Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bondage for roses

I was reading an article about climbers in the RHS journal, The Garden, the other day, that described the various techniques used by plants to achieve height. It was fascinating, particularly the bit about vines, whose tendrils react to pressure and then send out a hormone that makes them grow faster on one side than the other, so the tendril curls round whatever it's resting against. (Think of rowing in a boat: when you want to turn round, one oar has to work harder than the other.)
It was the bit about roses that really made me think, though. I'd never really considered whether roses use their thorns for any other purpose than to deter predators, but it seems that the thorns, which face downwards, act a bit like crampons. As each stem reaches up, it uses the thorns to hook onto things. If it fails, it flops over, whereupon new shoots break out along its length. These then use the old stem to get a leg-up, whereupon the same process begins again.
Ages ago, I read an article by Vita Sackville-West, in which she recommended bending over the stems of shrub roses and pegging the ends to the ground in order to make them break out. The idea was to make the plant more bushy rather than have flowers only at the top and a mass of stems below, as is so common with roses. What I hadn't worked out until now, being a bear of little brain, is that she was exploiting the rose's natural growth habit in order to do this.



The gardening writer Mary Keen is also a fan of this technique, so I know it's been tried and tested. However, according to Michael Marriott of David Austin Roses, you can use the same technique not only to grow shrub roses but to turn a large floppy shrub rose into a climber. If you train the stems laterally - along a trellis, for example - they also send out new shoots along the length and the whole thing is supported by the framework against which it is growing rather than flopping about in the border, gouging holes in your fingers or legs as you unsuspectingly potter about nearby.
I don't really do roses, having a fairly jungly garden. But I do have a couple of David Austin 'Golden Celebration' roses (above) which the company were giving away on Chelsea press day a couple of years ago and they seem to survive OK in my steamy plot. They do get quite leggy and floppy, though, so I've decided to train one against the fence and try the Vita technique on the other. I'll let you know how it goes.

19 comments:

Nancy J. Bond said...

Your gold roses are exquisite! What a gorgeous color. I live in an apartment with lovely, but sadly neglected, grounds. An old, scrubby rose bush grows within reach of my balcony and I'm thinking this pegging method might give it back some life. The poor thing needs pruning, but for now, it might be just the thing to coax it back to a facsimile of its former self. :)

Lets Plant said...

Great post!! I love your pictures too!!

Helen said...

I was told by a gardening pal recently that it you bend the stems over you get more flowers particularly on climbers and he showed me a picture of a rose trained around an obelisk. I thought I would give it a go so have been training my climber around a small obelisk. Too early to see if I will get more flowers lower down but I do think the obelisk is too narrow as I am having to push the stems through too tight an angel to get them round. Its not the best rose so I dont mind experimenting on it. Good luck with yours

Victoria said...

Oh my goodness, I feel like a complete fraud now. I should have made it crystal clear that the roses in the picture were on the David Austin stand at Chelsea, not in my garden! Mine are only just coming into flower. But they are a fabulous colour, a real gold, as Nancy says, which looks good with sub-tropical things like cannas and bananas. Pastel shades would look too washed out and deep reds wouldn't stand out against all the foliage. They smell nice too.

Zoë said...

Its much the same reason that espaliered fruit and cordons work for apples too( they are related to roses)

I have 3 David Austin English shrub Roses that because of their training are behaving like climbers so far, William Morris, William Shakespeare 2000 and Falstaff. I hope to encourage James Galway to behave this way too.

More Blooms for your money!

Esther Montgomery said...

URBAN GARDEN CASUAL is growing tomatoes upside down to see if it results in healthier plants and a better crop.

Esther

plantgirl said...

That's interesting - I've never heard of doing that - will be checking out your progress
~plantgirl of
Plantgirl's Square Foot Garden

Karen said...

I have never heard of this advise. It will be interesting to see as I have several roses that I have planted this year.

rees cowden said...

I think you're onto something Victoria. I've noticed that the roses that grow over an archway or gate tend to flower more in the top and less on the sides where they get less shade. The tops section has more young growth to set more buts. As for the thorns, well they do make a good defense to manipulation.
Rees Cowden

The Garden Monkey said...

Bondage for Roses?

I was worried at first that this was some odd kind of barter arrangement.

Now, that I realise it isn't I am slightly disappointed.

Victoria said...

So which were you offering, Garden Monkey, the bondage, or the roses?

The Garden Monkey said...

Roses.

I don't like them much.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Great post. Pegging does work with many roses, especially the Austins and some of my older girls. There are other pillar climbers that don't like pegging like 'Altissimo.' Also, 'Zepherine Droughin' which is a bourbon, seems to resent pegging in my climate. What about yours?

Love your blog.~~Dee

Wicked Gardener said...

Your post on roses is very interesting, but I have to say, I've been looking at the picture of your backyard for several minutes. That's amazing. You are making this Florida gardener very jealous!!

Victoria said...

BTW, the picture now shows one of MY 'Golden Celebration' roses, which is now in bloom. (Phew.)

Esther Montgomery said...

So . . . . . here we all come . . . . to look at your rose!

Esther

The Garden Monkey said...

Given the title of your post, it's just as well it isn't Rosa 'Golden Showers'

Dirty Monkey

Victoria said...

Garden Monkey, are you by any chance taking the piss?

Esther Montgomery said...

I have a rose with some stems bent right down - and others left to wave around freely.

The bent branches lean into the shade. The others are in full sun.

I don't think the bent stems have many more flowers than the un-bent ones.

However, the flowers on the bent stems have opened much earlier than the ones on the un-bent stems, despite the shade - um - if you see what I mean.

Esther