cut through the handful of rolled up loops and presto, you’ve got 20 plant ties that are long lasting, strong, and won’t strangle the canes. Do the same to the rump section for thicker stronger ties as the canes thicken. By year three your new canes will be so strong and thick you may consider cutting cheap plastic clothes line into 3 foot lengths to tie one end to the pole and wrap the rest around the stout pillar rose tightly then tie the other end to the pole.

Now for the fun part...choosing some decidedly NON-wimpy climbing and rambling roses available for creating these headily perfumed living exclamation points into your garden. Some bloom once in summer; those followed by an "R" repeat bloom in late summer and fall. But to me it is the June bloomers that so take my breath away, their defiant beauty a victorious contrast to Colorado’s Mars-like native barrenness!

Alchymist (1956) warm golden tangerine-yellow
New Dawn (1930) R. Light pink, apple scented
Ghislaine de Feligonde R. (1916) Pastel apricot yellow, sharp-sweet perfume
Fruhlingsgold (1937) Lemon sherbet yellow, oddly spicy fragrance
Great Western (1840) Deep magenta burgundy, groan-inducing Old Rose scent
Seagull (1917) Clusters of small snow white roses, sharp sweet scent
Bobbie James (1960) Much like Seagull but larger blooms
De La Grifferie (1845) Blend of pinks and purples, heady Old Rose perfume
Rosa dupontii (pre-1817) Species rose, 5 petals, palest pink, stunning scent.
Dortmund (1955) R. Rich red, 5 petals, odd "linseed oil" odor.
"Mr. Nash"- Possibly ‘Doubloons’; rich apricot yellow 4 inch diameter blooms.
Hiawatha (1904) In-your-face pink, incredible vigor, the only rose I have forgiven for being scentless!
Louise Odier (1851) R. Rich rose pink, amazing Old Rose fragrance
Shropshire Lass (1968) Semi-double, lightest pink to cream, smell to die for.
Climbing Clotilde Soupert (1902) R. Very double pale pink blooms, spicy baby powder scent.
Zephirine Drouhin (1868) Brilliant cerise pink, thornless, very spicy Old Rose aroma
Queen of Bourbons (1834) Semi-double rose pink blossoms that smell like florist’s roses should!

I’ve been back home in Tampa since November 2002, and sure I love central Florida, but like many northern transplants I had long wished for the grace and fragrant charm of old fashioned rambling and climbing roses in this balmy climate. Generations ago they covered cottages and garden arbors with sweet swirls of pinks and white and reds, and here we Floridians are cursed with countless ugly chain link fences just waiting to be used as trellises! But every time we buy a "climbing rose" it struggles to reach the top of our mailbox then often dies. So we conclude that climbing and rambling roses "won’t grow in Florida". WRONG! A century ago Florida was awash in lovely climbers and ramblers!

But you’d be right about climbers being a pain here IF you were referring to the Climbing Hybrid Teas like ‘Climbing Peace’ or ‘Climbing Oklahoma’ many of us have seen in full glory in Oregon or Tennessee, and that what is generally sold to the public here as "climbing roses". Those areas offer roses high rainfall, clayey soil, and winters that offer essential periods of dormancy. But here, climbing Hybrid Teas are denied that winter rest while they cope with a long spring drought, funky acidic sandy soil teeming with microscopic nematode worms that sting their roots, plus a long hot steamy summer far more suited to subtropical plants. But we don’t have to endure blizzards and icy sidewalks to have rambling and climbing roses thrive here.
Years ago I experimented in my yard and my clients’ yards, and found that if we just switch gears mentally and instead purchase "own root" plants of a certain class of Old Roses called "Wichurana Roses", also long called "Wichuriana Ramblers", we WILL enjoy raging success! Their blooms boast a pleasing palette of colors, most are quite fragrant (often of rose and ripe apples!), and their growth is RAMPANT in Florida! Bred mostly in the late 1800's and early 1900's, these genetic climbers display rapid growth, great vigor and are largely aloof to the bugs, heat, humidity and fungal diseases that plague most wimpy modern climbing roses in our climate. All were bred from a wild Japanese species called Rosa wichurana noted for its toughness, beautiful glossy leaves, and rampant flexible canes. Along with them, we can grow the graceful climbing Teas, Chinas and Noisettes for even bigger, more colorful blooms. And don’t forget the monster climber ‘Mermaid’!

