One of the most cherished characteristics of roses is their ability to climb over walls, arbours, arches and obelisks and form a fragrant nook in the garden, a stunning walkway or entrance. Roses climbing over verandah pillars is the quintessential look of a French or English Country garden or Hamptons style garden, that many of us still crave. They may not be perfect in a contemporary setting but are part and parcel of the ambience of an old Australian farmhouse.
This week in the garden is all about climbing roses because they require considerable planning and research to choose the right location and structure to grow successfully. Monty Don says it all when he states, “the cold light of reality can be harsh.” and I know the reason my roses are not great at the front is I’ve made a series of mistakes. Across the front of the garden is a large wide rustic archway that, despite my attention, care and patience with various species of roses, have yet to provide a complete display worthy of such a prime position.
The covering of the archway began with Bantry Bay roses, but they were eaten by sheep, kangaroos and cockatoos several times, and then a wallaby, even though the two huge pots on either side are fenced. When they finally grew, they didn’t cover the arch to my liking; Bantry Bay billowed sideways more bushy than climbing, with no long canes to tie down across the top. They were moved to an old stump that is lower and out by the driveway.
So, I tried an unusual choice called, Jardins de l’Essonne, which is strictly not a climbing rose. These were growing in two large pots and became so tall with long canes that I thought they were climbers and moved them to each side of the front arch. Although not entirely suitable, these roses have nearly covered the top of the archway but in a very spindly, sparse fashion, albeit with gorgeous blooms. But at least the first metre just bare stalks. Again, not very successful long term in this position.
It is time the front archway had a lot more pizazz, so I’m going for depth of colour in a robust heat-loving climber from Delbards called Guy Savoy– pictured above. Rankins Roses describe Guy Savoy as ‘Hardy and fragrant in Australian conditions”, and Diana from Silkies Rose farm calls it “a MUST HAVE and highly recommended rose.” I hope they are fast-growing and cover the arch as the feature intended from the beginning. I’m not expecting a Claude Monet rose archway seen at Giverny, just a rustic farmhouse arch thickly covered with foliage and blooms through the season- not too much to expect.
Before I decided on Guy Savoy I researched and according to the experts, there are several important aspects to beautiful climbing roses. The first is, to choose the correct rose for the position and structure. Secondly, it is important for all climbing roses to have regular trimming to retain their form. I had read not to prune for the first 3 seasons so have rarely cut mine back. There are three types of climbing roses; Rambling, Climbing and Pillar roses and many ways to add them to the garden.
Climbing roses will repeat flower all season and have quite large blooms.
Ramblers often only flower once a season, are known to flower in clusters and are usually more vigorous.
Pillar roses have long canes that you need to attach to a post or structure for support.
Diana from Silkies rose farm has extensive information on the most suitable climbing roses for particular situations- read here
This article from David Austin Roses is inspirational, but also very informative for the differences between pillars, arches, obelisks and wall rose growing. After researching numerous areas I am adding the following habits to my experience of trying to get the perfect rose archway.
The Six Tips on Climbing Roses
- A strong, durable structure for growing the rose on is essential. Not light-weight or flimsy.
- Continual deadheading is worth it.
- Roses are not going to entwine around the fixture themselves. Use flexible garden twine or clips to tie the rose canes and shoots to the support, rather than weaving, to make it easier to prune back any dead canes.
- Train the canes horizontally to encourage side shoots and more blooms. If the stems are fixed they flower better than blowing around in the wind.
- Fertilise effectively the same as all roses.
- Choose the right rose for the position and structure.
The rose Guy Savoy is another stunning rose by Delbards; bred in France in 1994 and introduced in 2004 with the registration name DELstrimen. According to the Rose Society of S.A., it is a gorgeous glowing colour of rich cerise red with touches of white, pink and mauve with a beautiful fragrance. The foliage is thick and healthy and it is said to be hardy and vigorous, climbing to a height of three metres. Guy Savoy rose was bred as a tribute to the famous French Chef -Guy Savoy. Sounds perfect given Pierre Gagnaire rose is growing at the other end of the path.
