In the Spring, my back yard comes alive. Nothing beckons me to spend more time outside than my climbing roses. I remember during my teenage years driving up Mt. Helix, in San Diego, and stopping by the side of the road to pick what appeared to be a wild rose plant. The roses were very small and the palest pink. They had a light spice sent and I loved them. The vines grew crazy and covered telephone poles and anything else it could wrap it’s tendrils around. When Justin and I moved into this house, we knew we wanted a lot of climbing roses, but when I stumbled upon the same roses that I loved years before, I knew just the place to plant it. Our back yard is small, but backs up to a large grassy field. We inherited a black chain link fence that would have seemed trashy to me before, but now it is the perfect built-in trellis for my Cecil Brunner climbing rose. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well they grew in Utah, considering my only experience with Cecil Brunner’s had been in So. Cal.
The layout of our home left us with several large blank stucco walls in our back yard. Being the rose lover and decorator that I am (I can’t stand to see a blank canvas unused), Justin built us a few trellises. He ripped down (with a saw, he’s buff, but not that buff) some redwood and screwed them together in a grid. Then, with a few stucco screws, attached them straight to the blank walls. After a little shopping, we planted several different plants at the bottom of the wall. As they grew, we would weave or strap them to the trellis, trimming off stray branches when we got around to it.
Below is a second Cecil Brunner. Did I mention how I love this one? It is so prolific and feminine.
Next to, and intertwined, is a lovely yellow climbing rose (I’m not sure of the name).
Next to the yellow are these fabulous ruffled roses. They range from blush to salmon depending on the shadows. These are particularly fabulous cut and placed in a vase with peonies….oh, I can’t wait till the peonies bloom!
The next rose has had a difficult year or two, but used to be huge and overgrown. It has a yellow center that goes pale and turns to a light pink around the edges. This is a huge rose with very long stems, also great for cutting.
Although I usually picked out double blooms I couldn’t resist the coloring on this beauty. I had been looking for an orange climbing rose and this is what we ended up with. Depending on the age of the bloom, it has yellow, peach, and pink all in one rose.
And lastly, red. I couldn’t have a rose wall and not have red roses. These are a deep red with an unbelievable aroma. You can smell them from around the corner! These were the slowest to get climbing, but I don’t regret the wait.
On the other side of the back yard we devoted an entire wall to the beautiful Joseph’s Coat climbing rose. If you have never seen one these in real life, find one. They are the most amazing climbing rose ever. Red, orange, salmon, peach, yellow, blush, and hot pink all blended into one glorious plant. The flowers actually change colors as they age. They are like fireworks with bursts of different colors every where you look. Mine is in obvious need of trimming, but you get the idea.
A few tips for growing your own climbing roses:
- Make, buy or adapt something to grow your roses on, just about anything will do.
- Roses like lots of sun, so all of mine are planted west or south facing walls.
- Don’t be snooty about where you buy your roses, some of mine are from fancy nurseries, while others are from Home Depot and ShopKo (the latter two have grown the best)
- I don’t recommend bare root, I have had NO success with these (though plenty of people have grown them successfully, I don’t recommend them to beginners, or myself for that matter).
- Buy a systemic aphid killer and apply as needed (a poison you put on the roots). This works much better than spraying constantly with water or a bug spray.
- Pruning: don’t worry about any rules you’ve read about cutting above a seven leaf…yada yada. Better Homes and Gardens did a study and found it didn’t make a rat’s pajamas bit of difference. So cut away!
- Look out for thorns, they are everywhere, especially on the Joseph’s Coat. Get a sturdy pair of leather gloves and place cuttings right in the trash so you don’t get poked twice.
- Most climbing roses have long canes making them perfect cut flowers for inside the house.
- Pick out roses that you love, think about color, number of petals, size of blooms, your landscaping theme (mine is all colors in the back yard) and what you might want to look at inside your home in a vase.
- If at first you don’t succeed, and your rose bush dies or doesn’t thrive, buy a different one and try again, eventually one will work.
- Roses aren’t as hard as everyone makes them out to be, so give it a go!