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The Use Of Climbing Roses

[The Importance Of Climbing Roses]  [Hardy Climbing Roses]  [Less-Hardy Types]  [Obsolete And Undeveloped Strains]  [The Use Of Climbing Roses]  [Supports For Climbing Roses]  [Planting And Care] 

Climbing Roses
Climbing roses of all types can be adapted more or less successfully to any method of training, but in beginning, it is better to obtain the kind of climbing roses best suited to the purpose intended. Some real difficulties can be avoided by doing so. For example, it is hard to make trailing roses climb on pillars or arches, and it is equally difficult to make erect roses of the Multiflora type behave acceptably as ground-covers. It is relatively easy to select roses adapted to the situation and much more prudent than to compel unwilling varieties to grow in unsuitable places.


The easiest way to grow a climbing rose is to plant it and let it alone. If there is sufficient space to allow the plant to develop naturally to its full dimensions, a fine, big bush will result. A number of climbing roses are amenable to this type of cultivation, and a still larger number can be made assume the large bush form by tying the first few feet of their strong central stems to a short, stout stake. It is necessary to emphasize that this method requires plenty of room, because a vigorous climbing rose in bush form will spread over a circle not less than 20 feet in diameter in five to six years. Climbing roses of Multiflora parentage are best suited to make big bushes, particularly the older, stiffer varieties produced before the strain was diluted with the wirier Wichuraiana. Lambertianas make good bushes, too, and with the help of a stake most of the Pemberton class and the earlier hybrids of Captain Thomas also. The old Boursault roses, valued for great hardiness, grow best left alone, and the hybrid of Rosa bracteata, called Mermaid, is a good scrambling bush if it has a rock-pile or tree-stump to clamber over. The older hybrids of R. setigera, of which a few are still obtainable, make handsome vase-shaped bushes. So do the larger Rugosas. Because of the enormous space required, the opportunities for this kind of culture are few, except in parks and on large estates. In gardens of ordinary dimensions, a more economical method must be adopted.


Only a limited number of roses may be used as ground-covers successfully. Choice is restricted to the Wichuraiana class and Rosa wichuraiana, itself. Planted on a bank, its vigorous canes hug the ground closely, eventually smothering grass and weeds with a luxuriant growth of glossy leaves. A few of the earlier hybrids of R. wichuraiana retain the ground clinging or creeping habit. These varieties are characterized by slender, wiry wood, and small foliage. If it is not desired to cover the ground with roses that hug the ground like a carpet, slightly stiffer varieties may be used. A good many ugly railroad embankments have been made beautiful when covered with roses of the Dorothy Perkins type which has a slightly more arching growth, the canes rising 18 inches to 2 feet before they fall over and trail on the ground. The Rugosa hybrid, Max Graf, has the same habit.

Needless to say, roses used as ground-covers are not pruned, and are seldom fertilized after planting. After a few years' growth, it is next to impossible to penetrate into the midst of them to do anything of the kind.


It is a common impulse to treat climbing roses as if they were vines, by training them up on the wall of a house. It is not a good thing to do. Nails, screw-eyes, and other supports to hold the roses are bad for the building, and few roses are robust enough to endure such a situation. Supporting them on a trellis a foot or more from the wall overcomes these objections if there is no other place to grow them, but choice is still limited to roses which withstand the terrific heat reflected from the painted wood or masonry behind them.

Nevertheless, where winters are extremely severe, a house-wall is the best possible protection for climbing roses. The Hybrid Wichuraiana, Emily Gray, which is not reliably hardy where the thermometer goes down to zero, has been known to survive much lower temperatures when grown on the outside wall of a fireplace chimney, although exposed to western winds. But such happy occurrences are accidents of architecture and cannot be recommended as general practice. Roses insist upon a constant circulation of fresh air through their foliage. Where that is interfered with by tying them to a wall, they fall prey to red spider, mildew, and all manner of ills.

Contrariwise, roses succeed admirably on retaining walls when planted at the top instead of at the bottom. Almost all roses with long arching sterns do remarkably well if allowed to drape themselves over a declivity. They do not make a matted covering like ivy, but provide a totally different and more graceful effect.

Climbing roses are charming when allowed to run along walls in the open, such as the old stone fences which border the lanes and ramble through uncultivated fields in New England and some eastern states. There the circulation of fresh air is not interfered with and the roses show their appreciation by thriving under conditions of utter neglect.