Sometimes, it takes time to get it right in the garden, but every mishap provides valuable experience. Nothing is ever straightforward and often more likely; two steps forward and one step back with many twists and turns. Often plants can be in the wrong place for the climate and conditions or plants that were quite different in reality than the description when purchased. Not to mention the adverse effects of pests, insects and animals like wallabies, birds, sheep, and kangaroos.
The climbing roses have been the most difficult to get right since the garden began, mainly because of our hot, dry climate with afternoon sun exposure and not all roses or plants like these conditions.
After past challenges, all the archways and pillars in the garden are finally planted with an appropriate rose.
Even though my front archway is not up to my expectations, the other climbers are magnificent, including Papi Delbard rose, and Peace rose, perfect on the archway by the French Garden. Westerland roses (ramblers) are spectacular on the old tank stand outside the garden; their brilliant colour is in stark contrast to the summer rural view of grain paddocks and sheep grazing. Soaring Spirits and Pierre Gagnaire on matching obelisks at the front door. Renae and Jeannie La Joie thrive on one of the water tanks with Crepuscule and Lady of Shalott on the other. The effect these climbing roses create is tremendous; height and colour against the sky and the eaves of the farmhouse; greenery and blooms that enhance the look of rural structures and fixtures that would otherwise be an eyesore.
QuickSilver roses grow on either side of the new arch along the front path and are beautiful. The highlight is the unusual mauve colour that is often not seen in climbing roses. The blooms are large and darker in the centre in clusters. The fragrance is remarkable and is apparent in the evenings. Mine is about to open again, so I will be able to take pictures later this week. Quicksilver was also chosen because it is suited to the Australian Climate and grows 2.5 metres which is a more compact climbing rose and perfect for this position.
Twilight Glow is my mainstay for the back garden and grows on the arch seat in the Tea Garden and is now across the top almost reaching the other plant growing up the side. This one has been the most successful to date probably as it is far less exposed. The large blooms with their distinctive serrated petals really do glow amongst the foliage and are magnificent to view from the kitchen window.
I discovered today that there is a Mandevilla that is frost tolerant called Mandevilla laxa-Frost hardy Chilean Jasmine. These are to be added to the view from the kitchen window to cover the old tank stand. Available from Lambley Nursery Such great news, as I’ve always thought they were more coastal and have not tried to grow anything so tropical.
Pierre De Ronsard grows gloriously out of French Style pots in morning sun position, and my aim is to grow as pillar roses on the verandah posts. Buff Beauty roses have started their trail along the pool fenceline and lastly, on two old stumps are Banksia Rose and Blossomtime, with soon to be added Bantry Bay once I dig them out of the front.
Jeanne La Joie and Renae roses both have been a huge success in the garden.
Jeanne la Joie is a pale pink miniature climbing rose bred in the USA by Edward P Sima in 1975. It is disease resistant and freely flowers all season in a very easy-care manner. It has a mild tea fragrance and deep green foliage with hundreds of beautifully formed blooms in clusters on long arching canes. Mine has reached the top of the water tank easily, so don’t think because it is a miniature rose it will only be a low climber. It will cover a trellis 2m high x 2.5m wide and according to the Rose Society of SA will enjoy the Australian hot dry climate and make an ideal Pillar Rose. It grows in an upright bushy way that is easily trained to climb.
Renae is also a beautiful climbing rose especially because it is thornless, fragrant and blooms all season long. Renae is a Polyantha, Floribunda, Climbing rose bred by S Moore in 1954 in the USA. I am growing ours in a warm sheltered position by the water tanks. The canes are pliable, with pale pink flowers and very lush foliage.
So, it is easy to see there is plenty of work to continue with the climbing roses. The recent research was valuable in reminding me of what tasks need to be done regularly with climbers to make the most of the blooms. I certainly hope Guy Savoy lives up to expectations for the front- third time lucky perhaps?
Header Image is courtesy of Rose Arch at RNRS Gardens of the Rose.
All content and images Di Baker unless otherwise cited 2022