Starting a rose/clematis blend in fall

GardeningHeidi(5)September 5, 2013

I have a three-foot chain link fence with which I'd like to do something beautiful. At first I was going to plant trumpet vine, but a wise soul in the vine forum warned me away from that. He suggested rose vines, and in googling possible candidates, I came across the idea of grouping rose vines and clematis. (I know this is old knowledge to even moderately experienced gardeners. I'm rather new and ignorant. I'm enthusiastic, though.)

My question is whether such a grouping could be started in the fall. I'm in zone 5, and my soil is rather alkaline. From what I've read, that makes the clematis a good candidate for this area, and we've still got a month or two of good weather left. Is it too late to start clematis and/or roses? The one thing this spot does have going for it is full sun all day every day, if that affects whether or not I can plant them this time of year.

Also, I'm leaning toward the yellow rose/purple clematis blend. I know it's fairly common, though. Is there another attractive blend--or specific breeds of clematis and/or roses--that a new gardener would be wise to try?

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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

Have you had other gardens in this area before? If not, I'd suggest that you improve the soil along the entire bed with LOTS of organic matter this fall, and then let it settle over the winter before planting in the spring. I've learned that time spent improving the soil before planting, especially for plants like roses and clematis, is well worth it in the long term scheme of things. It is a whole lot easier doing soil improvement with no plants in place, and having good soil is the key to a healthy garden.

That said, I have planted both roses and clematis in the fall successfully. The plants Iike the warm soil and the cooler air temperatures to grow roots, though mulching them to keep the soil frozen once it gets cold to protect them from heaving during freeze/thaw cycles in late winter and early spring is important.

I don't know where you are in zone 5, but viticella hybrids typically do well most places for beginners. They are type three prune plants, and around me are harder to find in the nurseries since they don't bloom in spring, so I buy mine mail order. Colors are totally up to you and what you find appealing. Search for the combination threads here for some photos.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 10:37AM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

Thank you! I didn't know there were combination threads, but I'll search for them.

I hear the advice to amend with organic matter quite a lot. I know generally what that entails, but I don't know specifically how it works. How much organic matter? How much of what kinds? I have one tree and of course we compost all our kitchen scraps and weeds, but that doesn't produce a whole lot of compost. I don't have access to manure, coffee grounds, or moldy straw. People often offer these things on Craigslist, but they're to whomever can haul them away, and I don't have a truck either. Would mixing leaves and banana peels and watermelon rinds into the soil work? How much trouble should I go to to get my hands on manure and straw? These are all newbie questions, but I ask them quite seriously. What are your thoughts?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 5:01PM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

Add as much organic matter as you can.

Some sources:
Put bagged leaves from the curb in your car trunk
Call a mulch, soil, etc company to see if they will deliver compost
If you live near a coffee shop, stop in to ask if you can pick up their grounds, typically in 5 gallon buckets. You would need to pick these up on a schedule.
Most garden centers, hardware stores and big box stores sell bagged manure and compost
Some cities create compost from yard waste and residents can pick up compost. Put it in doubled plastic garbage bags in your car trunk.

Whatever organic matter you can add is to the good, but I wouldn't put in fresh food waste and then plant immediately since critters may dig things up. Adding to a bed you are preparing but not planting yet should be fine if you bury it well and you don't live in an area with rats. Or adding nonfood waste.

You can continue to add organic matter over time also once the bed is planted by topdressing with compost and/or mulching with organic matter that will break down and continue to improve soil filth and fertility.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 9:28PM
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true_blue(Mtl Can Zone 4b)

