Climbing Roses – A Special Way To Grow A Special Plant
Growing a climbing rose bush can be one of the most satisfying features in a garden. Usually, the rose's long stems are trained to grow vertically up a pole where they cover the ceiling of some structure such as a trellis or pergola. You may have noticed that the flowers appear only at the plant's tips, while the shrub as a whole is green with foliage, but bare of flowers. There is a way however of inducing the mass of the plant to be smothered in blooms, thereby creating a far more spectacular effect.
The trick is to train the branches to grow horizontally, spacing them some 20-30cm from each other to create a kind of a fan shape. When stems grow horizontally or parallel to the ground, the dominance that the leading bud outputs on those below is neutralized, while the buds placed along the branches are activated and start to sprout short stems, upon which develop leaves and then flowers. This procedure is known as the espalier method, and is an excellent way of covering a wall, fence, or even a garden shed.
Climbing roses, while not necessarily being suitable for every situation, should definitely be considered in many circumstances. The large Bordeaux red flowers of the variety "don Juan" for instance, can look breathing against a white stone wall, as can the dark crimson of "Chrysler Imperial," (climbing type) while a gentler effect is achieved by bushes that sport pink , or pale yellow blooms, such as the climbing varieties of "Peace", "Queen Elizabeth", or "Gloire de Dijon".
The drawback of choosing a climbing rose as the solution to a particular design issue is of course the work involved in caring for it. Clearly it is much easier and cheaper to plant some self-clinging vine such as Ivy to do its worst, and of its own accord, ramble wild and smother what ever needs to be covered. The trouble with the latter option is that however tempting it may seem in terms of saving labor and maintenance, expensive damage is liable to be caused to the wall of a building in the long run. A far better alternative, let alone an infinite more beautiful one, is to take the trouble and grow a climbing rose.
To achieve the best results it is advisable to build some support structure, which not only allows for the branches to be trained and tied onto it, but is also strong enough to take the weight of the rose bush when it reaches maturity after a few years . On a stone wall for example, metal pegs can be drilled at suitable intervals, so that wires can be stretched at the afore-mentioned distance of 20-30 cm. This admittedly involves some initial expense both in materials and labor, but the investment should be extremely worthwhile.
Growing a climbing rose as an espalier, not only requires tying and training, but pruning as well. In the winter, the short stems known as spurs, which sprout from the main branches can be pruned back to the first two or three buds, (but not less than two) while branches that can not be easily trained can be removed. Spent flowers can always be dead-headed through the year, as needs be. It should be remembered that many climbing varieties are in fact "mutants" of regular rose shrubs, and that pruning the main stems can cause them to revert to their non-climbing habit. It follows that before the main branches should not be shortened, although old stems can be removed entirely to make way for juvenile growth.