Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Climbing trees

On Sunday I did stuff that I had been putting off. Stuff that involved a ladder, a grabber, loppers and a shovel. Loppers and a shovel in a rose garden can't be good. I have been ambivalent about two roses (probably more than two but we're not going there), and two days ago, having moved a good sized Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky' and removed Rosa 'Fellemberg' from the garden, my momentum built to a point where I could say, "Let's do it."

The first dreaded chore was dealing with 'Francois Juranville'. Almost two years in the ground, this rose is a rambler (translation: a big honking climber) and a once-bloomer (but possibly a repeater in Florida). He's growing on an 8' tall and 8' wide homemade rebar arbor. Here he is on May 2nd.

When I chose him, I didn't care that he may only bloom once in the spring. I just wanted something that would cover this arbor which is in partial shade. FJ fit the bill. He had grown up 8', then across 8', and was very close to growing all the way down again 8' which really wasn't too attractive. A rose will be what it is genetically supposed to be without regard for a gardener's poor planning - or non-planning. However, my goal with this rose was always to let him grow up into the oak trees, eventually causing them to be in bloom when their branches are covered with Francois Juranville's flowers. How cool!

Well, gravity had something to say about letting him grow up into the trees. Francois needed assistance in becoming upwardly mobile. So on Sunday I got out the ladder and DH's grabber and worked at inserting his lengthy canes up into the trees, trying to persuade them to hook onto something besides me.

So now he's up in the trees. The interesting and mind-blowing thing about this rambler is that each of these dozen or more 20-plus-foot-long canes will bring forth multiple side-shoots of equal length, and that each of them will do the same, and on and on. This is commonly known as a house-eater. Before planting such a rose do ascertain that there is ample real estate that it can call its own. You can be sure of one thing - the fact that you don't have ample real estate will not prevent the rose from taking whatever you do have. I figure he can have all of that tree canopy that he can cover.

Which brings me to the tale of the loppers and 'E. Veyrat Hermanos', a climbing Tea from 1895 that I was growing on a long, high trellis on my property line, eight feet from the house. I grow 'Maman Cochet, Climbing' this way, and she handles it well, having stiff canes that support her tree-like canopy. EVH is different - not as stiff but just as heavy as 'Maman Cochet, Cl' and not as flexible and pliable as 'Reve d'Or'. He flopped instead of holding his canes up in the air. Since I was unable to construct a proper pergola for him to climb up and cover, he simply poured down on both sides of the trellis. The only means left to me for controlling him was to cut his canes, lightening them enough so that they sprang up above head-high. Sad to say, this is not the proper treatment for this rose since it destroyed its natural shape and growth habit. I blew it. This photo shows the 5-ft wide path inundated with rose canes, a path that no one but me was silly enough to tread.
I knew of someone in South Florida growing EVH on a 12'x20' pergola which the rose covered handily. One might think that would be sufficient warning, but a newbie is ignorant  and even sometimes unteachable. So the day of reckoning came on Sunday despite my sincere and numerous plans to build a structure more suitable for this humongous rose - a rose which had not been much more than a spring bloomer much bothered by thrips and balling.

Once again the camera arrived after half of one side was already cut away.

Going, going

The sheer volume of this rose was more than I could physically handle, demanded more real estate than I had to give, and almost did me in when cutting it down. Those loppers get heavy towards the end of the second hour of use. Have you figured out the moral of this story? Put succinctly, I must not bite off more than I can chew. 

A garden and the gardener can be overwhelmed if attention is not paid to the growth habit and eventual size of a rose bush and/or climber, especially in a warm climate with an extended growing season. If the words 'house eater' or 'monster' ever enter the conversation, gardeners be warned. Unless you have acreage and plan to let the rose grow naturally into a mounding thicket, much time and labor will be expected of you in order to train a plant like this into the civilized thing of beauty of your dreams.

With roses as with battles discretion is the better part of valor, especially for beginners. Of course, it's easy enough to cut down and dig up a rose that turns out badly, but think of all the time and effort wasted on the wrong rose when the right one could still be growing, blooming and looking beautiful.


  1. What a neat post about your rose gardening adventures. I hope the rose in the oaks gives you many wonderful blooms.

    Yes, we gardeners can definitely bite off more than we can chew for one day's work.

    Happy Summer Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  2. I can see by the ladder that growing roses can be a dangerous hobby indeed. LOL! Looks like those roses are lovin the heat and humidity.

  3. Yeah, all of us rose growers at one time or nother in our gardening lives have planted a rose in just the absolute wrong spot. We're a stubborn group that way!

  4. I'm consumed with admiration Sherry. I wouldn't even go up a ladder, never mind tossing around humongous canes once up there. You certainly showed E. Veyrat Hermanos who was boss. Better now than in a few years when it's twice as big.