Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Climbing roses ‘can be disease prone’

There are so many ways in which a gardener can add a bit of color to their greenhouse, that it can be difficult to choose what to go for.

However, after an approach has been chosen, it is important that action is taken to ensure that the plants – and indeed, the controlled climate space as a whole – is kept as carefully maintained as possible.

Professional gardener and writer Helen Yemm – writing in an article for national UK broadsheet newspaper the Daily Telegraph – said that many strains of climbing roses in particular require close attention.

For instance, it was noted that the Dorothy Perkins plant – a specific kind of Wichurana rambler – is very disease prone, so care is an absolute must. It is characterised by cascades of clear pink flowers and is very vulnerable to mildew.

"It is one of a group of climbing roses with an unusually long flowering season known as Wichurana ramblers that was introduced at the start of the 19th century," Ms Yemm explained.

She said that the fight against mildew needs to start as early into the season is advisable – as prevention is possible, but it can be very difficult to cure such a plant of this condition.

Furthermore, single treatments with systemic fungicide or one of the systemic rose insecticide or fungicide cocktails will not be sufficient – the performance has to be repeated every few weeks. Indeed, Ms Yemm advised doing so a little more often than the manufacturer's instructions usually stipulate – if the gardener is sufficiently bold!

Cultivation is also very important – and the stems need to be pruned on a regular basis in order to keep the growth open and free from congestion.

"Old roses such as these do not have disease-resistance bred into them in the same way as more modern introductions – and it shows," she continued, adding that a flower she used to keep in an old garden "would still be flowering away [by August or September], but by then many of its shoots would be grey with mildew if I dared take my eye off the ball".

Despite this, the plant is very beautiful and is generally considered to be well worth the effort. For example, Peter Beales – one of the world's leading rosarians, who set up his own firm dedicated to promoting the flowers in 1968 – wrote in a blog post recently that Wichurana ramblers would feature very highly on a list of his personal favourite climbing roses.

"They all seem to have a natural pliability and freedom of growth without becoming over-exerted, most – if not all – are scented, although the double flowered varieties do seem to have the edge," the expert commented.

"They have by and large excellent foliage which nearly always provides a good foil for the flowers," he continued, underlining his belief that the Wichurana's are an impressive selection of plants. He noted that they have frequently been called upon by people who are breeding new strains of hybrid roses so that some of the many excellent modern climbers and ramblers can benefit from their attributes.

Some of these characteristics are vigour and very flexible long canes. This means that it is a  good choice for gardeners that are looking for training on garden structures, as well as offering some use as ground cover.

This is particularly noteworthy – and distinctive – in August, when it starts to produce its fragrant and pure white, small double flowers. Glossy, mid-green foliage offsets this – and indeed, the Royal Horticultural Society has given it their Award of Garden Merit.