Hi, I second nhbabs comments about preparing your soil, unless it is a rich healthy soil.
I assume the area in question receives at least 5/6 hours of sun (for the rose, clematis are more forgiving).
Fall and winter are the best time to do your research and find the best rose/ clematis combo for your location.
I believe you need to find the rose first.
In order to do so, you need to know if:
1) You want it fragrant or not?
2) Do you want it to be a repeat bloomer or not?
When you know exactly what is your ideal rose, then check with the guys in the rose forum and see if they can recommend a âÂÂcane hardyâ climbing rose that is disease resistant for your area and zone.
It is very important that the rose is cane hardy, if it is not; itâÂÂs not worth it. ItâÂÂs too much hassle to protect it. I learned it the hard way.
After youâÂÂve found a source where you can buy it, then you attack the clematis âº
What you need to decide is that if you want your clematis to flower at the same time as the rose or later: Roses in June, Clematis in July - August.
When you've found your perfect clematis, you can take a sigh of relief.
In 3/ 4 years, you'll have a beautiful combo.
Don't forget to enjoy the process.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 5:52PM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

Thanks for the advice! At risk of sounding like a fool, repeat bloomer means that it blooms more than once per season, right? And cane hardy means that flowers grow back on the old wood?

The area does, at least, get lots of sun. It's alkaline, though, and like I fool I had a lawn service spray my lawn this year, so the soil's probably a little contaminated, too. Sounds like next season is definitely the best time to start.

Thanks for letting me know what to ask. I'll check out the rose forum!

Oh, and I'm about to start prepping my holes. How far apart should I plant the rose vine and the clematis? A foot? Two feet? I need to know where to start digging up my lawn and piling up organic matter.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 6:38PM
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true_blue(Mtl Can Zone 4b)

You're most welcome.
To quote a Mr. Steinmetz: "There are no foolish questions and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questionsâÂÂ.
Yes, repeat bloomer / remontant means when roses bloom more than once.
Cane hardy rose in my book are roses that don't die to the ground and become bigger and grander by the year.
Three feet should be ok.
Here is a thread to link which might help you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cane Hardy roses in zone 5

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 8:37PM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

You don't want to prep holes IMO; prep the whole bed since you are starting from scratch. Prepping just the holes is more likely to lead to issues with drainage and/or changes in soil texture where the edge of the hole is, leading to a pot effect where the roots don't leave the hole.

One suggestion I forgot for improving organic matter in the soil is to plant a cover crop of winter wheat or winter rye. Sow the whole area where you plan to have your bed (now is the right time for zone 5), keep it well watered until the weather cools so the it germinates well, and then as soon as the soil is no longer soggy in spring, turn in the cover crop. It will rot quickly and add lots of organic matter to the soil. You can add and turn in other organic matter if you have any available now before sowing the cover crop.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 9:25PM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

Hmmm. So, I was planning on digging a one-foot diameter hole every few feet in the grass along my fence. I wasn't really picturing a bed. Would that not work? Would the grass eventually kill out the rose/clematis even if I kept it mulched down within that area? Do I need to excavate out an entire strip of dirt along the fence? Even if I do that, the grass on the neighbor's side might still encroach. Would the grass from the one side eventually kill off the rose/clematis?

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 9:56PM
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true_blue(Mtl Can Zone 4b)

The idea is that when you plant the rose/ clematis in amended soil, you give them the best environment possible to develop an excellent root system.
Afterwards a shovel of compost every spring and then after the first flush should be enough.
And as long as the base of the rose and clematis (1 foot diameter) are free of grass and well mulched you should be fine.

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting roses

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 12:07PM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

In my area, grass is an invasive spreader, sending roots through the soil and then shoots up from there. I would not want to put in the work needed to keep the grass out of the circles around the roses and clematis, though if you want to, that is fine.

