Many gardeners think of roses as a high maintenance plant, however with careful planning, climbing roses can be a beautiful addition with few problems. Generally, roses prefer six hours of sunlight daily to flower and perform well. Their roots need loose soil rich in nutrients so mushroom compost is always a welcomed amendment. The compost adds necessary nutrients, loosens our dense Georgia clay and helps maintain an ideal pH of 5.5-6.5. Remember to have your soil tested by the UGA Cooperative Extension in Cherokee County. Roses need approximately an inch of water per week. Again, the proper soil condition is crucial in helping the plant absorb moisture and nutrients. When watering, try to water the base of the plant and not wet the leaves. The drier the foliage, the less problems you will encounter during the growing season. Due to Georgia’s humid climate, blackspot is the most common rose disease in our area. This fungus thrives easily on wet foliage, quickly spreading from leaf to leaf. Because roses tend to be plagued by fungi and pests such as aphids, thrips and the dreaded Japanese beetle, they should be maintained on a regular fungicidal and insecticidal schedule. An annual pruning is also helpful to discourage the spread of fungal disease.
Not surprisingly, some of the most popular roses grown in Georgia are also rated highly by scientists at the Georgia Experiment Station located in Griffin, Georgia. Two of these varieties are New Dawn and Don Juan. New Dawn is light pink and was voted the most popular rose in the world at the 11th World Convention of Rose Societies. It has remained popular is also highly favored by members of the Greater Atlanta Rose Society. Its large flowers have a moderate fragrance and it can climb 10-20 feet in height. It is described as a lower maintenance climbing variety with an abundance of blooms. New Dawn flowers best on old wood so be cautious when pruning. Don Juan scores highly in areas such as color, frequency of bloom, fragrance, heat tolerance and disease resistance by many local rose societies. The dark red, hybrid tea-style blossoms of Don Juan have a strong citrusy fragrance and like most climbers, bloom in flushes throughout the season.
For rose lovers that prefer to use fewer chemicals in their gardens, Candy Land and Fourth of July are both exceptionally disease-resistant varieties. Candy Land is a beautiful re-blooming climber that lives up to its name with pink and ivory stripes. It is robust and blooms on new wood so be sure to prune early to promote new growth. It has a slight fragrance, a semi-double bloom shape, and usually grows 10-12 feet in height. With an explosion of red and white stripes, Fourth of July will stand out in any garden setting. It is a vigorous grower with a spicy-sweet apple fragrance. It grows 10-14 feet in height and is a repeat bloomer with semi-double flowers. An interesting twist on the climbing rose is the Zephirine Drouhin. This deep rose-pink variety is virtually thornless. The blooms are fragrant and have been described as the scent of raspberries. Its canes are burgundy colored and easy to train because of their flexibility. Zephirine Drouhin is an antique rose that can grow in partial shade. When in more sunny locations, it produces blooms in great quantities. It is a continual bloomer that reaches 10-12 feet and is resistant to Blackspot.
By choosing the right location, preparing the soil and sustaining a regular maintenance and watering schedule, you too can enjoy the beauty of climbing roses in your southern garden. A multitude of rose information can be found through gardening catalogs, rose societies and the internet. Publications produced by UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences can be accessed through their website: www.caes.uga.edu/Publications/numberedPubs.cfm.
Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.