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Roses for the front of the house

Michael Marriott picks his favourite climbing roses to plant at the front of your house.

I think we all want the front of our houses to look as beautiful as possible and a climbing rose in full flower goes a long way towards achieving that goal. Sadly the result can often be disappointing.

We gardeners tend to be an impatient lot and so choose climbers that will quickly reach the intended height but they, the roses, are not party to that information and so just keep growing and become a mess. It’s important to estimate accurately the height you want it to grow to and match that up with the description in the catalogue or website. Do think seriously about how high you want your rose to grow. Remember roses are not self-clinging and so need to be attached to the wall with the help of wires strained across or a trellis.

While the thought of the front of the house completely covered in roses right up to the eaves is very lovely do you want to climb that high up a ladder to prune and tie in? I would say 10ft/3m is plenty for most people and houses. Climbers are generally better than ramblers as most aren’t too vigorous, have stiffer growth, have large impressive blooms and repeat flower. David Austin’s English Roses are best known as being shrubs but a number of them make the most excellent climbers especially as they produce a lot of stems from the base (something that the traditional Hybrid Tea climber is very bad at) and most get to about 8-10ft/2.5-3m. Many are strongly fragrant too, always a very important attribute for me. Here are a few of my favourites:

Rosa ‘The Generous Gardener’ is an exquisite climbing rose with large, cup-shaped flowers of delicate appearance and palest pink colouring. Strong and delicious fragrance. Extremely healthy. RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Rosa ‘Crown Princess Margareta’ has glorious, neatly formed rosettes of a lovely apricot-orange flowers with a strong, fruity fragrance. A well-rounded, slightly arching growth and a repeat flowerer too. Ideal for a shady spot.

Rose 'Lady of Shallot'
Rosa ‘Lady of Shalott’.

Rosa ‘Mortimer Sackler’ is a graceful rose, bearing large sprays of loosely double, soft pink flowers. It has a lovely Old Rose fragrance with delicious hints of fruit. An exceptionally healthy and repeat flowering rose. RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Rosa ‘Lady of Shalott’, an incredibly free flowering rose with rich apricot flowers and a warm tea fragrance with hints of spiced apple and cloves. A fairly substantial shrub about 1.5m tall or can be trained as a climber 2 or 3m tall.

Rosa ‘The Pilgrim’ bears large, perfectly formed, soft yellow rosettes, which are produced freely. The flowers have a delicious mixed fragrance of tea rose and myrrh. A very healthy and reliable plant with attractive, bushy growth. RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Rosa 'The Pilgrim' David Austin Roses
The soft yellow rosettes of Rosa ‘The Pilgrim’.

Other breeders have produced very good varieties too:

Rosa ‘Chris’ is a long flowering, rich yellow rise with strong healthy growth and good disease resistance. The flowers are lightly scented and are formed from spring to autumn. It’s a lovely climber, reaching around 3m (10ft) and can also be pruned to a shrub.

Rosa ‘Golden Future’ – Another good yellow flowered climber, with fragrant, hybrid tea flowers. RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Rosa ‘Crème de la Crème’ has beautiful creamy white flowers with a sweet fragrance which are formed over a long season.

Rosa ‘Dizzy Heights’ is an award wining rose with large rich red, fragrant flowers. It’s a strong climber, with excellent disease resistance and repeat flowers. RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Cultivation tips and advice

  • The soil at the foot of walls is often dry and of poor quality so the more you can do to remedy this the happier the rose will be.
  • Consider replacing the soil in a hole 18in/50cm across and deep to which a generous quantity of well-rotted organic matter or soil improver has been mixed in.
  • An occasional deep watering and mulching will be very beneficial especially for east and south walls.
  • If you’ve got a north-facing wall, there are some excellent varieties that grow well in shady positions and the soil often stays damp there.
  • Along with poor soils climbing roses often have lots of competition with other plants to contend with so try and keep them away as much as possible.
  • Even if you have tarmac or paving right up to the wall you can still have a climbing rose if planted in a pot. It will need a good size about 18in/50cm across and at least as deep and you’ll need to water it regularly and feed it too but the results will hopefully be very worthwhile.   
  • The final consideration is colour. Some bricks are very tricky and can clash badly with roses. White flowers on a white wall can get a bit lost although there is at least the green leaves to set them off. So do think carefully about this with a bit of luck your rose will be beautifying the front of your house for many years.

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