Flowers, Gardening, How To, Liam, Planting, Plants

With such an abundant variety of colour and fragrance there is a rose suited to any and everyone. Climbing roses allow you to use the boundaries and structures of your garden which in today’s modern, smaller, gardens actually can hold the greatest amount of space. A well-trained climbing rose can add height and elegance to any outdoor space making it the most timeless and perfect way to cover up a weathered wall or a colourless pergola.

If looked after correctly climbing roses can achieve heavy blooms throughout the summer season and into the autumn for several years. Therefore with this guide we’ll show you how to ensure your roses become a stylish staple feature of your garden for years to come.

Picking the Perfect Rose and Place

One of the great things I find about climbing Roses is their ability to flower year after year and respond well to heavy maintenance making them a strong investment for the future. However, dependent on the variety they can be somewhat needy, especially in their first years and so ensuring their basic needs are met is essential.

First of all, check the specific requirements of that Rose, mainly;

  • How much sunlight they need.
  • The kind of soil they require.
  • How much space it will need once it’s reached its eventual height.

Pick a spot in the garden which would suit the rose, considering these prerequisites.  

Planting Perfection

Step 1:

Ensure that all stones and weeds along with any other competition have been removed. This will help the roots to establish themselves in the first couple of years.

Step 2:

If you are training against a wall or fence leave 50cm between it and the base of the plant. This will give the roots more space to grow out.

Step 3:

If you are using a space where you previously used to grow roses then it is important to replace at least the first 6 inches of topsoil. Roses are susceptible to replant disease which can, in some cases, kill the plant. Simply use soil from elsewhere in your garden and for best results mix in manure or compost and leave to settle for 2 weeks.

Step 4:

Soak your rose before planting into the ground. You can either give the plant a generous watering if it is potted or leave to soak in a bucket of water for around 2 hours if it is bareroot.

Step 5:

When digging you want a hole roughly twice the width of the plant and also give an additional 5 inches of depth. With a fork break up the soil at the bottom giving the roots a chance to spread out. Here, fill in the extra depth with manure or quality compost.

Step 6:

Sprinkle any surface the roots will come into contact with lightly with Mycorrhizal Fungi (commonly know as Rootgrow). This will help stimulate and nurture root growth.

Step 7:

Backfill the remaining space and gently heel. Make sure your rose is well watered and is supported securely on your trellis or structure (see ‘training’) and you’ve made the perfect start towards a beautiful bloom.

Step 8:

Typically, a larger climbing rose will need two meters of space between it and any other rose. Standard roses will only need one meter.

Training

Preparation for the summer begins in the winter. For your first year the plant will require minimal pruning, simply remove anything dead or diseased. With this done the rose will be ready to train. Climbing roses once mature can be fairly heavy plants and so ensure that the support is sturdy and large enough to support the plant when mature.

The key to perfect climbing roses is training your main shoots as horizontally as possible. This will stimulate flowering shoots to grow up vertically in abundance giving you an orderly trail of beautiful rose flowers.

Rose training guide

When tying the plant to a trellis or structure I simply use old string provided it’s thick enough to hold the weight of the plant. You want to tie it tight enough so that it doesn’t get thrown around too much by the wind or rubs but also loose enough to give the stem space to grow.

If using a trellis utilise several horizontal supports for you branches or if training up a pillar simply wrap the shoot around in a spiral. 8-12 inches is a good distance to leave between ties. Tie the branches securely and you’re one step closer to a bountiful summer bloom.

Pruning

When?

Pruning should be carried out during the winter, making it easier for you and giving the plant time to grow during spring. When pruning cut at a 45° angle. This is a great way to prevent rot and fungal disease by letting the water slip off.

Why?

Climbing roses are vigorous growers and although they are great for framing a garden they can quickly become unkempt. Luckily they are not afraid of some heavy pruning if neglected for a while.

How Much?

Cut away any of the old and woody branches leaving just the new, fresh main shoots. Prune back to just above a bud which looks like its growth will be directed outward or in keeping with how you have trained the plant. You then want to prune any side-shoots by about ⅔ of their original length. Once this is done and you have a series of healthy and neat branches you can tie back into the support.  

How to make sense out of the mess

How Often?