If it were me planting this bed, I would bury an edging at leat 4-6" deep along the fence to keep the neighbor's grass out and do the same along the front and side of where I wanted to plant. A V trench would also work, and would need renewing a few times a year, depending on your soil. Then, as said above, I would improve the soil for the whole area, and plant next spring once I had decided on which clematis and roses to use. But, that is if it were me. I tend to do more prep work before I plant so that I have less maintenance to do in my gardens.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 7:18PM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

A barrier is a really good idea. Do you think pinning weed cloth onto the sides of the hole would be effective? I think the holes will end up being 4 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 18 inches deep. Would weed cloth keep the grass out while still allowing the roots room to expand? I'll mix the clay with manure and straw and mulch it heavily and plant next spring.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 8:10PM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

IME grass roots grow right into and through weed cloth. If you do a search for weed cloth on the landscape design or perennials forum, you will avoid it like the plague. A solid plastic or metal barrier that is 4-8" deep would work much better.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 9:21AM
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harryshoe zone6 eastern Pennsylvania

There is lots of great advice here. I wholeheartedly agree with those who recommend you take some time this fall and build a bed of healthy soil.

I have had great luck with Venosa Violacea clematis which is a viticelli type. This pair of four-year old plants completely cover my 7' arbor. In the second picture they pretty much overwhelm my Westerland rose.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 11:13AM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

What a gorgeous vine! And the color combination is so unique!

I've dug out the first two beds. They're 2 by 4 by about14 inches deep. We have very rock, clay soil, and I just can't seem to get much deeper than a foot. I'm hoping that's deep enough. I'm going to work the soil through with some manure, straw, old iris leaves, and sawdust and let it sit over the winter.

I did realize as I was digging, though, that our sprinkler heads are up against the fence right where I'm planning to put the groupings. I believe I can cultivate the groupings up around the sprinkler heads so that they can still water the rest of our lawn, but am I just fooling myself? Will the plants grow aggressively enough that they block off the heads?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 11:29AM
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true_blue(Mtl Can Zone 4b)

Beautiful pictures Harry. Love the purple orange combination. I've heard raves about Westerland's fragrance and blooms. Pity I can't grow it in my zone.

Leggs, the size is not ok, because you need to fill it with compost and all the other good stuff Babs told you. Remember if your soil is good, the plants will have a better chance to grow great roots. Great root means, healthy leaves, branches and flowers the years to come. To make an analogy, I recently took care of astray cat, it was a skinny little thing, I thought it was a 7 month kitten. Got it the best food. Turned out the "kitten" was pregnant. The vet was surprised by the size of her kittens. They were chubby & healthy.
It's the same with your rose/ clematis. They need to have the best chance to dazzle you for the years to come.

As for the sprinklers, well, I'm not a fan of them. I prefer a deep watering, every week. You really need to see what is best for you. I'm not sure if a clematis / rose bush like being battered with high pressure water....

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 5:16PM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

So, how deep do I need to get?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 6:53PM
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true_blue(Mtl Can Zone 4b)

18 inches deep and wide.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 10:42PM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

Okay. I've reached 18 inches deep and wide at one point in the bed. Now to get the other twenty feet taken care of. It's clay, rocky soil. I'm tearing it up with the claw of a hammer (the dirt is too hard for my shovel), and I have to pull out a boulder every foot or so. It's crazy hard, and I'm suddenly afraid that I won't be able to afford enough organic material to treat the soil. (I'm wondering if I should have just planted that trumpet vine after all. LOL.) Still, I started, so I'm pressing on.

I guess the next step is to choose a vine. I'm totally overwhelmed by this. I know what characteristics I want the plant to have--fast growing, long blooming (or frequent blooming?), vibrant color, can handle full and I mean FULL sun (though I'll shade the roots), hardy to zone 5--but I don't know how those characteristics translate into pruning groups or strains (do you even use the word strain?-- or any of the other things I know you have to decide. Is there a primer I can consult or should I just ask around at the local nursery?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 10:38PM
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true_blue(Mtl Can Zone 4b)

Leggs you need an 18" x 18 " for the rose, not the whole bed.
It is natural to be overwhelmed. You want it to be perfect :-)

I assume you're talking about the clematis "vine".
Most clematis can handle full sun and roses just love it.
Don't worry about shading the roots, 4 inches of mulch should be enough.
Most clematis are hardy to zone 5.

