Pruning is always seen as a necessary chore, but what if we saw it as the way to coax more and better blooms from our roses? Isn’t that what we all want?
There is an ancient pruning method, still used for fruit trees, that can be applied to climbing roses, Midinettes, Panarosa and even Spire roses with spectacular effect.
Espaliering is a method of pruning and training fruit trees, mainly apples and pears, to improve yields in a small space. Whoever saw the possibility for roses is a genius because the basic principle of espalier is the horizontal tying of canes to a support, which encourages the rose to sprout and flower from every node along the branch instead of just producing flowers at the end of the cane.
It also keeps climbers neat and under control, easy to manage for spraying, and exposes all the growth to sunshine and air, unlike unmanaged climbers where inside growth can die off.
An espaliered rose (or more if the space is large) can be a focal point on a trellis, cover a wall or palisade fence, act as a screen, and transform a boundary or swimming pool fence.
The espalier patterns that suit roses are the fan shape and the horizontal cordon.
This pattern works on a trellis, palisade fence or wall support. When tying a rose onto a wall support or trellis make sure there is space between the wall and the trellis so that the stems can be tied up and there is also a free flow of air. Avoid espaliering roses against a west-facing wall as the afternoon sun is too hot.
Here is how to do it:
- Before cutting away any stems, assess the rose and decide which stems are suitable for tying onto the support.
- Once you have an idea, loosely tie the canes to the support. They need to be tied as horizontally as possible to encourage new shoots along the length of the cane.
- The ties should not be too tight because the branches will thicken during the season. Looser ties are also easier to remove when pruning the following year.
- Once the main stems are tied in place, the side shoots on each stem can be reduced to about 5 to 10cm. By leaving a stub with two to three eyes, new growth will develop quickly, and the best flowers will come from these shoots.
- Clean out twiggy growth and where a stem has forked, cut away one of the tines. In many cases you can see where the sap has bypassed one shoot and favoured the other. Cut out the weaker shoot.
- Once the main framework of canes is in place it will be easy to identify which canes or side shoots are not necessary and can be cut out at the base. Branches that are two to three years old can be retained if they are important to the framework.
- Remove the leaves where possible.
This is a time- consuming process but the final result will be a very neat looking climber that will hold its shape throughout summer and need only the most basic care: watering, fertilising, and dead-heading.
This is a simple solution for dressing up low walls and fences and simply entails horizontally training the canes along the wall or fence and tying them in place.
Suitable varieties are generally those that grow into willowy shrubs about 2m high and wide, with long arching canes such as ‘Blossom Time’, ‘Cocktail’, ‘Compassion’, ‘Don Juan’, ‘Edgar Degas’, ‘Rose Celeste’, and ‘Royal Gold’, ‘Crème Caramel’, ‘Iceberg Climber’, ‘Wedding Garland’, ‘Pink Curtain’, ‘Blossom Magic’ or ‘Cherry Garland.
For Fan shaped espaliering, the best varieties are:
‘Isidingo’, ‘Nahéma’, ‘Mellow Yellow’, ‘Casino’, ‘High Hopes’, ‘Golden Spire’, and several of the David Austin varieties i.e. ‘Heritage’, ‘Claire Austin’, ‘James Galway’, ‘Lady of Shalott’, ‘Princess Anne’, ‘The Generous Gardener’ and ‘Jude the Obscure’.
Being the home of Bonsai and Ikebana, Japanese gardeners who love roses happily prune, train, and tie the rose bushes to coax out the greatest number of blooms. The Asian version of espaliering is creative and inventive, which inspired a group of South African rosarians who attended the 2006 World Rose Convention in Osaka.
Here are some of the examples, to inspire you as well: