Climbing Roses for Colorado

Many Colorado gardeners have been frustrated in their attempts to grow climbing roses. The main problem seems to be that the tall canes die back and though they may bloom, they look like shrubs, not climbers. We are green with envy of the European and Californian gardens with roses cascading over and festooning pillars, walls and bowers.  Why can’t we achieve this? I think we can, but not without a very discriminating approach. First of all we must realize that our cold temperatures and especially the rapid cold-hot-cold changes, and our drying winter winds are death to all but the hardiest rose canes. Secondly the hybrid tea and floribunda climbers that are predominately available in nurseries and big box stores are not cold-hardy enough for our area. Thirdly the truly cold-hardy climbers and ramblers are little-known and hard to find. And fourthly winter watering, the use of anti-dessicants and skillful siting may improve our successes. In general, the revival of interest in hardy, “own-root” (non-grafted) roses is encouraging the breeding and revival of tough roses for our conditions. In particular, the willingness to use the once-blooming roses allows us to try the old ramblers that may prove successful not only for their hardiness, but for their clouds of blooms that also can be fragrant.

            What we need is an army of gardeners who are willing to test the hardy climbers and ramblers and to share their experiences with the rest of us. In my experience there are successful climbing and rambling roses for the Boulder/Denver area. These may have some die-back but are still good: Blaze, Dortmund, Baltimore Belle, Goldbusch, Dublin Bay, Autumn Sunset, Jeanne Lajoie, Paul’s Himalayan Musk, Mr. Nash. These have little or no die-back: Lawrence Johnston, Victorian Memory, New Dawn (and its sports), Dr. Huey, and the Canadians, Henry Kelsey, John Cabot, John Davis, William Baffin, and Alexander MacKenzie.

            Other good bets that are less known are Darlow’s Enigma, Maigold, Rosarium Uetersen, Francis E. Lester, Sander’s White Rambler, Bobbie James, Crimson Showers, Climbing American Beauty, Climbing The Fairy, American Pillar, Baronne Prevost, Constance Spry, Pink Perpetue, Polar Star and Long John Silver.

            In future issues I will be able to discuss some of these in greater length.