Roses are certainly one of the most beloved garden plants. For many, their beauty and fragrance outweighs whatever difficulties their culture presents. Plus, they are versatile in the garden--depending on the variety they can be grown either as groundcovers, shrubs, or trained to a trellis or structure.
Many gardeners now opt for the "Knockout" roses--even though their fragrance is minimal and the colors limited. Don't get me wrong--I'm not "knocking" them. They're a great solution when a long-blooming shrub is needed and understandably popular. It's just that landscapers have overused them to the point that they're like Starbucks--one on every corner, just like yellow and blue pansies in the fall. My eyeballs ache for a little visual diversity.
But roses have so much more to offer--you might want to take a look at some other choices, and consider the effect that a stunning rose grown on a fabulous trellis or arbor might have in your garden.
For instance, David Austin Roses are not only stunning and fragrant, they generally have good disease resistance. Although I've not had them in the landscape, I've cared for them in pots in the nursery, where they performed admirably. A large bushy rose in a 3 gallon pot and Mid-Atlantic summer heat and humidity is not a great combination, yet they came shining through with little other than regular watering and fertilizing. (They may have difficulty farther south, however). Many varieties have flowers so full they are reminiscent of peonies.
The German breeder Kordes has been working since the 1990s to introduce roses that meet a specific set of standards including disease resistance, long bloom period, and increased cold hardiness, all without completely sacrificing fragrance--definitely a worthwhile brand to search out. Their 'Arborose' series consists of continuously flowering, easy to grow climbers sure to be a highlight in your garden.
Roses add sophistication and style to your landscape, yet complement a cottage garden just as well--it all depends on the habit. Hybrid teas with their classic rose flower shape and upright growth lend themselves to sculpted beds and borders, while ramblers, climbers, and large shrub roses, especially those with full, blowsy flowers will add effortless grace to an informal design. For best effect, match the rose with a long-lasting, sturdy support that will enable them to grow properly. Remember they're also a natural companion for clematis--a classic and well-loved combination.
How can rose supports help?
Rambling and climbing roses thrive in the wild only with some form of support. Ramblers tend to grow up trees, while climbing roses often cover up other shrubs. If you try this in your garden, however, sooner or later these natural supports (perhaps an old apple tree for the rambler, or your neighbor's yew for the climbing rose) will be choked to death by the rose. Many of the most attractive new varieties, especially David Austin’s English Roses, tend to have large and heavy blooms that will hang downwards or even break off unless given support. And don't forget that these plants are generally long-lived, so you need a frame that will withstand the weight of a large specimen and is built to last.
In addition, the number of blooms a rose will have depends to a large degree on how it is tied and grown. The maximum number of blooms can only be achieved if the rose is made to grow horizontally, at a slight angle, along an appropriate support. Varieties such as the standard or weeping standard rose, which are not found in nature, require special support from the very beginning.
We offer a wide range of garden structures that will not only support your roses beautifully, but also create interest and add character to your landscape. Our metal arbors & pergolas, metal rose pillars & garden obelisks, metal gazebos, and wall-mounted or free-standing metal trellises, all crafted of galvanized steel, will enhance your garden for years to come.
Different kinds of roses need supports that work with their growing habit
To discern the type of support your roses require, take a closer look at what you have in your garden, or read the description carefully if purchasing anew. In gardens roses are grown as bushes, shrubs or climbers.
Bushes are low growing, often quite upright in habit, with multiple stems emerging near ground level; they are often grown formally in beds with other roses. These lower growing roses seldom require support as they do not grow to a great height. Some are referred to as groundcover roses, 'Flower Carpet,' 'Drift,' and 'Oso Easy' are popular series you may see at your nursery.
Roses grown as shrubs include Modern Garden Roses such as hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda, English (David Austin), and Knockouts, and what are called Old Garden Roses: Bourbon, Damask, Rugosa, and Hybrid Musk among others. These grow larger than bush roses, and many have a sort of informal and sometimes arching habit. They are a good show in mixed borders or grown separately as specimens.
Shrub roses which grow to a height of between 5 and 6 ft. can easily grow to at least 7 ft. if trained on a support frame. There they will also bloom more abundantly than in their natural shrub form. Look to English, Damask, Bourbon, and Centifolia (commonly called “cabbage” roses) for shrub varieties that will enhance obelisks, free-standing trellises and garden pyramids.
Standards and Weeping Standards
Some roses may also be trained as "standard," which are plants grafted high onto a rose rootstock, resulting in extra height which can add height and color to a mixed border. Typically the measures are 1 meter for a regular standard or 1.40 meters for a "weeping standard." Nurseries will sometimes offer Knockouts or David Austin roses grown as standards (shown here is 'Mary Rose'). These can be grown in the ground, but are often placed in containers with trailing flowers at the base for a softer look.
A standard rose is best secured to solid metal garden stakes. Strong wood stakes are functional, but their rather rustic appearance clashes with the finery of the queen of flowers. The weeping standard requires a so called "rose umbrella"’ to show off and withstand strong winds and storms. As the name suggests this is a sturdy, umbrella like iron frame. It was invented by the French painter Claude Monet for weeping standard roses at his famous gardens in Giverny.
Climbing roses are usually trained to suitable supports such as garden archways or trellises. As they easily grow to heights between 7 and 15 feet, they will always require some form of support. Of course, they don't actually "climb" in the fashion that other vines do--they have no clinging rootlets or tendrils and do not twine, so will benefit from your guidance via a bit of tying in.
A few varieties that work well with pillars or free-standing trellises include pink or red ‘Eden,’ yellow ‘Graham Thomas, and orange-red 'Arborose Orange Flare'. For smaller arches, you might try bright pink 'Arborose Laguna,' soft pink ‘St. Swithin,’ deep crimson ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles, or creamy white ‘Claire Austin.’ ‘Fruity Petals’ is a uniquely colored coral & yellow variety from the breeder of Knockout.
