...to the optimistic attitude required to train roses. As an illustration:
Roses are willful. They are drama queens, as well -- inclined to magnify any infection, infestation or meteorological quirk until it fills the screen with tragedy, comedy or romance. So it takes a great deal of optimism to pair the word "rose" with "train."
Yet this is the essence of growing a climbing rose. We dedicate ourselves to cultivating branch configurations that are both architecturally pleasing and productive of the finest floral show. The rose strings us along, apparently happy to behave well and even to flourish under our care but ever ready to take the show off in a wholly different direction. Years accumulate and their number becomes inconsequential in this partnership that embodies the phrase "Live for the day."
Begin by spreading some main canes at wide angles to attractively cover the trellis. Near-vertical canes will grow most quickly. Nearly- but not quite horizontal canes will bear the most flowers.
Each spring, clean up the framework you created by removing any dead wood and suckers, and shortening overly long side branches and tips.
After bloom, remove wild growth. Shorten the side branches that bore the flowers and nip the tips of main canes -- both moves encourage more branching that can mean more blooms next time.
(We do touch on climber pruning in this article but our focus is on training. For more on pruning and a detailed explanation of the diagram above, see What's Coming Up 157.)
We were nursing scratches after playing referee between a climber rose and a clematis when we wrote in What's Coming Up 140:
Green Thumbs down...
...to clematis in climbing rose. It sounds romantic and can look beautiful now and again during summer, but what a nightmare to manage at pruning time. Is there anything more vicious than a rose cane, anything more fragile and tangled than a clematis?
Every spring we prune out suckers from the vine's base and throughout the year we may remove more basal suckers. We might cometimes be thinking "Nuisance!" as we remove suckers but their presence is assurance of continuation. Whenever we need to replace a main cane that's become old or damaged and less productive, we can keep a sucker and train it into place.
For instance, the spring after we removed suckers several times we were glad of the plant's vigor because an historically cold winter killed the whole plant back to the ground. So we cut the vine to the ground. (We have no photos of removing the canes because we had so much hauling out of winter killed plants to do that spring we had little time for photography.) We let a half dozen suckers grow to be trained into a new fan.
There was no bloom that year since climbers bloom only after a cane is two years old -- the flowers form on the side branches that develop in year two and beyond.
You may notice that we haven't make much of this rose in flower. Nor will we crow over the second example, below. That's not for want of bloom but lack of photos. We accept that gap for what it is, another aspect of a rose's nature.
Both plants have displayed well and sometimes gloriously but at the same time they display their mastery of irony, peaking on days we were not present or when conditions were entirely wrong for a good photo. Maybe this year...
We love it. If you think after you see this that you cannot go with this flow then change your plan right now. Dig up that climber and grow something more amenable to direction.
Spiral some main canes around a post/pillar. Keep the canes in place by tying them to hooks set into the pillar.
Each spring, remove dead wood and suckers.
In mid-summer every year, shorten side branches and the tips of main canes to encourage branching.
*It's not strictly legal to grow vines on a utility pole. Utility companies have the right to cut down or kill such impediments to cable maintenance. Janet worked for fifteen years in telephone line maintenance before we went full-time into gardening so we have personal knowledge of obstruction and damage caused by vines on poles. So we accept the risk of loss, should a utility company representative exercise their right. And we never plant very big vines such as wisteria and trumpet vine on a utility pole. They can reach electric lines and in wet weather form a continuous, energized and potentially deadly path between the wires and anyone on the ground who touches the plant.
They're vicious and try to hurt us at every opportunity but we keep at it, this rose growing thing. There's nothing like the scent of a rose!
- Janet -