Again what is most important to rid your rose of any dead, diseased or weak looking shoots. This only needs to be done once in the winter but also when in bloom don’t be afraid to deadhead; climbing roses repeat flower throughout summer and into autumn and it will keep the plant healthy and looking great.

Don’t Forget!

In the spring it is a good idea to feed your roses (they are an exceptionally hungry plant!) Simply sprinkle some rose fertiliser at the base and use manure or an organic mulch. Job done.  

Following spring your roses will have grown to a truly regal splendor. Rich colours and fragrance will fill your garden bringing with it all the warm delights of summer.

4 Secrets to Healthier Climbing Roses

  • Feed – With roses it is incredibly important to ensure they are well fed. This is why you want to avoid planting them in the same spot because they have consumed so much of the soils nutrients.
    Luckily there are specific fertilisers for roses. I would recommend using these over more general fertilisers because they contain more phosphorus which helps promote flower and root growth and less nitrogen which promotes more leaf growth. This directs energy into bigger blooms and can prevent disease and aphids from attacking your plant.
  • Mulch Mulching provides a whole host of benefits to a rose plant. Not only does it prevent competition from grass and weeds it also helps to regulate temperature, keeps the soil moist and provides food preventing disease. It is a good idea to add the mulch after you have fertilised the rose, so typically around April to May. A mulch is only ever complimentary and cannot be a substitute for your feed. Before mulching you should rid the soil of any stones or weeds and water if dry. A bulky organic material such as well decomposed manure, leaf mould or garden compost serves as a great mulch for rose plants.
  • Water – Due to their deep roots a rose plant may remain green and strong as other plants begin to wilt during dry periods. However, as I have experienced, without an adequate  amount of water rose plants will flower less for a shorter period of time. You will want to ensure that after a dry spell that you water the plant especially if; the plant is new, is trained against a wall, and if it is fully mature.
    Typically each climber will require 10-15l of water if the soil is clearly dry.
  • Garlic!Garlic, when planted near roses are a great way to deter aphids from attacking your plant. 

Disease prevention

Top 3 Tips

  • Water the soil, not the leaves
  • Prune to encourage good air circulation
  • Feed and water well early in the year, to ensure your rose is strong enough to fight off disease

Common diseases and how to fight them:

  • Mildew  
    Symptoms – The most common rose disease it leaves a white, light mould on the leaves and buds of rose plants.
    Prevention – Prevent fungal diseases and their spread by watering at the ground level during the morning so the top soil moisture can evaporate off before sitting over night. Pruning away any weak looking leaves and leaving space between your shoots encourages ventilation which will prevent the fungi from taking up residence. If pruning diseased shoots clean your pruning shears in a sterilizing solution before touching other parts of your plant .
    Treat – A fungicide spray can be used on the rose to help rid it of the disease.
A contaminated Rose – Mildew
  • Blackspot
    SymptomsA common disease, Blackspot can lead to dieback of the leaf, buds and stems. Black spots and yellow fringing becomes visible on the leaves.
    PreventionThe disease is waterborne and so the key to prevention is good air circulation and keeping the leaves dry. The same pruning and water techniques provide good protection. Additionally, ensuring the rose is well fed gives the plant a better chance of avoiding contamination.
    TreatSimilarly a fungicide spray can be used to treat a diseased plant along with removing any of the affected leaves.
A contaminated Rose – Blackspot
  • Rust
    Symptoms – Not as common but can be very harmful if it contracted. Orange and black spores can be found on the undersides of leaves and stems.
    Prevention – The key to prevention is ensuring the rose is well fed and is strong coming into the summer months.
    Treat – Again a fungicide spray is required if the plant is contaminated.
A contaminated Rose – Rust

Liam works in the buying team at Primrose. He is passionate about studying other cultures, especially their history. A lover of sports his favourite pass-time is football, either playing or watching it! In the garden Liam is particularly interested in growing your own food.

Flowers, Gardening, How To, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell, Planting

We all know that pruning is a very important task in your garden, but we’re often asked about pruning roses and other shrubs.

Rosa 'Iceberg' at the San Jose Heritage Rose GardenIf the shrub flowers on current year’s wood, then cut it back hard each winter. Buddleia is a good example – If you simply trim the plant it will become leggy and bare at the bottom. Cut each stem back from October onwards to within a foot from the ground and you will get vigorous, healthy growth in the new season.