A trellis is a wooden lattice or some sort of wire netting stretched as a substitute for it. Lattice arrangements can usually be covered successfully with climbing roses of almost any type. The canes may be threaded in and out of the interstices without the need of tying. This is wholly admirable until the time comes to prune the roses, when it is a very different matter.

To train roses on porches or verandas, a trellis is almost necessary. Such a support should be far enough from the building for proper ventilation and to avoid brushing against the thorns to the detriment of clothing, flesh, and temper.

The trellis or wire netting is an ideal support for climbing roses if their canes can be spread out fan-ways or horizontally upon it. The sun and air will ripen their wood, hardening them against frost, and enable the plants next season to produce blooming shoots from every bud.


A pillar is a post, and a pillar-rose is a rose tied up to a post. A rose pillar may be any height consistent with its vigor, and any breadth that space allows. No way of displaying a climbing rose is more dramatic.

The best procedure is to set the post in the ground either before the rose is planted or at the same time, so that the flexible canes may be trained around it as they grow. Some prefer to tie the canes vertically to the support without winding them about it, cutting them off a few inches above the top. Such pillars are frequently bare of foliage and flowers near the ground, but have the advantage that canes can be taken down easily for pruning, or protection. If the plant is very vigorous, a few canes may be cut off at different heights to force bloom and foliage to appear at various levels from the base to top.

Moderately vigorous climbing roses are most useful for pillars. Those 8 to 10 feet in height, or even only 4 to 6 feet, are acceptable when tied in closely to an accommodating stake. Some bush Hybrid Teas are also useful as pillars, and pleasing variations may be made by training vigorous Hybrid Perpetuals in the same way. Pemberton's Roses, the Lambertianas, and many of the so-called Everblooming Climbers of Captain Thomas are adaptable to pillar use.

Well-kept pillars demand the sacrifice of a great deal of surplus growth and much bloom. The enormous number of flowers obtained from a rose spread out on a trellis cannot be accommodated on pillars, but they are handsome objects for all that, and provide almost the only means by which a person with limited space can indulge an enthusiasm for collecting climbing roses.


A pylon is made by growing several pillars in a close group and lashing the tops together to make a tall tripod or pyramid. The same kind of roses may be planted at the base of each post, or varieties which bloom at different seasons. By training half the canes of each rose in opposite directions around the outside of the structure, all of the varieties may be equally well represented in bloom. If roses of different blooming periods are planted, a long display is quite possible, and a charming mixed or old-fashioned tuzzy-muzzy effect may be achieved by planting similar roses of different colors.

A well-grown pylon is a handsome garden incident, giving a massive and impressive effect. Like the pillar it can be adapted to many situations, but its greater dimensions require more room.


Instead of cutting the canes off at the top of a pillar or pylon, they may be allowed to grow full length, and eventually swing to the ground. To permit them to dangle is highly undesirable for many reasons. Where the pillars are relatively close together, these long canes may be looped from the top of one pillar to the next, making a connected series of drooping garlands or graceful festoons. To insure the proper swing, they may be fastened to a stout rope or chain swung at the desired curve. Wire stretched from post to post will serve the same purpose, except that the weight of the roses will cause it to sag sufficiently without allowing for free play in advance.

In training roses along ropes, chains, or wires, whether sagging or horizontal, the canes should be twisted spirally around them in order to prevent the whole mass of the rose from turning over on itself when laden with heavy sprays of flowers.


A double row of pillars with connecting garlands of roses and provided with transverse beams to carry them across the intervening walk is the simplest form of a pergola. In elaborate forms, it may become a long, relatively narrow paved terrace, with highly ornamental columns and beams. The architecture of such structures is liable to overwhelm any plant, and no real rose-enthusiast is likely to indulge in such expensive foolery.

The best type of pergola follows the traditional form established by our grandfathers who used to cover the walk from the kitchen door to the bakeoven, barn, or other out-buildings with a grapearbor, upon which, at times, a few climbing roses were permitted to exist. These arbors were made of rough posts, sometimes peeled and sometimes with the bark left on, and frequently the cross pieces were simply leafless boughs or brush. While such primitive structures are not desirable in a city or suburban garden, and might be even more expensive to build than one made of standardized dressed lumber, they provide a model we would do well to follow; for the style of pergola ought to be determined by the type of building to which it is attached.

