Here be Dragons

It was a gorgeous sunny day and what better way to spend it than to pick a local garden centre and head down to see what was on offer. It was the first time I had been to a garden centre in months – months! and I was determined to make up for lost time.

I wasn’t on the look out for any plants in particular but my brain suddenly fired when I was in the climbing roses section. You see, for some time I have had grand visions of roses scrambling through the trees at the back of the garden and filling the boughs with a spectacular show of flowers.

However, these trees are mature and they are very tall, it needs more than your average climbing rose to take them on and survive. It was going to need some very special roses indeed, it was going to need these:

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Yes, they look small and pathetic now but just you wait, these roses are dragons, really. Let me introduce you to them (just watch out for the thorns):

  • Rosa “New Dawn”
  • Rosa “Rambling Rector”
  • Rosa “Albéric Barbier”
  • Rosa Filipes “Kiftsgate”

(I also wanted “Paul’s Himalayan Musk”, but they didn’t have it so I will have to get it on another occasion.)

Those of you who know about these roses, please feel free to begin calling me an idiot for introducing them into the garden.

For those that don’t, here’s a quick summary:

Rosa “New Dawn” is a beautiful light pink, fragrant climber that grows to 3-4 metres up and across. A mature, well pampered “New Dawn” can be larger. I’ve wanted this rose for a while because of it’s name, colour and fragrance. It was one of the roses I was particularly taken with at a National Trust garden so it made a space for itself on my mental shopping list but it was far too large for the garden we had at the time. It isn’t now.

Rosa “Rambling Rector” is likely to be more widely known than the others. It is a vigorous rambling rose with sprays of creamy white, fragrant flowers. It is known for its dense (read: impenetrable) arching growth and can reach 5 metres high and about 4 metres across. With vicious thorns, it will easily overwhelm surrounding shrubs and plants that are unfortunate to get in its way.

Rosa “Albéric Barbier” is a lightly scented white and lemon rambling rose. The foliage is nearly evergreen so is good for covering walls and buildings. Just make sure it’s a tall wall because this rose can grow up to 7 metres high and spread to about 4 metres across. A small arch or arbour is not going to do it justice and it will do its best to escape, this is a large rose and needs a mature tree or large structure to support it.

Finally we have Rosa Filipes “Kiftsgate”, the reputation of this rambling rose precedes it. Highly vigorous and producing large sprays of creamy white, single, fragrant flowers, this is an exquisite rose with a seriously rampant habit. Able to climb 12 metres high and spread out to over 7 metres across, this is beyond the ability of most gardens to contain. Kiftsgate will not be constrained to an arch, it will not submit to being pruned, it may barely tolerate being tied down to a pergola, it won’t appreciate fences and will make light work of walls. This is a rose for growing into only the largest, sturdiest trees, any less will not survive.

The plan is to place these roses along the back of the garden among the beeches and pines. where they will scramble up into the branches and cascade down. Each year, these will burst into a magnificent display of flowers, a veritable starburst among a backdrop of dark foliage.

At the moment these roses will overwinter in their pots while I try and sort out the planting sites at the back and rig up some rope to give the roses a bit of a helping hand into the lower branches. From then on it’s a matter of simply hoping the roses survive and become established and then waiting for them to take off to claim that area of the garden as their own.

This could either be one of the most incredible shows in the garden in years to come, or it could be a complete nightmare and a total failure. Unfortunately, it’s going to be several years before I find out whether I made the best impulse buy yet, or whether I will hear the words “I told you so” coming smugly from the other half.

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Here be dragons, they will lure you with their promise, captivate you with their heavenly fragrance, dazzle you with their breath-taking displays and overwhelm you with their vigorous habit.

Be very aware.

10 Comments


  1. I think it will be very successful Sunil. Among the roses you list, I grow New Dawn and am quite pleased with it (I don’t think the others would be cold hardy for us). In a “wild” area (outside the garden proper) I have Rosa multiflora (officially a weed in some states) which reaches the top of a tree that is about 25 feet tall. It is in bloom for just a week but turns that tree white with thousand of blooms in that week.
    My favorite climbing rose (same size as New Dawn) is Dortmund. It is a vivid red, blooms well and is disease resistant (Rated 9/10 by the American Rose Society – very high).

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    1. Hello Alain, it’s the nature of ramblers to put on a breath-taking flowering show for a short period and when it’s over, it’s over until about the same time next year, that makes then even more special and a shame they’re so brief. Out of the ones we now have I’d say it’s a close run between Kiftsgate and New Dawn as to which one is my favourite, we’ll have to see how they are in flower. Thank you for the suggestion of “Dortmund”, but I’ve been warned that things won’t go well for me if I’m caught even thinking about getting more climbing roses!

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  2. What fun to have enough space to grow large plants that you could only dream about when you had a small garden. I look forward to seeing them established and blooming high up in the trees in a few years.

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    1. Hi Jean, I’ll be sure to write and updated post a few years down the line (or possibly even an annual review) as a record of how they get on. In the mean time, I’m looking into plastic ones in case I need to save face.

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  3. Dragons can be so tempting…! You picked some beauties. 🙂 I hope they grow to be so amazing your wife ends up thanking you for planting them. I would love to add more roses to my garden. 🙂

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    1. Hi Tammy, I’ve wanted these roses for a little while and I am so glad I now have the garden to give them a try. I do hope they grow well and take off. No matter what happens, I can see a lot of cuts, scratches and nicks in the future if I don’t invest in a pair of leather gauntlets.

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  4. Well done! At least you always try, and are not a wimp!!
    I had “Albertine” in a small garden once (nightmare), and it too was a dragon. When it put on 15feet in a summer I knew it had to go, otherwise it would take over. Paul’s Himalayan Musk I always wanted, but don’t have a tree sturdy enough to take it. If what you plan comes off, it is going to fabulous.

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    1. Hi Mrs. Mac, yes, I can but try. I was down that far end of the garden just today (I don’t often get to the far end of the garden as it usually needs me to prepare a packed lunch and tent) and was wondering where *exactly*, in among the piles of rubbish and invasive plants, the roses might go.

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  5. Sunil, you are a brave one! With the heart to take on a dragon, I’m quite sure, but that Kiftsgate will give you a run for your money! New Dawn was always a favorite of mine. I am quite sure the photo I left of it cascading over our white picket fence, sold our house back in February when there was 18inches of snow on the ground! I cant wait to see the progress of all the dragons in your garden!

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    1. Hi Jayne, New Dawn seems to be better known than I had thought, and that’s good too because it’s such a beautiful rose. In the far future when the time comes to sell this house, it might be the Rosa “Teasing Georgia” cascading over our white picket fence that makes the deal here – that would be serendipitous! The dragons are sleeping in their pots at the moment, I’m getting ready for when they “wake up”.

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