More winter rose protection tips
At the Montreal Botanical Garden, canes are laid on the ground and covered by an insulated tarp material, using compost or soil to seal the edges and prevent wind from lifting the cover. Home gardeners can mound leaves over canes, with a piece of lightweight carpeting (held in place at the edges with bricks or stones) laid overtop to keep out wind. This offers maximum preservation of the bud-carrying wood.
The Canadian Rose Society offers excellent information about growing roses in northern hardiness zones, and also recommends protecting climbers by laying them on the ground to be insulated with snow cover (then pulled up in early spring and anchored to a support).
Fertilizing, watering and mulching ramblers and moderns
Plant roses in early spring (April or May) before they've made significant growth, or in late autumn (October or November) when they are semi-dormant. Amend the soil with composted manure or garden compost, but avoid burning tender new roots with prepared synthetic fertilizer, which should only be applied after the first flowers bloom in early summer.
Roses benefit greatly from a five-to seven-centimetre-thick layer of organic mulch over their roots throughout the year. Use shredded or small tree leaves, or commercial bags of shredded bark.
Roses are big eaters and need a steady source of food. Climbing varieties are two to three times the size of shrub roses, and consequently require more food than smaller plants. Fertilizer encourages new basal canes that strengthen the plant's climbing structure and encourage production of lateral blooming branches. Feeding three times during the growing season will trigger more bloom flushes and increase the number of flowers.
For established plants, feed with a prepared commercial rose fertilizer, with a balanced formula of 10-10-10, preferably granular (water-soluble liquid food can be lost in runoff), in spring when shoots begin to grow and the leaves are opening. (The plant requires leaves to use the fertilizer, so resist the urge to feed earlier.) Apply by pulling back the mulch, scratching the granules into the soil over the roots and pushing the mulch back in place. During this first feeding, also sprinkle ½ cup (125 mL) of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) over the root zone and scratch it in to encourage the growth of new and vigorous basal wood.
Feed climbing roses again in late June - or when the first flush of blooms has finished - and a third time in late July. Do not feed after mid-August or the plant won't have adequate time to harden off for the winter. In late summer or early autumn, pull back the mulch around the plants and gently incorporate a bucket of well-composted commercial manure or garden compost into the soil over the root zone.
Give climbers a foliar feeding of liquid kelp (using a watering can or sprayer) every two weeks throughout the growing season to boost disease resistance and enhance petal colour and scent. Apply during daylight hours-between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.-to allow time for leaves to dry before sunset (wet leaves may promote fungal disease).
Roses require consistently moist soil, and large climbers need more water than smaller shrubs. Unless soil is saturated with rainwater, irrigate plants weekly, providing enough water to soak down 25 centimetres into the root zone. (Dig a small hole next to the plant and check how far down the water is penetrating.) The best way to water is to set a trickling hose at the plant's base, long enough to soak down to the appropriate depth into the soil. Climbing roses need extra water during periods of extended heat and drought.
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