Few plants can compete with the dramatic impact of colourful climbing roses. Whether winding around a column or adorning a trellis, they add beauty and serenity to any setting. But many gardeners are slightly intimidated by the prospect of growing climbers, which have a reputation for being finicky and especially prone to damage from deep freezes in winter. While it's true many climbing roses need extra protection, there are also hardy types available that don't. If you're a little daunted by the mythical difficulty of growing the showy plants, take heart: choose the right variety, and your rose, not you, will climb the walls with abandon.
Types of Climbers
A climbing rose isn't a specific species of rose; in fact, climbers come from the cross-breeding of numerous rose species (which explains why the way they're planted and pruned is similar to the methods used for other roses). 'Climber' is a general label for a rose that produces long, vigorous canes that tend to bend under their weight. The difference between bush roses and climbing roses is similar to the difference between bush and staking tomatoes: similar plants, different growth habits.
Climbing roses are categorized as three fairly distinct types: ramblers, trailing roses and true climbers (which include pillar roses). Ramblers are vigorous'they can grow up to 20 feet (six metres) in one season'and are generally hardy to Zone 4. Traditionally, the blooms of ramblers are small, less than two inches (five centimetres) across, and borne on dense clusters, but some of the newer varieties have larger flowers. The Meidiland series, in particular, has several lovely cultivars. Ramblers are vulnerable to mildew.
Trailing roses are well adapted to planting along walls or on banks; if not staked, the long canes creep along the ground. Blooms are typically about two to three inches (five to eight centimetres) across. Trailing roses are quite tough--they do well even in Zone 3. Look for cultivars of Rosa wichurana. True climbers are noted for their large flowers'usually just a few per cluster. Some climbers bloom for a couple of weeks per season; others, often called pillar roses, bloom all season long. There are two main types of climbers: bush climbers, and climbing hybrid teas. Bush climbers are the hardier, and bloom continually throughout the season.