Exterior & Garden The Victorian House

Tending to the Climbing Roses

We have a bunch of vines and climbers in the garden. Autumn sweet clematis on the front fence, grapevines on the back. Honeysuckle on a bird feeder post, ivy on the neighbor’s house, and a newly planted climbing hydrangea to grow on the fence behind the kids’ play area.

And then there are the roses! Mine are not so photogenic right now because they’re not in bloom, so let’s pretend they look like these David Austin garden roses.

David Austin English Rose -  A Shropshire Lad

There was an arch between the front yard the side garden with roses, and we removed them. That was a mistake. The thorns were pretty scary and encroaching upon us as we passed, and Brandon was worried about the kids getting hurt each time they passed through. I wish I would have learned how to properly prune the roses back and maybe it would have been okay, but we cut the canes back and killed the whole thing. We’ve kept them alive in other spots though! By the front door, the cutest storybook effect comes from the little pink roses growing up the side of the porch. There’s another pink one where the side yard meets the back, and two yellow climbing roses by the garage to soften the expanse of wall. Those were growing on trellises that have fallen apart and fallen off of the garage, so we cut the roses back last summer out of necessity, but not so far back that we killed them (hooray!). I need repair or replace the trellises and attach them more securely. The roses are small, but they’re ready to be trained soon. I think.

Training roses. Pruning them. Both things I had no idea how to do! But I’ve been watching tutorials and reading tips and tricks, and I feel like I have a rudimentary grasp on the techniques now. The best time to work on them is late autumn or winter, so hopefully after I can get out there and get to work, they’ll be looking really good again next year. (Fingers crossed.) If you have any favorite books, videos, or sites, I’d love to hear about them.

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  • Susie
    August 8, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    I killed a rose bush too. I didn’t mean to, but they’re so picky! (p.s. It’s “Austin” with an ‘i’.)

    • Making it Lovely
      August 8, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      Oops! Thanks for catching that — all fixed.

  • Jill
    August 8, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Make sure you feed them each spring too!

  • charmingbubble2
    August 8, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    I used to work for the Royal National Rose Society and the most important aspects of Rose growing are dead heading, fertilising Spring, summer and fall (seems like a lot but results prove its worth it) I use spray so I don’t get black spot but if you do get it make sure to pick off and destroy any infected leaves so it doesn’t spread. Definitely learn how to prune as you say there are numerous videos out there. I keep adding to my collection and love having the blooms in the house. There are some thorn free roses but I don’t know if they are climbers. When I worked with the American society I remember Weeks as being one of the best roses growers. You should pick their brains for sure

  • Nichole
    August 9, 2016 at 12:58 am

    We planted an antique climbing rose on an arbor at our last house. It was nearly thornless and smelled like rasberries. Would totally be worth trying out in your garden. Zephrin Drouhin:

    We so wanted to take ours with us.

  • easymichigan@wordpress.com
    August 12, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Nicole, I am in the minority, I know, but in my opinion, you don’t have to worry about pruning “properly” – it’s all a bunch of silliness. Just deadhead the old blooms, shape the bush or climber the way you want it to look and keep it watered. Some roses will do really well in Chicago, some won’t. Some really bloom only in the Spring and that’s it, but most have three flushes – first in Spring (the best) then in July and finally at the end of the season. They look a bit ratty in between but when they do bloom it’s worth it. A $5 rose bush might be as good as a $35 bush. With gardening, the real investment is the time spent waiting.

  • Alan Gore
    August 23, 2016 at 5:41 am

    I am learning so much. I inherited a climbing rose when we bought our current house about 3 years ago. It was planted in our rear, north facing back yard. It never thrived for the previous owners so my wife transplanted it to the front, south facing yard 3 years ago – not knowing what we were doing. Somehow it survived!
    A true garden enthusiast knows the evolution of a garden never stops. The changing seasons, introducing a new plant or tree, a new design, or just applying new knowledge are wonderful things. Keep sharing about your gardens.Thank you Nicole for this blog.