Get your climbers looking good, and your garden off to a good spring start.
August is the month to trim and train climbing roses. It is an effort to do this well, but what a reward, as these two climbers demonstrate. Only two climbers completely transform this small home, smothering the front window with blooms. For a similar effect I would recommend ‘Apéritif’, ‘Cherry Garland’, ‘Blossom Magic’, ‘Eden Rose’, ‘Guelilah’ and ‘Wedding Garland’.
Pruning climbing roses involves getting onto a ladder, cutting off the old ties, spreading the stems and branches, and cutting out obvious old woody stems that don’t resprout well. Once that is done, spiral or espalier the remaining stems and long canes into positions where you want them to flower. Since not all stems are cut back, delaying the task into August means they will still flower in October.
Off to a good start As the weather warms up in August the roses start sprouting, and once again the rose garden is alive. For a stellar performance in October, treat your roses like thoroughbred race-horses and give them all the nutrients, water and attention they need.
- For award-winning blooms (even if they are for your eyes only) drench each rose bush during August with Koinor to prevent thrips and aphids. Thrips has become the biggest problem for rose gardeners, affecting new growth and flowers, so that all the attention, water and fertiliser comes to nothing because the blooms are tiny and deformed. Applied with the correct dosage, the effect of Koinor lasts for up to six months and prevents all other insect infestations as well, so there is no need to spray for pests.
- If fertiliser wasn’t given at pruning time, fertilise with Vigorosa in the middle of August. For a longer lasting effect the controlled-release Vigolonger can be worked into the topsoil. It slowly releases nutrients over six months.
- Water deeply once a week as temperatures warm up and sprouting starts. Only mulch the beds when the soil has warmed up, towards the end of August.
- Check the ties of standard roses. Redo those that are loose, and check that old ties are not strangling the stems and have not grown into the wood. A firm tie protects the head from snapping off in the wind.
Haven’t pruned yet?
In very cold areas pruning is better delayed until the middle of August so that sprouting only occurs after the last frosts in September. In other warmer areas the roses can still be pruned: it’s not too late to do so now. Delaying pruning much further in most regions will delay flowering, that’s all. After pruning, spray the bare stems with Ludwig’s Insect Spray to kill insect eggs and fungal spores, and don’t neglect to renew the soil with added compost and fertiliser.
What about late frost?
A black frost in August could burn newly sprouted shoots, especially if the roses were pruned earlier in July and are sprouting well. If this does happen, don’t worry – they will resprout. Don’t be in a rush to cut off burned leaves, as the rose will sort itself out. However, if there is a warning of black frost, cover the roses very lightly with frost-guard cloth. Iced new shoots can be saved if the sprinkler waters the roses very early in the morning until the frost is gone. The water over the leaves melts the iced water within the leaves slower than the sun would, and this regulated defrosting can save the shoots.