Like all roses they prefer full sun, slightly acid soil well-amended with compost, a thick mulch (my favorite is the chipped limbs and leaves from a tree trimming company) to keep the soil damp and cool, and a feeding of a good organic like menhaden fish meal, Calf Manna (from a feed store) or Mills Magic Rose Mix or every March, July, September and December. Most of inland central Florida has quite acid soil, so most rose folks give their roses a light sprinkling of dolomitic limestone every March to neutralize that acid and to supply needed calcium and magnesium.

Oddly, you’ll get much faster coverage of a trellis or fence if you train the long new shoots of a climber as HORIZONTALLY as possible, not UP as is our instinct. Why? Trained horizontally that long rose cane will send up many vertical new shoots that will then eagerly climb UP. Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut up old pantyhose and nylons into flexible and inconspicuous plant ties to lash those vigorous new shoots to your fence or arbor….they will stretch as the canes thicken and so not strangle them as can a metal twisty. And remember, these climbers are VIGOROUS, so don’t bring home a wimpy little trellis but instead make a sturdy one out of pressure treated 2" x 2" lumber, construction rebar (my favorite), or plumber’s pipe, or train them on that long-hated chain link fence. They rival Jack’s magic beanstalk with their growth so plan accordingly with a strong structure for them to consume. These are Climbing Roses on steroids!

The cooler spring and autumn months are ideal for mail ordering and planting these lovely toughies, so scan your landscape for a sunny spot in need of a touch of class and year round splendor, then choose from the Wichurana Ramblers and climbing Teas, Chinas and Noisettes listed here, keeping in mind that they can tolerate light shade. Notice their dates of commercial introduction to give you an idea of their longevity into the 21st century! These tough but exquisite beauties may well outlive you, so your yard deserves a few on a funky fence or on an English style rose arbor framing your front doorway.

Between these two lists of roses, regardless of where you live, climbing and rambling roses CAN bring pillars of fragrant beauty to your landscape. Life is short and has prickles of its own; why not invite in the soft, sweet but reliable beauties our great-grandmothers knew and cherished?

Albertine (1921) pastel salmon pink
Leontine Gervais (1903) warm apricot, gold and tangerine
Cl. American Beauty (1909) deep rose pink and magenta
C. Red Fountain (1975) R rich red
Aviateur Bleriot (1910) pastel apricot and yellow
Alberic Barbier (1900) pale lemon and cream
Dr. Van Fleet (1910) baby blanket pink
Francois Juranville (1906) clear pink and salmon
Gardenia (1899) pastel yellow and white
Jersey Beauty (1899)R 5 petals creamy yellow
Mermaid (1918) 5 petals, lemon chiffon pie yellow
Reverend James Sprunt (1856) R cherry red
Reve d’Or (1869) R apricot yellow
"Barfield White Climber" (unknown) R palest pink to white
Mme. Alfred Carriere (1879) R ivory white
Lamarque (1830) R pure white
Marechal Neil (1864) R lemon yellow
Crepuscule (1904) R apricot yellow
Champney’s Pink Cluster (1802) R seashell pink
Climbing Old Blush (date unknown) R rose pink


Antique Rose Emporium 1-800-441-0002
Chamblee’s Roses 1-800-256-7673
Mill’s Magic Rose Mix 1-800-845-2325
 Enjoy! John

1 comment:

  1. how beautiful the roses are ! impressive post too . the information is interesting . i love to have some of that roses . it is perfect with my garden garden spinner and fences .