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Climbers: roots in the ground, head in the sky

Melissa Northern Italy zone 8
2 months ago
last modified: 2 months ago

A quality of climbing roses I've noticed is their ability to explode in growth once they're trained up to a position where they can grow horizontally. We have 'La Mortola' in a terraced bed which is backed by a terrace wall topped with a railing. I fooled with this rose for years, training it along the railing, watching it grow and die back, seeing with dismay the results when DH undid all my careful training and tried sending the whole rose into the massive bay laurel growing nearby. It was all pretty unsatisfactory until DH built a pergola up on the terrace, one you could walk under, and I trained LM up the terrace wall and railing and further up onto the pergola top. LM loves it. The ascending canes are leggy and scraggly, but on the pergola, growing horizontally, the rose is a luxuriant mass of canes and foliage. From its exalted position it has also sent a couple of canes into the bay laurel, and may be able to colonize it at last. 'La Mortola' can get huge, and it's as thorny a rose as I've ever encountered, so I hope that from now on I'll be largely able to leave it alone, forget about training it, and simply admire its glory.

Other roses growing as climbers with support: 'Archduke Joseph', trained through the persimmon and onto the pergola, originally sole property of the wisteria, behind it. AJ is a climber tout court, and a big one, an own root rose planted around 2004. I put a photo of it on HMF. 'Mrs. B.R. Cant' is having a very good stab at climbing. A grafted plant also put in the ground around 2004, it heads up the terrace wall and railing and up onto a pergola on the terrace, as well as into a volunteer flowering ash that seeded itself in the terrace wall. Down in the shade garden 'Vanity' has worked itself into the pyracantha hedge that backs up its bed and is spreading impressively. It's a leggy rose, but I think that if it were forced to climb to get to the light and given a structure, it would be pretty wonderful. I'm looking forward to admiring this specimen once I've reduced the pyracantha hedge to some kind of order: right now it's an unaesthetic mess.

A number of the Pemberton Hybrid Musks would be great for this purpose. My neighbors used to have an extremely beautiful 'Cornelia' growing on a northwest-facing wall, until they destroyed it through butchery and neglect, but while it was properly tended to, it was wonderful, and a big plant. Years ago I also had a splendid large 'Francesca', a most lovely rose, but I couldn't keep it going, and now it's a ghost of itself.

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