Words: Graham Rice
Climbing roses always seem to feature in our vision of the idyllic English country garden. For the best part of two hundred years the sight of them arching over the door to the thatched cottage has been familiar in gardens all over the country as well as in Victorian paintings and Chelsea show gardens.
Adaptable, resilient, colourful and fragrant, climbing roses also make dependable features in modern gardens and even in containers. These ten of the best of those have been given the prestigious Award of Garden Merit.
Usually classified as a climbing Hybrid Tea rose and can also be grown as a big shrub. The flowers of ‘Aloha’ are gorgeous; the clear rose pink petals are slightly darker on their backs and in the centre the whole flower has a coppery tinge. The tea-like fragrance is very strong, and the bronzed foliage makes the ideal background for their summerlong flowering display. Derived from the classic ‘New Dawn’ rose. Height: 2.4m (8ft).
‘Blairii Number Two’
This oddly named cultivar is the second of two raised by a Mr. Blair during 1845, in what is now Hackney, and is very rarely seen. It has very large, strongly scented flower, packed full of pink petals, deeper in colour in the centre and paler towards the edge. The foliage is large and tinted bronze. It is especially good on pillars and arches, but may suffer from mildew when grown on a wall. Height: 4.5m (15ft).
Another climbing Hybrid Tea rose. Elegant buds tinted amber are found towards the base and open into large pale salmon pink flowers; they turn into a little apricot tinted as they age. The scent is excellent and the foliage is dark; blooming is continuous and not in flushes with flowerless periods in between. The stems are also usually long enough to be cut. Derived from both a climber and a Hybrid Tea. Height: 3m (10ft).
Amazingly prolific with elegant buds which open to reveal large, loose flowers in bright yellow, which then fade gently as they age, and are set against dark green foliage. The flowers stand up to bad weather and are well scented. This climbing rose tends to be naturally upright in growth, which is helpful when training on a wall or pillar. If planted in the open it will also make a bold and exuberant specimen. Height: 2.4m (8ft).
Exquisitely marked flowers open from classic, well-shaped buds, to reveal creamy white flowers which turn honey-coloured deep in the centre. Each petal is edged with a neat crimson picotee that extends farther down into the flower in hotter weather. Although the fragrance is not strong, it is one of the most striking climbing roses in full flower. It can also be grown as a large, free-standing shrub. Height: 2.4m (8ft).
High Hopes (‘Haryup’)
An unusually disease-resistant climber. Elegant buds open into attractive individual flowers, coloured in a classic soft rose pink, turning darker in the heart of each flower. Blooming in regular prolific flushes throughout the season, each flower has a strong spicy fragrance. This rose seems to adapt especially well to training over arches. One of a number in this selection developed by Hertfordshire’s Harkness Roses. Height: 3.5m (10ft).
‘Madame Grégoire Staechelin’
Bursting into a fabulous profusion of flowers, each bloom is strongly scented with a fragrance compare to sweet peas. Red buds open into large pale pink, slightly veined flowers, with each petal noticeably darker on the back and paler towards the edge. If not dead-headed, large orange hips develop in autumn and remain all winter. Vigorous, relatively thorn free and happy on a north wall. Height: 6m (20ft).
‘Madame Isaac Pereire’
This Bourbon rose was, introduced in France in 1881. Graham Stuart Thomas, the great rosarian claimed this rose to be 'possibly the most powerfully fragrant of all roses' (quite a recommendation). The flowers are unusually large, around 12.5 cm (5in) across, and open in what used to be called 'rose madder' i.e. they become slightly purplish as they mature. The flowers appear in a series of generous bursts, with the largest blooms opening last. Height: 2.4m (8ft).
Penny Lane (‘Hardwell’)
Taller than many climbing roses in this selection, and another with ‘New Dawn’ in its background. It begins with pretty, shapely buds, each opening to reveal a quartered centre in each apricot pink flower. The petals turn pale in colour towards the outside of the flowers; pearly pink and to almost white. It has a long flowering season and a good, though not exceptional, fragrance. Height: 3.5m (10ft).
White Cloud (‘Korstacha’)
An unusual climber; its small clusters of rather flat, beautifully rounded, pure white flowers open from pink buds and reveal a cluster of golden stamens as they mature. The dark green foliage sets off the white flowers effectively. Blooms are especially impressively in its first flush. Another tall climber with very fragrant flowers. Height: 4m (12ft).