If you have inherited an old shrub with little foliage on the lower half of the plant, take out the older branches thus leaving some newer ones to maintain health. Continue taking out the oldest branches each year and within two seasons you will have a new looking shrub.

There are some special cases, such as those roses in need of specialist pruning. Usually they are cut short – just above a bud which will grow into a new branch and consequently bear flowers.

Rosa 'Banzai 83' im Volksgarten in WienThere are lots of reasons for pruning shrubs. Unlike the rest of us, roses are not able to forecast the weather, and they take the mild weather as a trigger to put on new growth, and off they go doing what they do best – growing towards the sun.

Actually, roses are really glorified brambles, and if left alone they would soon become a tangled mess, impenetrable and thick – which might be good in a hedge, but not in the flower border. To keep them under control is the most important part of growing roses.

General rules for pruning roses:

  • Deadhead – and in the winter, go round pruning off the fruit that is rotting off on the plant. We all have them in our garden, and it is good to get rid before they cause infection.
  • Don’t leave a long piece of stem from a bud, it will only die and rot – cut as close to a bud as you can.
  • Always cut in a sloping direction away from the bud, so that any rain will actually run off the cut and not soak the bud – which can cause rotting.
  • Always take out branches that touch or threaten to touch another branch.
  • Always cut out dead wood back to good, healthy wood.
  • Do not leave your cuttings on the floor to rot, burn them and then compost the ashes – rose branches take ages to compost themselves.
  • Remember the goblet shape, and this goes for standard roses too, at the top of the central stem.
  • Always use good quality secateurs – so the cut is sharp and clean, ragged cuts provide a home for fungal infection.
  • Always disinfect your secateurs when you have finished a plant – I use a disinfectant baby wipe – you don’t need to pass infections from plant to plant.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

Flowers, Gardening, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell

Multicoloured RoseUnlike trees, a shrub can easily survive the lopping of its stems. Pruning stimulates growth and increases the vigour and productiveness of the plant.

To a plant, pruning is a stimulus. Although you have reduced its size by cutting it back, you stimulate the growth of buds on the plant that were once forced to be dormant by the dominance of the terminal bud.

Remove the bud and others below will start to grow resulting in a bushier plant.

What does pruning actually do?

Gardeners talk a lot of rot about pruning. They talk about all the plant’s energy being routed into certain directions and whereas this might be the end result, what is actually going on is the result of changes of hormone levels within the plant.

Large-sized, deep red Hybrid Tea roseEach bud, and the tip of each branch, as well as each flower, and in the roots too – as well as under the bark and deep in the branch, gives off a cocktail of hormones that determine how the plant will grow. If you remove a branch, the hormones produced by it are removed, and this has consequences for the rest of the plant.

So, if you cut the branch off just above a bud, the hormones from that branch that usually inhibit the bud from growing are suddenly removed, and the bud will start to grow!

Pruning can allow us to create a plant that will grow in a way we want it to, rather than how the plant might naturally wish to grow. And there are many advantages to this. You have to remember that a bud will grow in the direction it is pointing and therefore you can determine the overall shape of the plant.

For roses, one of the reasons for pruning is to cut down the amount of fungal problems by allowing the breeze to flow through the plant effectively. This is done by creating a plant that is goblet shaped.

When you are pruning you need to look. Which way is the bud you are cutting above pointing? if it is towards the inside of the plant, then choose another that points outwards.

Read part two – the practicalities of pruning.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, How To, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell

Sometimes, because of life’s changes, work, poor health, family or whatever, you miss out on what you love. I have friends in the garden, and sometimes I ignore them. Well, actually, all the plants in the garden are my friends. I don’t care what they are, how common or exotic, I love them all the same.

And yes, I talk to them! Sometimes my best conversations are with plants, you see they always agree with me and we share a point of view. So you will understand that – apart from being quite mad, sometimes, when there are some old friends I simply have missed out on, I get rather melancholic.

Gone but not forgotten, the white bluebells now bearing fruit - see you next year old pal!
Gone but not forgotten, the white bluebells now bearing fruit – see you next year old pal!

