Reach new heights in your rose garden with ramblers and climbers

The most charming and welcoming gardens have climbing roses that arch over and define entry gates; spill over arbors, pillars and pergolas; cover walls, fences and trellises; or cascade down in a profusion of blooms from trees and hillsides. These climbers and ramblers are as astounding as they are breathtaking. They are the garden’s showoffs and showstoppers.

Ramblers and climbers

Ramblers are generally hardy old roses descending from a large and complex heritage. Their general nature and growth habit are is that of very vigorous plants that flower profusely once in the spring in massive clusters of small or medium blooms. Some ramblers do have a repeat bloom, and many show off beautiful colorful hips in the fall. They often have flexible canes that can reach 20 to 30 feet.

A rambler can be trained to ascend into a tree or spill over a hillside. The more modern climbers were specifically developed to produce large blooms and to flower repeatedly during the course of the year. They often have stiffer canes, and they generally range between 8 to 15 feet long. Some hybrid teas and floribundas such as Peace and Iceberg have spontaneously developed a climbing sport.

Gertrude Jekyll's pink rosette blooms have a strong, quintessential old rose fragrance. This climber is 8 to 10 feet tall.

Gertrude Jekyll has rich, glowing pink rosette blooms with a strong, quintessential old rose fragrance. This climber is 8 to 10 feet tall.

(David Austin Roses)

Gertrude Jekyll rose blooms, in detail.

Gertrude Jekyll rose blooms, in detail.

(Rita Perwich)

Rose care

The care of these roses is similar to that of your bush roses. They need to be planted in the sun in a well-amended soil, they have the same fertilizing and watering requirements, and they are susceptible to the same diseases and pests as your other roses.


Careful thought has to precede buying a rose that climbs, as you need an appropriate site that is roomy enough to accommodate its growth habit and a structure that is sturdy enough to support the weight of the plant when it is fully grown. Unlike climbing vines that can twine or twist, these roses can’t attach themselves without your assistance. Use a flexible material like stretchable tape to tie them to prevent damage to the canes.

You can train your rose on a trellis or fence, you can drape the canes over the arch of a gate or an arbor, or you can attach them to an upright support such as a pillar. These roses are not just beautiful, but also can be useful in the landscape as a screen for privacy or as a barrier to hide something unsightly.

If you want to train a rose to grow on a wall, you will need to provide a support such as a wooden lattice attached to the wall with bolts, allowing space for air circulation and also for access to tie the canes. Plant the rose 12 inches or more from the structure, not right up against it, and train your rose throughout the growing season while the canes are young, supple and amenable to bending, weaving or shaping.

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