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Saving very old climbing roses

Posted by misslisamham Bay Area, CA (My Page) on
Tue, Oct 23, 12 at 19:20

We just moved into a house with vestiges of an old cottage garden that we're excavating from under decades' worth of brambles. There is an old (30+ years) climbing rose that I have cleared of blackberries, etc. I have no experience with climbers and am trying to understand how best to train it on the fence it was planted near. Details:
- One huge rootstock, about four inches diameter
- Off of that grow four thick canes, starting ~three feet from the fence, each one foot apart off the rootstock
- They are four-ten feet of woody vine, then green; vines from fifteen to thirty feet long
- Haven't bloomed in as long any of the neighbors can remember (though the previous owner says they're purple)

My question: They are too long to simply train onto the fence as-is, since they will just show woody cane across the fence and then go high and climb (back) into the oak tree nearby. Should I cut them down and let the green regrow? Or secure them to the fence and twine the green parts back down and around? If I should cut them, where and when? It just started raining here in the Bay Area.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Saving very old climbing roses

You don't say where you are in the bay area,but most of it does not experience a hard frost. If you cut it back severly which is what I would suggest,you will get new growth starting right away. This growth will be subject to frost, but i don't expect it will be frosted back where you live. I would cut the two middle canes right down to the bud. Wait a few days for the foliage to die so you can see which have been cut off. Take these out by cutting them in sections. Once these are removed, cut the other two down to the fence, and tie them to run horizontal. In the spring you can deal with the new canes that will come off the bud, or the top of the root if on its own root. Long leather gloves up to your elbow are suggested. Al

RE: Saving very old climbing roses

  • Posted by hoovb z9 Southern CA (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 25, 12 at 15:13

Hasn't bloomed? Is it in too much shade?

I would only put as much work into it as is necessary to see flowers and then decide whether or not it's worth keeping, and do work after that, if it is. It might be the once (spring) blooming root stock 'Dr. Huey', which you may or may not want to keep.

RE: Saving very old climbing roses

So, it took me a while but now I have some photos. (I apologize that they are terrible.) I might have used the word "rootstock" too casually. What I meant is that there's a thick, woody log-looking vine along the ground, from which the canes are sprouting. Two of those canes are green, two are woody. All are sprouting out long vines that are green, and covered with leaves at the end. Bear in mind that they are long and leggy like this because before I cleared the way they had been both covered by brambles and climbing up into a tree.

RE: Saving very old climbing roses

Here's one more photo (it will allow only one at a time). It shows the canes coming up from the thick base log thing.

RE: Saving very old climbing roses

I was expecting old canes the size of your wrist. To me it looks like your rose is on a starvation diet, both in food and light. It looks like it is competing with well established tree roots, both the tree and the rose roots in very compacted soil. I doubt if the rose is worth the effort to save it, growing in its present location. I would step back and try and look at your whole growing area together. A look over by a professional landscaper might save you an awful lot of headaches. Al

RE: Saving very old climbing roses

What Al said. Plus I suspect those canes are sprouting from rootstock and the graft has died.

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