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The best climbing roses for walls

Tiffany Daneff / 24 June 2016

Tiffany Daneff researches the best rose to grow against a brick wall at the Sheep Garden.

Climbing rose 'Gentle Gertrude' on a brick wall
Climbing rose 'Gentle Gertrude' on a brick wall

I don’t know about you, but here in the sheep garden everything is coming up roses. The rain has fed the buds which are bursting forth as never before while the lack of drought has kept pests and diseases in check – for now at least.

And it’s not just here. As I drive round the local villages I’ve been admiring walls freely flowering with pink, red, yellow and white blooms.

The walls in this part of Northamptonshire are either red brick or, more traditionally, ironstone which is a deeper coloured limestone than you find in the Cotswolds, ranging from an orangey-brown to deep gold. One garden designer warned me of the dangers of growing yellow roses on ironstone walls. But it’s not just colour one needs to think about it’s also ensuring that the rose isn’t going to grow berserk.

Find out the difference between climbing and rambling roses

Susie Pasley-Tyler, whose garden course I attended last week at Coton Manor, mentioned, in passing, that there is no need for climbers which have a habit of growing way beyond the space you’ve allocated and then only flowering on their upper parts, ie well beyond our reach. Better, she says, to train shrub roses over pergolas and restricted walls. Save climbers for exceptionally large areas.

Meanwhile, the June issue of the RHS magazine The Garden contains an article recommending new breeds of climbing roses designed to stay within reasonable bounds, that is within 10 -13 feet.

This new generation of climbing roses, bred over the last 30 years, has aimed to produce healthy roses whose leaves will stay glossy and whose flowers will bloom lower and repeatedly. So good news all round. Plus, there is quite good selection to choose from.

I’m particularly interested as I want some roses to grow on the walls here both on the house and on the long garden wall. Because of the aforementioned ironstone, I’ve rule out using orange but am tempted by these suggestions from their experts

Philip Harkness of Harkness Roses recommends Rosa Penny Lane which has much more delicate apricot white flowers and red young stems.

Simon White of Peter Beales Roses mentions ‘Awakening’ – a sport of the old favourite New Dawn, a pretty soft pink rose, which I inherited in our last garden and was very happy though quite an old plant.

Philip Scott, of RHS garden Rosemoor in Devon likes ‘Open Arms’ with its simple dog rose-like flowers in a pale pink with pretty yellow stamens. At Rosemoor, he says, it grows to a very restrained six and a half feet.

Find out how to grow rambling roses

How to encourage flowers to bloom where you want them

To encourage lower flowing tie in young stems as close as possible to the horizontal as this slows down the sap encouraging buds to form.  

If you want flowers to form higher up leave stems vertical, only starting to train to the horizontal once you reach the desired height.

Find out how to prune roses

Recommended reading for rose-lovers

Brent Elliott used to work as the librarian at the RHS Lindley Library. His latest venture is a glorious book The Rose which comes in a box case along with 50 prints of roses chosen from the library’s collection. 

The book tells the history of the rose reaching from Tertullian (and the rose garden of Midas) to 20th century colour charts and hybridization. With Elliott there is no shortage of tantalizing detail and mesmeric imagery. Not sure what to give a rose lover? This is the answer. (£35, Andre Deutsch)

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.