The Climbing Rose: Ways to Use Climbers, Ramblers and Pillar Roses

Summary: Climbing roses are effective where many other plants are not. Some are valuable for covering walls; others are ideal subjects for training on posts.

Is there a climbing rose in your garden? If the answer is no, look around. Nearly every home property has room for at least one climbing rose bush. And, there are many locations where no other plant is quite as effective.

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Climbing roses may be used to relieve the plainness of a bare wall, partially conceal an unattractive view, serve as a hedge or fence, and, if planted closely, have winter value as a snow fence.

If given adequate support, climbing roses will make a sound barrier and can be substituted for an all-wood fence. If appropriate varieties are selected, the roses will outlast most conventional walls.

Related: How I Grow Roses – This Hobby Grower Shares His Experience!

Training Climbing Roses

When trained on posts, the pillar-type roses relieve the monotony of formal gardens by adding height, and, for this purpose, they are more satisfactory and less expensive than tree roses.

Rose lovers would more generally appreciate the value of climbing roses if catalogs described the plants more specifically regarding vigor, habits, and usage. These vitally important matters are considered less commercial than color, form, and period of bloom and are rarely included in the catalog description of a variety.

As climbing rose types range in growth from 6’ to 25’ feet and are usually grouped under one general heading, buyers often discover that they ordered a variety unsuited to their garden or the intended purpose.

Some climbing roses are precious for covering walls or fences, others for forming a rambling mass of rose beauty, and some are ideal subjects for training on posts. Few, if any, are adaptable for all of these purposes, and many are unsuited for more than one.

3 Groups of Climbing Roses: Climbers, Ramblers, and Pillars

The variance in vigor and habit makes it advisable to separate the group into three somewhat distinct subgroups:

  • Climbers
  • Ramblers
  • Pillars

The Climber

The term “climber” refers to a variety of somewhat stiff growth that produces new shoots at or near the top of the previous year’s growth if the plant is given adequate support and is winter-hardy.

As the blossoms are produced on short branches that grow from two- or three-year wood, pruning should be minimal. Remove deadwood and shorten canes to induce the production of side branches.

Related: Different Climbing Rose Varieties To Try

The Rambler

A “rambler” has long, thin, pliable, and less rigid canes. If not supported, they are of the more or less procumbent habit of growth. New shoots issuing from old clubs are rarely vigorous or floriferous.

Continued growth is dependent on the annual production of nodes from the base or the development of new plants where older canes conic in contact with the soil. Pruning should be severe and consist of removing all canes that have borne flowers as soon as the blossoms fade.

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The Pillar

A “pillar” rose is an intermediate type that is not sufficiently vigorous to be recognized as a climber and has too short and rigid wood to ramble. The climbing hybrid teas represent this group which requires only corrective pruning.

Most of the more vigorous members of the class were derived by crossing the two Asiatic species. Rosa multiflora and Rosa wichuraiana with assorted garden roses. This fact may seem unimportant to many rose growers, but it influences the proper training method to induce maximum bloom production.

As Rosa wichuraiana, the parent from which most of these roses was derived, is of trailing or creeping habit, its descendants will invariably bloom more profusely if the flowering wood is trained in a somewhat horizontal position.

The less vigorous climbing hybrid teas prefer vertical training as they are, in most instances, sports of upright growing roses.

Climbing Roses And Winter Protection

The numerous varieties of the entire group of climbing roses vary considerably in hardiness, but none are dependably hardy, without protection, in all parts of our country.

The small cluster flowering types are generally the most vital. Their blossoms denote a closer affinity to the moderately vigorous species than the more tender roses.

The climbing hybrid teas are the most susceptible to winter injury and are of value only in areas of wide rate temperatures. Protection, when required, is afforded by laying the canes on the ground and covering them with burlap or soil as the severity of the weather demands.

Climbing roses should not be fertilized except in early spring. Later feeding encourages fall growth susceptible to winter damage.

As a rose will usually outlast the post or fence on which it is trained, the support must be as nearly permanent as possible. Wooden posts should be treated below the soil level with a wood preservative and painted above to prevent rapid decay.

Metal posts will last for many years if they are embedded in concrete above the ground line.

Consider The Support Color

Some consideration should be given to the color of the rose and its support as the colors will often clash, and the general appearance will be unpleasant.

A few years ago, a visitor to our garden whose home was on a lot adjoining a small ravine conceived the idea of covering a fence with closely planted climbers to conceal the ravine. His plan was a good one, and varieties and sources were suggested.

Three years later, I was asked to visit his garden to see his “patriotic fence.” This intrigued and puzzled me, and as no other description was given, his invitation was accepted. I was surprised to find that the fence consisted of alternate plantings of red, white, and deep violet roses.

It was not a pleasing combination, but it was unique and attracted considerable attention and probably some criticism. They were not the varieties I had suggested.

Another group of roses associated with climbers or ramblers are varieties adapted for use as groundcovers. Rosa wichuraiana, the pure white single-flowered species with glossy leaves, is probably the most satisfactory member of this group. It is winter hardy where temperatures drop to – 10° degrees and farther north if there is ample snow cover. Place plants about 6’ feet apart for ground coverage.