Right Rose, Right Place; Roses for North-facing Walls

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In the course of my work as a planting designer specialising in roses, my job is to advise clients on the best varieties to grow. There is a misplaced anxiety around planting roses and a common misconception that roses are high-maintenance plants and that you need to be an experienced gardener in order to care for them properly.

Rosa 'Climbing Iceberg' from my front garden

I like to demonstrate that this is a bit of a myth. Although roses can be fussy and will let you know if they are not happy, the right rose planted in the right place at the right time of year will be content to do its own beautiful thing with minimal interference.

The amount of choice when it comes to roses is indeed baffling but the first consideration should be the planting aspect which is more important than the soil type. Equally it is important to think carefully about what you would like the rose to do before selecting the variety.  Work out what kind rose you need for any given position and look to see what your neighbours are growing in similar spots – if their roses are flourishing the chances are that yours will too.

Rosa 'Climbing Iceberg' from my front garden

North-facing walls seem to present the greatest challenge when it comes to rose growing but what better way to cover up a bare, dismal expanse of brick of concrete than by smothering it with clusters of fragrant blooms?

Either a climber or a rambler will do the job beautifully. The difference between the two being that climbing roses are generally repeat flowering and have larger flowers and stouter growth than ramblers. Both will require some support such as a trellis in order for them to grow horizontally against a wall and this will encourage them to spread and cover the space. Rambling roses tend to flower only once in the season and have an abundance of smaller flowers growing in clusters or tresses.

Rosa 'Climbing Iceberg' from my front garden

Here are my top recommended fragrant varieties for north-facing walls that can be planted now as bare root specimens for flowering next summer:

  • Alberic Barbier: double creamy-white flowers with semi-evergreen foliage
  • Albertine: salmon pink clusters of flowers growing on reddish stems
  • Madame Alfred Carriere: warm double white flowers that can take on a soft pink blush
  • Climbing Iceberg: white flowers that will repeat all season (pictured)
  • New Dawn: cupped double pearl-pink flowers
  • Danse de Feu: scarlet clusters of double flowers with abundant glossy foliage
  • Golden Showers: pointed double yellow flowers that open flat

For more info, read Sarah Raven's article on how to plant and grow roses - including what type of soil to plant in, how to train them, pick them and prune them.

Thanks to Carolyn of Simply Roses for this lovely post.

And thank you for reading!