Help! Climbing Roses

Hi all,

I'm a new gardener and have 4 lovely climbing roses (2 sally holmes and 2 iceberg) one planted at the base of each post of a pergola, and they are about 9 months old. They are growing a lot, but I have no idea how to train them properly (zig zag, wrap around, straight up?) or prune them (they have canes sprouting all directions, including away from the post, do I cut those?). I'm at a total loss and right now they are just flopping around looking terrible. 

Help! Does anyone have advice they're willing to share or recommendation for someone who can help me get them going in the right direction?

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RE: Help! Climbing Roses ()

I strongly advise searching for video clips of Monty Don (whether via his own websites, online columns, or on Gardeners' World, a BBC2 program that he hosts).  He addresses how to tackle and train climbing roses regularly, although usually on walls.  Good luck!   

RE: Help! Climbing Roses ()

Roses are tough and forgiving, so you can relax.  There are many guides to rose pruning online.  I use the American Horticultural Society pruning and training book, but there are others.

The one caveat is that most guides are written for folks with hard winters, where the plants go fully dormant.  I prune roses some all year long, to get rid of problem growth and to control size. In January, even though there are still some leaves, I do the major winter pruning and clean-up.  This includes removing those last few leaves, raking the area, and mulching to reduce carry-over of fungi.

The roses will be healthier if they have an open structure, so prune out crowded growth crossing branches, and growth that goes through the middle of the plant. (That is, if a twig on the left side crosses over to the right, cut it out.)  Prune out weak or unhealthy growth. When removing side growth, make the cut just past the branch collar (see online for images).  When shortening branch ("heading back"), make the cut just past a healthy bud -- again, look online for pictures.  When removing spent blossoms, cut to just above an outward-facing 5-leaflet leaf.

As for how to shape the plant around the structure, look around at folks' gardens, go the Berkeley and Oakland Rose Gardens, look online, and see what appeals to you.  The choice here would combine your taste and the plants' ability to cooperate.  And if you don't like the result, you can cut the bushes back quite hard and start over just fine.  They really are quite tough.