Plants - Roses

Climbing roses

There's no trick to healthy climbing roses - as long as you choose wisely.

There are several hardy climbing roses available'thanks, in part, to the Explorer breeding program at Agriculture Canada. (In fact, hardy Canadian varieties are now starting to appear in Europe and the United States.) Since I live in Zone 3, I put a high premium on hardiness, so the cultivars I recommend can be grown from coast to coast and down to about Zone 2 with little or no winter protection. Keep in mind that during the first year or two in your garden, all roses are more vulnerable to winter damage than older, more established roses of the same variety. For the first few years, consider untying the canes of new roses to lay them on the ground and cover with mulch, or dig a trench and bury them (See 'Not-so-Hardy Climbers,' above, for more information about overwintering.) Otherwise, you can leave canes tied to their support over winter.

"William Baffin", named for the intrepid sailor who discovered the entrance to the Northwest Passage, is part of the Explorer series and offers a profusion of deep pink, lightly scented, semi-double blooms that appear continually in huge clusters from early summer until frost. Blooms are an average two to three inches (five to eight centimetres) across.

"William Baffin" is quite vigorous, reaching heights of eight to 10 feet (2.5 to three metres) after just three or four years. Highly resistant to blackspot and powdery mildew, it's a perfect choice for novice rose growers.

"John Cabot", another Explorer series climber, makes a perfect companion for "William Baffin". It has two-inch (five-centimetre) double flowers that range in colour from a deep orchid-pink to reddish-purple. Plants bloom from early summer to frost. Adding to this climber's appeal is a strong, pleasant fragrance. "John Cabot" reaches eight to 10 feet (2.5 to three metres) within three or four years, and has good resistance to blackspot and powdery mildew.

"Henry Kelsey", yet another Explorer, is one of the showiest plants I've seen, with dozens of big, red double blooms, each about two or three inches (five to eight centimetres) across. The plant reaches six to eight feet (two to 2.5 metres). Blooms appear repeatedly from early summer to frost, and have an attractive spicy scent. "Henry Kelsey" tends to produce less foliage than other varieties, but its profuse blooms make up for the lack of greenery. The plant has good resistance to powdery mildew.

A little less hardy than other Explorers, "Henry Kelsey" should be grown in a sheltered location, against the south or west wall of a heated building. Pile snow around the base of the canes for added protection, or lay the canes down and cover with an eight- to 12-inch (20- to 30-centimetre) layer of mulch.

"The Polar Star" is the largest, most vigorous, and hardiest climbing rose I know. It has clusters of small (one- to two-inch/three- to four-centimetre), white, double blooms that draw people in for a closer look. It's named "The Polar Star" because the first four or five petals open, lie flat and surround the remaining petals, which remain tightly closed, forming a point aimed at the stars. Plants bloom for about three weeks in early summer; the blooms form on old wood, so be careful not to prune heavily in spring. "The Polar Star" is disease resistant and grows to 18 feet (5.5 metres)'good for growing on a trellis that extends to the second storey of a house. (Be careful not to confuse "The Polar Star" with a hybrid tea rose called "Polar Star".)

"Alchymist" is a hardy rose that blooms once in early summer for about three weeks (with sporadic blooms at other times). The showy, fragrant blooms put on a magnificent display--ruffled, three-inch (eight-centimetre) double blooms in shades of yellow, pink, apricot, orange and red. The first flowers to appear have pale, pastel shades; the more vibrant blooms appear later in the blooming period. "Alchymist" reaches 21 feet (6.5 metres). It's susceptible to blackspot; ward off the fungus by watering at the base of the plant so the foliage doesn't get wet.

Not-So-Hardy Climbers
Most climbers are less hardy than shrub roses; they're on par with hybrid teas. If you want to grow a tender climbing variety like "Joseph's Coat", "Climbing Blaze", or "Polka" in zones colder than Zone 6, be prepared to protect them over winter. Plant tender climbers in a sunny location that provides protection against winter winds. Before the ground freezes in the fall, dig a one- to two-foot (30- to 60-centimetre) deep trench'or more shallow in mild areas. Untie the canes, lay them in the trench, and cover them with soil and mulch. The base of the rose is unlikely to bend enough to lie flat, so you have two options: dig up the entire rose, roots and all, to lie flat in the trench, or mound a hill of soil over the part of the plant that protrudes above the soil level. I prefer mounding to uprooting. Be careful not to break off secondary growth when you're laying the canes down; for many varieties, blooms emerge from this growth the following year.

The following climbers are pillar roses--which means they tend to bloom for most of the season'and do best in Zones 5 and up. But if there's one thing I've learned about gardening, it's not to be surprised when someone says, "You call that tender? I've been growing it in northern Manitoba for years...." Don't be afraid to try a plant that's said to be too tender for your zone--it's a bit of a gamble, but think of the bragging rights if it works!

"New Dawn" has a profuse number of semi-double, blush-pink flowers with a fruity fragrance; blooms appear in June and September. The plant grows 11 feet (3.5 metres) tall and tolerates some shade. "White New Dawn" has white blooms.

"Z'phirine Drouhin" grows up to 10 feet (three metres) in height. It's a lovely rose with very fragrant, semi-double, cherry-pink flowers, and no thorns.

"Altissimo Perfect" also grows to 10 feet, and has showy, bright red, single flowers borne in tight clusters.

The fragrant salmon-coloured flowers of "America" are a treat; the vigorous rambler reaches 15 feet (4.5 metres).

"Blaze Improved" has abundant, pure red blooms in large clusters. Blooms have a light tea fragrance and appear all summer on new and old wood. Plants can reach 16 feet (five metres) in mild areas. Where I live, in Zone 3, it reaches 10 feet (three metres).

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