I have found it difficult to physically walk to the end of the garden these past months. Down there in the hedge are to be found some white bluebells that make an appearance each year, and this year I only managed to see them once they had finished flowering and were literally past their best. A short walk away there is a wood, full of bluebells, and what a sight they are! But these little whites are solitary and special.

Now having plants as friends can cause you some problems. I have to confess loving weeds, and always feel a little guilty pulling them up. So Ii try and keep a space for them when I can. This year, so far, has been the year of the buttercup, and aren’t they beautiful?

Don't turn your nose up at buttercups, they are one of the most elegant plants in the garden.
Don’t turn your nose up at buttercups, they are one of the most elegant plants in the garden.

So the edge of my lawn is punctuated with a stand of field buttercups, and if I lift my head, across the valley, I can see a whole field of them, and on a warm Sunday I can imagine myself in a huge hundred acre field of yellow.

There are times when old friends have mishaps. when we moved here there was a clematis in a pot, growing up a trellis. The pot was about 6 inch diameter, and the plant went up about 20 feet!

Clematis - you can't kill them, they just keep coming back - thankfully!
Clematis – you can’t kill them, they just keep coming back – thankfully!

During our first summer the trellis fell off and I had to remove the plant. The roots had gone through the bottom of the pot and disappeared under the paving of the patio.

We get lots of questions about clematis. You will find, on the internet, all kinds of methods about pruning them, none of which are actually correct. The truth is there are two groups for pruning this brilliant climber.

If it flowers in the Spring, such as C. montana, then don’t bother at all, just keep it trim as you need. All the rest cut back as short as you like on Valentine’s Day – call it a massacre if you will.

Yellow Flag: irises make a great display and in the autumn you can divide them and make more
Yellow Flag: irises make a great display and in the autumn you can divide them and make more

Anyway, back to the old friend. I took a spade and cut the root at ground level and thought no more about it, until a few weeks ago when a hot day snooze found me waking to the sight of the old pal climbing the wall again.

I never have a better time than when talking to the iris. We have a strong bond, we two. I sometimes think I get more sense from them than anyone else in the household.

But this year they have a problem that needs fixing. It is the invasion of nettles. Nettles are hungry plants, beautiful in their own right – I love the geometry of the leaves, and the stings are so elegant when you look at them through a microscope.

But their heavy profusion means only one thing: the septic tank needs emptying, because there is a leakage. Nettles grow where there is a lot of nitrogen in the soil, you often see them in fields where cattle or sheep have gathered.

If it's archetecture you want, you would go a long way to better a nettle, but these ones spell trouble in the garden!
If it’s archetecture you want, you would go a long way to better a nettle, but these ones spell trouble in the garden!

It has come at an opportune time, the iris need dividing and replanting and this I will do in the autumn, so that next year there will be even more of them for a summertime chat!

Now, I am blessed with an ancient hawthorne in the garden. I wish everyone would grow them just because of the aroma of the flowers. In case you are somewhat bemused by my having plants as ‘friends’ then spend a little time thinking about hawthorne.

It is said to be terrible bad luck to burn the wood, or cut the plant without asking permission and when in flower you are not supposed to sleep under its branches, or you will be pulled down into the underworld to meet Bottom and his pals. I can well believe it!

Can't wait for these white roses to burst into flower.
Can’t wait for these white roses to burst into flower.

During my recent poor health I have fallen asleep, when the rain has left me a warmer blanket, under the hawthorne many times, and never have I had a more relaxing, deeper sleep. Thankfully the underworld left me alone, I didn’t grow donkey ears nor thought myself enamored of an ass.

My last pal for now, though there are hundreds more, is about to make an appearance. A lovely white climbing rose makes an appearance for a few weeks, rain permitting. Growing within it is a honeysuckle and a rowan, which I think is forming the basis for the whole structure, and I keep it trim to the top of the hedge.

When the flowers appear you cannot but want to sit beside it watching the bumblebees buzz heavily around. And a hot day, when the nectar is more fermented than normal, they sit lazily on the flowers and you can stroke them.

You know, regardless of its size, the garden is about the best friend we humans have. Perhaps that’s why all of the creation stories set our origins in one.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

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