See if this thread helps you:

Here is a link that might be useful: Longest blooming clematis suggestion

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 9:45AM
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true_blue(Mtl Can Zone 4b)

Here is a database for clematis:

Here is a link that might be useful: Clematis

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 9:46AM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

I mostly mail order my clematis for good selection, though I have bought a few locally. My local nurseries rarely have more than 5 varieties, and they are mostly type 2 prune plants which are starting to bloom when folks are plant shopping in late spring. I prefer type 1 and type 3 prune plants in general, so most of mine have come through the mail. Brushwood Nursery in GA, Hummingbird Farm Nursery in ME, and Silver Star Vinery in WA are my three most common suppliers. All send great quality plants.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 10:57AM
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true_blue(Mtl Can Zone 4b)

For roses I buy mine from Pickering, though I think the minimum order is 3 .if you go on the rose forum, they'll recommend you other vendors too.

I've come to prefer reputable mail order companies. I find it more practical, the selection more vast. However, if you are in the vicinity of nursery/ botanical garden it won't hurt at least to see the plant / flowers first hand.
As photos / descriptions can be deceptive :-)

You need to check them on garden watch dog.

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pickering roses

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 9:52PM
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true_blue(Mtl Can Zone 4b)

Hope you're having fun, finding your roses and clematis.
Here is another reputable rose mail order company.

Here is a link that might be useful: Palatine

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 11:05AM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

This project has taken on a head-spinning, red-eyed life of its own. Because I want to be able to plant the roses wherever my artistic fancy takes me, I'm prepping a whole 30-foot strip to 18 inches deep and wide. With a claw hammer and a bucket. My garage has bales of straw and buckets of manure in it. I've paid for more. My husband is despairing of his yard and his garage.

But I WILL prevail. I'm going to have great dirt that will grow whatever I please in it.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 3:29PM
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trovesoftrilliums(5)

Sounds great Leggs!

I think a whole bed prep like you are doing is the best route.

Pretty soon you should be able to collect fall leaves from neighbors. I find this a great way to get inexpensive (free!) organic matter. I built a wire bin for leaves and I fill it up each fall, then in the spring I have partially decomposed leaves for mulching or sometimes I till it into new beds.

Keep us posted on your progress and enjoy the process (I know it is hard work too though!).

ETA: I see many clematis are on sale at Bluestone Perennials.

This post was edited by trovesoftrilliums on Tue, Oct 8, 13 at 20:25

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 8:20PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

If you don't want to fight grass in your clematis be sure to do some kind of edging..

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 10:38AM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

I definitely will.

Onward and upward!

Troves: Thanks for the head's up on the clematis sale!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 11:40AM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

Okay. The trench is (finally) almost done. Now to start sifting the rocks out of the dirt and adding organic material. Two questions along these lines:
1. How finely sifted does the dirt need to be for flowers? I'm going to sift it through a milk jug cart. Do I also need to sift it through 1/4 inch hardware mesh or will the sifting through the jug be adequate?
2. Do I need to mix the dirt and the organic matter, or can I just layer it? It would be much easier to throw in a layer of straw, then a layer of dirt, then a layer of iris leaves, then a layer of dirt, then a layer of straw, then dirt, etc., but I don't want to do that if it won't compost properly or create pockets of nutrition and pockets of sterility. Do I need to mix them all together?

Your thoughts? (And thanks so much for all the input. This is so hard that I want to make sure I'm also being smart about the work.)

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 1:47PM
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true_blue(Mtl Can Zone 4b)

Good work leggs. I'm happy you're enjoying the process.
Your questions:
1) What you're doing is fine. You don't need the mesh IMO.
2) For your trench composting, I'll just fill it with organic matter and cover it with soil. However to speed up the composting you can chop/ shred the organic matter.

I would leave the designated spots for the roses empty.

Keep us posted.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 10:33AM
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GardeningHeidi(5)

LOL. *Groan* I've been sifting dirt through 1/4 inch mesh for a week. Now I feel foolish. But at least I don't have to do it any more.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 12:17PM
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