One of the hardest things to do get right in a garden is adding an arch or pergola because most span a paved area or a path.
Large pergolas, with too many supports, will tend to look too tall in your garden, so it’s important to use good quality thicker supports and limit the number so that your pergola looks in scale. Arches are far easier to install and they can also add another level to the garden, visually.
Training roses against an arch or pergola
Whichever structure you use, once it’s in situ, it will give you an opportunity to train plants round the supports or over the arch, rather than letting them go straight up. Roses are the most commonly chosen plant, because they can be trained over a pergola or clipped on an arch. Both techniques will produce more flower buds.
If you twirl rose stems round any upright, like a coiled snake, it will slow the flow of sap down and this will encourage more flower buds. If you loop the stems along the top of a pergola, rather like a series of looper caterpillars this will have the same sap-slowing effect. Or you can weave them under and over. A slower flow of sap concentrates flower power. The stems need to pliable and generally they are easier to manipulate in late autumn and early winter.
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Pruning trained roses on arches
Never cut your roses back in the growing season. Prune during winter. However, if you need to bend the stems, tackle it before Christmas if possible - before the stems harden.
Trimming back rose growth, once the roses are trained, involves shortening the laterals, or the side shoots, back to four inches in length (7- 10cm). This should be done in winter when the rose is dormant.
Choosing roses for an arch
Many gardeners know that some roses only flower in June and others keep repeating until autumn. However, few realise the difference between the two.
Roses that produce flowers only once in the year, typically June or early July, are far more abundant. They drip with flower and make early summer truly glorious. You can continue the show by adding a later-flowering clematis to scramble through.
Repeat-flowering roses are never quite as generous in flower numbers. They ration out their flowers, so the wise gardener always includes some once and only roses, as well as repeat-flowering ones.
Many of the abundant, June-flowering roses have simpler shaped single or semi-double flowers and these are very insect friendly. Some produce colourful hips. Fully double roses, on the other hand, offer no pollen or nectar and are not wildlife friendly. However the flowers last longer and are often more fragrant.
Read more about the difference between rambling and climbing roses
You also have to consider flower colour in our warming climate because our summers are getting hotter year on year. Dark colours absorb far more heat, so deep-red and strong-pink roses frazzle and crisp up if June is too hot. Paler flowers, on the other hand, shrug off hot sunshine and last longer. Motto, plant a pale rose if it’s a hot spot.
An arch you pass through several times a day, will not be very user friendly if the roses are very prickly. It would be far better to plant a smooth-stemmed rose that you can brush past safely.
And then there is fragrance. If you’re going to elevate a rose so that the flowers are nose-high you bring the fragrance nearer. Rose fragrance is very variable, but if you love scent go for a highly perfumed rose, especially near a seating area.
Finally you need to think about the vigour of the rose you’re planting. Will it overwhelm the arch, will it grow tall enough to cover the arch and is it healthy? The following roses will do well.
Read our guide to planting roses
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Once and only flowering roses for pergolas and arches
‘Adélaïde d'Orléans’ (Jacques, 1826)
This is one of the prettiest roses for an arch, with sprays of pale-pink buds that open to form semi-double white roses studded with a boss of golden anthers. This soft mixture defines a June day perfectly. It’s dainty, elegant and it hangs its flower downwards on lax stems rather like cherry blossom. It’s easy to train and it keeps lots of it leaves in winter. Add a small-flowered late-summer clematis, such as ‘Dark Eyes’, and chop your viticella clematis right back in early spring. No hips sadly. (20ft)
‘Francis E. Lester’ (Lester Rose Gardens 1946)
The flowers on this floriferous rambler resemble those of the dog rose, but they’re pinker, so ‘Francis E. Lester’ can look like apple blossom from afar. It’s free-flowering and highly scented, with banana and orange notes, and by autumn it’s covered with small orange hips. It’s not too vigorous so you could grow it through a medium-sized apple tree, or use it on a pergola, or cover an outbuilding. It tolerates shade well. (6m /20ft)
‘Goldfinch’ (W.Paul 1907)
This pretty rambler is less vigorous than many, with clusters of cup-shaped creamy apricot flowers that’s fade to clotted cream as they age. It’s almost thornless and the shiny green stems are pliable. The bright-green foliage is also attractive. Rosa 'Goldfinch' occasionally forms some hips. The purple viticella clematis such as ‘Polish Spirit’ is a perfect follow-up act. Chop it right back in early spring (3m/ 8 -10 ft)
