Growing DA 'St. Swithun' as a shrub

tuderte(USDA 9a equiv.)August 11, 2014

Two years ago I bought a St. Swithun climbing rose. Since it was planted in May 2012 it has become an almost 4 metre tall monster.

When I pruned it this year in mid-March I decided to see whether any of the thick canes I cut out would 'take' as cuttings - without much hope of success, I must admit. I potted them up in a mix of 3 parts coarse sand to 1 part potting mix and - lo and behold - I now have about a dozen very healthy looking plants.

I'm wondering whether it's even worth trying to grow these plants as shrub roses instead of climbers (I don't have any room for more climbers)?

I read somewhere that when taking cuttings of a climbing rose to be sure not to take them from the lateral growth because the resulting plants might revert to the bush/shrub form. Unfortunately, I didn't take my cuttings from any lateral growth so am I destined to have all climbing plants?

I would appreciate advice from anyone who has taken a cutting of a climbing plant in the hope of getting a 'normal' shrub as a result.

I also think I read that the Austin climbing roses aren't climbers in the true sense but merely very vigorous shrubs, however, I can't imagine St. Swithun as a 4 metre tall shrub :-(


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dublinbay z6 (KS)

If you check out the David Austin site, you will see that they described St. Swithun as follows:

"This rose is quite superb when trained as a climber - in fact it is one of the best of all climbers - but it may also be grown as a tall shrub. "

But that may be a rather tall shrub since its height is listed as 8 feet tall. If you don't mind pruning it often, you could probably keep it shorter, but with that much pruning, you may be inhibiting the blooming.

For that matter, I have found that many Austins aren't very happy with severe pruning--they tend to sit there and do nothing at all afterwards. I try to stick with rare and very light haircuts myself.

In a word, I don't know why you can't grow any and all St. Swithuns as shrubs, but they will be tall shrubs, so I'm not sure how that saves space.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 12:27PM
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tuderte(USDA 9a equiv.)

Thank you Kate for your response. I'm happy to try and grow it as a 'tall shrub' - I would be delighted if it were to only reach 8 feet (2.5 metres) but my climber is already over 12 feet ⦠a bit tall - even for a 'tall shrub'.

It's not the space saving aspect that concerns me - it's just that I can't put up another 'structure' for roses â¦


    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 4:29PM
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rideauroselad E.Ont4b

Even here in the cold climate of Eastern Canada, St. Swithun wants to grow tall before blooming on the ends of its canes. However, I have found that the new canes are reasonably flexible and can be tied down, or pegged, which induces a profusion of lateral cane breaks, all of which then flower with clusters at the end. My shrub of St. Swithun is in the process of throwing out laterals from pegged canes right now and I expect a very good flush in the next couple of weeks.

Of course, six or seven feet is as large as my winter reduced plant will get even if I just leave it alone. But you might want to try pruning out old hard canes, prune any long flexible canes by half and peg the newer more flexible canes down to prompt lateral breaks. You can tie the canes down to the base of the plant, to pegs, or build a pegging ring or box around the base.

I'm including a link to an article on self-pegging of roses by Claire Martin for reference. Good luck with your St. Swithuns. The blooms are extraordinarily beautiful and the fragrance divine.

Cheers, Rick

Here is a link that might be useful: Self-pegging roses by Claire Martin

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 1:36PM
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tuderte(USDA 9a equiv.)

Thank you Rick for your response - I don't know how I missed it before! Well, it's now two months down the track, I've re-potted all my cuttings and I now have ten healthy St. Swithuns to plant out.

I think I'll plant them with several metres between each one and then follow your suggestion and peg them - the plant from which I took the cuttings is now almost 2 1/2 years old but is now higher than the top of our house wall (4 metres - 13 feet). I can only imagine what it will be like when it 'matures' in a couple of years!

By the way, it has more prickles than any other rose in my garden which won't make it the easiest rose to peg! However, it's seldom without blooms and they're so wonderful that I'm sure it will be worth the effort.


    Bookmark   October 3, 2014 at 4:11PM
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