Climbing Roses

Climbing roses and rambling roses are great for vertical gardening. There is nothing more boring to my eye, than a garden with nothing above head height. These roses can provide focal points, cover less attractive spaces, disguise fences and buildings and create privacy. Some roses can even add extra security to a garden, with their strong stems with thorns.

There are many ways to use climbing and ramblers roses in gardens and patios. To cover walls, over hedges, small or old trees, in pillars, to cover an arch or arbor, over a building or a gazebo; your creativity is the only limit! With a bit of care, you can train your roses to go where and how you want it and achieve the desire effect in your garden. For arches, a thornless rose is often a good idea, such as the Zephirine Drouhin rose.

Roses are plants that need a permanent structure to support them. They have thorns that are curved backwards, so they can grab hold of stems and branches and in this way grow over other plants. Since they don’t have their own climbing aids, you need to help them out by training and tying the stems. When grown over a wall or building, they will need some kind of support, or they won’t be able to stay in place.

Ramblers roses grow a bit more wildly then climbers. They are great to go over small trees, or along buildings and fences, as they develop long stems very flexible. Climbers are easier to get a hand on, but you need to control the direction the plant grows early on too.

Use a climbing rose to make a front entrance that welcomes everyone. You can tie the plant to the wall over the door or use an arch to support it. It will add beauty and fragrance to your entrance and will provide a great first and last impression to anyone visiting you. There’s nothing like a Fourth of July rose to say that it’s summer! Combine with other climbing plants that flowers at a different time, or that have interesting foliage, so you have beauty all year.

Pergolas and arches, with climbing roses over it, are two of the most romantic elements you can introduce in a garden. The romantic Don Juan is a great addition with its rich citrus scent! Combine it with a seating place and you will create a great spot to relax and better enjoy all the beauty and fragrances. The Westerland rose has a nice scent as well.It’s better to choose roses with few or even thorn free, so no one will get tangled by it. Some great roses are ‘Kathleen Harrop’‘Mortimer Sackler’ (strong fragrance and attractive foliage) and ‘Rural England’, a continuous flowering rose, with clusters of pink blooms and few thorns. There’s also the blaze rose which is known as an outstanding climber.

Blaze climber on a white picket fence
Blaze climber on a white picket fence

Train Your Climbing Rose

Pergolas and arches allow several plants, two at each side being the most common use, so mix roses or mix it with other climbing plants to help cover it faster. Use Clematis and Ipomoea for instance. After planting the rose, don’t leave it to grow by itself, or you will end up with all flowers on the top on the pergola, which will make it harder to enjoy their fragrance. Tie the flexible stems, using garden twine, in a spiral way around the pergola, so flowers can be on horizontal stems and you will have blooms at all heights. This works especially well for New Dawn or Dortmund rose.

There are many types of supports for roses. A rose trellis is great for climbers in walls and fences. You need to fix the trellis to the wall and then tie stems as they grow. If you paint the trellis with a nice color, you will have visual impact from the first moment, even before the rose covers it. You can also use annual climbers to cover trellis, while the roses take their time to establish themselves. But make sure the annuals don’t take away the sun and water the roses need.

Another idea is to use wires on a wall or fence as a way of support for climbers. Use vine eyes to create horizontal wires for support that will be away from the wall, which will increase air circulation. Never plant a rose right next to the wall, leave a bit of space, at least 30 cm / 12 inches, because the soil is too dry right next to the wall and then lead the plant towards it.

When using a rose to cover a wall, leave space between the stems so the plant gets air circulation, very important to prevent diseases like mildew, which these roses are prone to. After planting the rose, secure the main stems apart, around 25 cm / 10 inches, so the plant will cover the space better. As shoots start to develop, tie them in.

If you have a north wall, that doesn’t mean you can’t have roses. Some recommended are ‘Bleu Magenta’ (grape purple rambler), ‘Danse du Feu’ (climber with red blooms), ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ (scented white flowers climber) and ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’ (climber with red blooms).

Rustic poles and pillars are a good idea to grow roses in the middle of the garden or when there isn’t a wall. They are great for vertical gardening in small gardens. Try the ‘Swan Lake’, which has white blooms or ‘Albéric Barbier’ which is a rambler with cream flowers, medium sized. A nice small climbing rose is also the Josephs Coat rose.

Bamboo canes and stakes are very useful while plants are still small and can’t reach the support you want to add them to. You can always remove it later on, when the plant is already tied up to the permanent support, like an arch or arbor.

Big structures like gazebos or sheds are great for climbing roses. In some cases it might be helpful to add some kind of extra support, like trellis to tie the plants to. The stems of rambler roses are flexible, so can be easily trained over big structures or left suspended on air. Rose ‘Kiftsgate’ has large fragrant white flowers and gets really big, so is great for big structures. Another rose is ‘Wedding Day’ with its single white flowers.

Pruning climbing roses also should be considered, as it is definitely a little different than your standard bush or shrub.

Even some breeds that are labeled as bushes, like the Blush Noisette, can be great climbers. Really, any type with long canes can do.

Not All Climbers Grow To The Same Size


It’s important to choose the right rose for your space and goal. When choosing a climber or rambler, take in account the final size of the rose. Some plants become very big, others are medium-sized and some are more compact. If you have a small garden, it’s better to choose a rose that suits the space you have, otherwise you will need to keep chopping it back to the size you need.

Compact climbing roses are the best for small places, like the ‘Aloha’ or ‘Altissimo’. Some of the modern shrub roses are small climbers if planted next to a wall, like ‘William Morris’ or ‘Constance Spry’, this last one  is good for dry or windy conditions (and also one of my favorite English roses).