Larger structures or wall trellises will suit more vigorous climbers like apricot ‘Crown Princess Margareta,’ ' bright pink 'Aborose Kiss Me Kate,' very fragrant pink ‘Gertrude Jekyll,’ or the ever popular kaleidoscopic 'Joseph's Coat.' For pergolas and gazebos look for strong growing large climbers like pure red 'Blaze,' pale pink 'New Dawn,' clean white 'White Dawn,' intensely red 'Don Juan,'
The French developed special intricate ornamental trellises, named ‘Treillage’ to make climbing roses a truly spectacular show. In the 1700s, these might have covered all the house or courtyard walls from top to bottom! We offer a scaled-down version that might be a bit more appropriate for today.
Ramblers or Rambling Roses
Rambling roses, which grow to a natural height of between 15 and 30 ft., are ideal for covering arbors, pavilions, pergolas, gazebos, rose tunnels and high fences or walls. Subject to certain limits, they can also be trained to grow on high and stable arch trellises. David Austin's collection includes 4 breathtaking varieties.
Which supports should I choose?
There is a wide range of support frames available on the market in every price category, manufactured from a variety of different materials. At the lower end of the price range, frames tend to be made either of wood or of thin, ungalvanized iron. At the top end of the range, support frames are generally made of solid, hot-dip galvanized, powder-coated steel.
Rose support frames of wood:
Even wood which has been well painted or "waterproofed' tends to weather after a few years, especially when it is densely covered with roses, and can only dry very slowly after a rain shower. This makes it necessary to repaint or protect again (using highly toxic substances), hardly a practical option for a frame covered with roses. Unfinished cedar would be the best choice if you must have wood but do not wish the regular maintenance.
Support frames of thin, ungalvanized iron:
It takes little more than a light breeze to make these climbing aids sway, even before the rose grows to cover them. Assembled from numerous small components, they lack inner stability. Since they do not undergo hot-dip galvanizing, rust tends to form within a year and quickly eats its way through the structure which, to save on costs, is kept as thin as possible. Once these supports have been covered by a rose, their wind resistance can increase by up to a factor of 20, which will mean that they have a good chance of collapsing in the next storm, taking down the rose with them.
Support frames of hot-dip galvanized, powder-coated steel:
Made from 1.5 cm steel profile tubing and steel band (or stronger, depending on size), these supports are completely welded and then hot-dip galvanized. The welding joints, which are most susceptible to rust, are thus well coated. As even zinc will weather over time, the frames are also powder coated. Such is the ideal rose support. Our support frames, in addition to possessing these qualities, are also attractively designed. Even when bare in winter or before plants grow on them, they are an eye-catcher and a true ‘objet d’art’ in your garden.
Rose breeders who recommend – and use – the garden structures of Classic Garden Elements include Peter Beales Roses, using many of our garden trellises in his rosarium at Attleborough, Norfolk. The German breeder Kordes displays our garden structures at the Kordes Show Gardens. Noack Rosen and Tantau Rosen, also of Germany, recommend and use our garden archways and garden obelisks. David Austin junior in 2018 bought our ‘St Albans’ Pergola Rose Tunnel for his private rose gardens.
How should I plant my roses on a support?
Gardeners are sometimes unsure about how best to plant a rose at a support frame and train it to grow along it. The answer to this question is not always straightforward and will often depend on how you want to design your garden. The following guidelines apply for all kinds of support frames, including metal rose pillars and obelisks, metal garden arches or wall mounted metal trellises. For ramblers, no special training is necessary – they can grow as they wish.
Roses should never be planted in the center of a garden obelisk, even though this is often seen. This makes it difficult to train a rose and, sooner or later (usually after 4 years at most), spreading rose shoots will make the rose obelisk lift slightly and lean to one side. Roses should always be planted outside the garden obelisk about 7 to 11 inches away from it.
Number and type
To achieve a luxuriant effect from the very beginning, we recommend three roses per garden obelisk, or four to six roses per garden arch – that is two to three roses at each side, depending on the garden arch’s size and location. It is a matter of individual taste whether you plant three different roses or three of the same type at a rose obelisk. In gardens under three-quarters of an acre (probably the majority), we tend to plant just one type, as different hybrids at a single garden obelisk can easily produce an unsettled effect. The same applies to garden arches and wall trellises at house walls. Restricting your choice to one type, which can be planted in greater numbers, will help to create an effect of expansive luxuriance.
Shrub and climbing roses should be trained with care over the support frame. Always avoid allowing the soft stems to grow upwards vertically. Instead you should train them to grow horizontally at a slight angle. The rose will return the favor with a plethora of blooms. Climbers will sometimes shoot up quickly, leaving them bare lower down – a less than pleasant sight. You can avoid this by training them as just described. When the stems are still soft, attach them from the outside rather than training them through the latticework, using soft and stretchable material which will not cut into the stem as it grows thicker. Within a few years, the stems will grow as strong as small tree branches. If trained through the latticework, they will eat into it, easily lifting the frame, especially if it is not solidly anchored.
Roses on house walls
It quite easy to train shrub roses, climbers and –subject to certain limitations – ramblers to grow on the walls of a house, preferably east or west-facing walls. To do this you will need a stable wall trellis, positioned about 4 inches from the wall to allow air to circulate freely behind it. This is essential to avoid damp, which can damage both the wall and the rose. To facilitate subsequent painting work, the wall trellis should be mounted in such a way that it can be removed easily without damage to the wall.
Have other suggestions or questions, or a good or bad experience with any of the varieties mentioned above? Leave a comment to inform other gardeners who may have similar conditions to yours--please let us know your zone!