‘Félicité Perpétue' (Jacques, 1827)
This rose flowers later than most once and only roses, usually around mid-July. The small, closely packed pompon flowers, which turn from soft pink to creamy white, are held in large, slightly hanging clusters and have a delicate primrose fragrance. It’s almost evergreen, with dense and dark, neat foliage. It’s best on a pergola, but it will also tolerate a north wall. 15ft/5m
‘Blairii no 2’ Blair 1845
One of the most feminine roses, with flat-faced pale-pink flowers that darken at the centre. Very fragrant and very free flowering in June and July, with handsome matt foliage. This Bourbon rose also pleases the pollinators and it will tolerate some shade. 3.5m/12ft
‘Gardenia’ (Manda 1859)
The name suits it perfectly, because the foliage is exceptionally dark and the cream to buff-yellow flowers are very gardenia-like. Prettily pointed buds open to form slightly ragged double flowers with a boss of stamens showing. The flowers deepen to yellow at the centre and this American rose has a strong, fruity scent. Vigorous with graceful, flexible stems and small, dark green, glossy leaves. This will bloom in June and then again in autumn. Rescued by Peter Beales and best on a pergola. 6m/ 20ft
Repeat-flowering roses for arches and pergolas
Albéric Barbier' (Barbier 1860)
This pale-yellow frilly-petalled rose needs a warm position to flower well. The small clusters of yellow buds open to form fully double, quartered flowers that measure about 3 inches across. The almost evergreen foliage is dark and glossy and the thin pliable stems are easily trained. Most of the flowers appear in May or June, but it will also repeat flower in late summer or autumn, and they have a fruity fragrance that suits the lemon flowers. This needs a substantial arch or large pergola. 25ft
‘Malvern Hills’ David Austin 2000)
This repeat-flowering rambler is a manageable size, so it’s perfect on a smaller arch, or on a pergola. The large clusters of fully double, soft-yellow blooms are have a musky fragrance. The green foliage has a sheen and this healthy rose is not very thorny. All soft-yellow roses mix well with blue viticella clematis. It also produces hips, if the last flowers are left unpruned. 4.5m/15ft
‘Phyllis Bide’ (Bide 1923)
This dainty rose bears apricot flowers that morph into sunset shades of yellow and pink, so it’s particularly attractive against a red-brick arch or wall. It’s considered to be a repeat-flowering rambler and each flower has quilled petals. It produces lots of sweetly fragrant flowers throughout the summer. 4.5m/15ft
Scent from Heaven (Warner 2012)
This modern looking climbing rose was Rose of the Year in 2017. It’s extremely healthy and the salmon-pink to orange flowers have a pink over wash to soften them. The dark foliage and fruity fragrance make this rose look sumptuous, from top to toe, and there are few really good orange climbers about. Good on a pergola or arch. Up to 3m/10ft
‘Open Arms’ Warner 1995
Described as a miniature rambler, this will cover the sides of an arch but may not go straight over. The small, semi-double flowers start as a soft pink, quickly fading to pale pink, and have prominent golden stamens. They have a light to medium musky fragrance and it’s hardly ever out of flower. Also good on a trellis. 2.5m/8ft
'Madame Alfred Carrière’ (Schwartz 1879)
A very smooth-stemmed noisette rose with cream-white flowers over a long period. The strong fragrance is sweet and fruity and this rose will tolerate a north-facing position. It’s easy to train, really healthy and it’s often the last rose to finish flowering. Best on a pergola. 7.5m/25ft
‘Mrs Honey Dyson’ (unknown USA)
In an informal setting, if you want to rose to explode into abundant flower, opt for this highly fragrant creamy-white American climber. It will need space though. From Trevor White Roses.
‘New Dawn’ (Dreer 1930)
Perfect on a large arch, or on a pergola, this silver-pink rose is sweetly fragrant and the high-gloss mid-green foliage really enhances the double flowers. Wonderful above blue nepeta. 4.5m/15ft
‘Penny Lane’ (Harkness 1988)
This champagne-coloured climbing rose is very good on an arch because you can really appreciate the lightly fragrant, ruffled flowers and handsome foliage. Repeats well. 5.5m /18ft
‘Aloha’ (Boerner 1949)
Forget the name, for this rose has beautifully formed strawberry-pink flowers with a strong fruity fragrance. The high-gloss, leathery foliage is every special too and the it produces its multi-petalled flowers very freely throughout the growing season. Although modern, it looks just like an old-fashioned Bourbon rose, 4m /12ft
Treating your roses for aphids
If you get aphids, don’t spray them because the aphids will feed the birds and ladybirds. Rub them through your fingers if they really annoy you.
Visit our Plants section for more helpful growing guides, including how to grow wild roses