Roses should be adapted to the architecture. Elaborate contraptions of masonry or ornamental wood require the sophistication of double, large flowering climbers. Pergolas of rustic appearance and lighter construction look best when clothed with cluster-flowering climbers bearing single blooms.  But all of this is a matter of taste.


One of the commonest ways of growing roses is to set two posts across the entrance to the garden and connect them at the top with a round or pointed arch. This, as anyone can see, is merely an extension of the pillar, and reverses the idea of allowing the roses to dangle naturally in garlands.

To cover arches well, roses more vigorous than those for pillars are required, and they ought to be wiry and pliable. This almost restricts our choice to varieties of the Wichuraiana class.

The supporting posts of a rose-arch should be at least 6 feet high and the center of the arch ought to rise half again that much. The width between the posts may be S or 6 feet, 6 is usually better, and the width may be increased if the height is made greater. A row of arches may be substituted for a row of pillars if it is desired to retain the top growth of the roses instead of cutting it off. In order to grow as many climbers on arches in the same space as on pillars, the spans may be sprung across every other post instead of connecting adjacent posts, thus permitting them to be planted as closely as 3 feet apart. An interesting method is to interlace the arches with the tops of the arches all the same height. This may be varied by making every other arch a trifle higher than the intervening one; and that idea may be carried to the extreme of having one series of arches entirely superimposed upon the other.

Any one of these arrangements is tremendously effective if the arches are not too high. When the center of an arch is more than 12 feet above the ground, it is difficult to keep it adequately clothed with foliage and bloom, and it is almost impossible to get close enough to the flowers to enjoy them except as a distant spectacle.


If four posts are set at the corners of a square and the top of each is connected with every other post by an arch or a garland, an arbor or summerhouse will take form when covered with the proper climbing roses. If the summer-house glories in dignified architectural lines, roses should be incidental, but less pretentious bowers may be completely submerged in roses, to the joy of the gardener and his friends.


Rose-hedges may be made in several ways. Some roses which are not climbers are peculiarly adapted to the purpose, but favorite climbing roses may be used to make hedges with sufficient care and attention. Multiflora roses and their allies may be planted closely and allowed to interlace their branches, forming dense hedges within a few years without needing any other support.

But such hedges are likely to become unmanageable tangles after a time unless given constant care.

The sensible thing is to shear the plants back each season after they have finished flowering. This results in an artificial and somewhat stupid effect, but does make an effective display and an almost impenetrable hedge which will not need to be renewed for many years.

A better way to make a rose-hedge is to begin with a wire fence. The climbing roses may be planted at intervals depending upon their vigor, and as they grow the canes should be trained horizontally along the wires, coiling them back on themselves to fill the space to best advantage. Such arrangements need to be gone over at least twice a year to keep them from becoming overgrown, and all wood more than two years old should be removed entirely whenever practical. It frequently happens that to remove it all would uncover part of the fence, leaving a bare spot or hole in the hedge. In such cases, it should be allowed to remain until the plant produces new canes to fill the space. Fences or hedges of this kind may rise to any height until they cease to be fences and become trellises.  Such a hedge is a most attractive enclosure for a garden.


Climbing roses have been put to many other uses. To insure the safety of birds where cats prowl, the bird-bath may be surrounded with a close tangle of some thorny climbing rose. A climber of moderate vigor may encircle a sun-dial, and creeping roses may be trained in long, narrow ribbons along the edge of flower-beds or paths instead of expensive boxwood or other border plants. Some of the almost evergreen Wichuraiana hybrids are delightful when used in this manner. Vigorous scrambling or climbing roses may be planted at the foot of dead trees, and will transform the dead bark into living beauty. Unsightly buildings, stonepiles, and objectionable views may be screened by climbing roses either grown as huge bushes or properly trained upon some support. In fact, the uses to which climbing roses may be put are so multifarious that any gardener with a spark of originality in his soul will find unique and interesting places for them in his own garden, no matter how unexciting it may seem to be at first.

The point to be remembered is that no matter how climbing roses are trained, they must be taken care of systematically. Pruning is essential and must be adapted to the nature of the roses. Otherwise they are likely to get out of bounds within two or three seasons, and rapidly deteriorate into unsightly masses of half-dead brush. When that happens, the only thing to do is to dig them up and start over.