Gardens Illustrated
Strip leaves and deadhead
© Jason Ingram

How to train a climbing rose

Published: March 5, 2020 at 11:13 am

Daunted by pruning a climbing rose? Follow our expert guide on training climbing roses from Jenny Barnes, head gardener at Upton Wold garden. Photos Jason Ingram.

To get the best display out of a climbing rose, it's essential that it is trained while dormant, from November to March.

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Training a climbing rose can be daunting. Here, Jenny Barnes, head gardener at Upton Wold in the Cotswolds – known for its imaginative rose displays – shares her expert advice on training roses.

If you're feeling adventurous, take your rose training one step further by following Jenny's advice on creating rose sculptures.

1

Strip leaves and deadhead

Step one – stripping the leaves and deadheading
Step one – stripping the leaves and deadheading

Begin by stripping the leaves from the whole rose. Most rose pests and diseases are carried on the leaves, so by removing them, you’re organically removing the problem. Clearing the leaves means you get a better look at the existing structure of the rose enabling you to prune more accurately and also means you’re left with a crisp, clean structure once you’re finished. Snip off last year’s flowerheads back to the first true leaf.

2

Cut back

Step two – cutting back
Step two – cutting back © Jason Ingram

Ruthlessly, cut out any dead, damaged or diseased wood, cutting back to a healthy, strong bud. Shorten all side shoots – I leave just two healthy buds per stem, this keeps the overall structure looking neat and tidy and prevents your finished shape looking woolly. Cut back any growth thinner than a knitting needle, this keeps the framework open and airy, helping to prevent mildew.

3

Manipulate the stems

Step three – train the stems
Step three – train the stems © Jason Ingram

Each shoot will have a natural direction of growth, based on this, bend, curve and entwine the stem until you’re happy. Bending a stem downwards will slow the sap, encouraging more flower production along the length. Roses are more flexible than you think, but go slowly and ease them into position.

4

Tie in stems

Step four – tie in stems
Step four – tie in stems © Jason Ingram
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When you are happy with the placement of each stem, tie the rose in place. I use simple garden twine in either natural or green. Tie the stems firmly with a tight double knot. Tradition teaches us not to cross stems when training to prevent rubbing and infection, however if you tie tightly, there is no opportunity for movement and therefore damage. I obsessively trim the ends of all twine to keep the shape looking neat and tidy.

Deadheading roses
© Gavin Kingcome

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