The term “rambler rose“ comes from the English (to ramble) and summarizes a group of climbing or winding roses. The background to the term is the soft, flexible and long shoots of these wild rose hybrids, which conquer pergolas, climbing plants and even treetops by their own efforts. Rambler or Rambler roses, like all other roses, belong to the large rose family (Rosaceae) and were created in the 19th century by crossing two Chinese rose species. In contrast to normal climbing roses, Rambler roses have many small flowers, have longer shoots, grow considerably higher and flower – with exceptions of a few varieties – only once a year.
Appearance and growth
Rambler roses have meter-long shoots with which they grow into light, old trees up to heights of ten meters. Their shoots, often reminiscent of lianas, are long, soft and flexible, making them ideal for greening large pergolas and imposing archways. Some varieties grow strongly bushy, others even creeping. From a botanical point of view, rambler roses belong to the so-called spreader roses, which means that they are always looking for a foothold with their prickly shoots. If the search is successful, they hook on to the spines. Most Rambler roses have many small flowers, which stand in lush clusters of flowers. They usually bloom only once a year, but they bloom very richly and impressively over several weeks. Apart from the main flowering period at the beginning of June, there are also early and late flowering varieties that start flowering at the beginning of May or not until the end of June. Some species produce a second pile in late summer, but this is much less luxuriant than the first. After flowering, most Rambler varieties develop rosehips.
Location and soil
Rambler roses are extremely robust and undemanding. While most roses are absolute sun worshippers, Rambler roses prefer a semi-shady location where the long shoots can grow towards the sunlight. It is important that the location is as airy as possible so that moisture in the leaf area can dry off quickly. This significantly reduces the risk of mildew. The soil should be rich in nutrients, and rambler roses also prefer a humusy, permeable substrate. Soil that is too acidic does not do the plant any good and should be brought to a normal pH value with the help of algal lime.
If you want to plant a Rambler rose in your garden, you should bear in mind that such a rose will take up quite a bit of space over the years. The best time to plant bare-root roses is in autumn, container plants can be planted all summer. Choose a location that meets the above conditions. A simple garden soil can be upgraded by adding deposited compost. If you want your Rambler to grow into a tree, it is best to choose the north side and plant it downwind. In this way the wind pushes the rose into the tree, preventing individual shoots from breaking off.
Before you plant your rambler rose on a tree, make sure that there is a sufficient distance of at least 80 centimetres between the planting pit and the tree. This will allow the rose to develop better. A ladder or coconut rope can be used to guide the rose directly into the treetop. The rose makes its own way the rest of the way. A suitable tree for a rambler rose should have a trunk diameter of at least 30 to 40 centimetres, in order to be able to bear the load created by the plant. Caution: You should never plant the Rambler rose directly into the soil of the tree, because an ingrown tree would be clearly superior to a young rose in the fight for nutrients and water. Tip: Place your Rambler Rose in a large plastic bucket without a bottom.
Before planting the rose in the soil, it is recommended to cut back the shoots of the rambler to 40 centimetres. This stimulates a strong budding. For bare-rooted roses, an overnight immersion bath ensures that shoots and roots are sufficiently moist for a better start in the soil. Afterwards a large hole is dug. The excavated soil should be replaced with humus-rich plant soil or enriched with compost. Then insert the plant, fill up the hole again, press the soil lightly and water vigorously. Directly after planting, a rambler rose does not require any fertilizer.
In the beginning, the Rambler rose should be watered frequently, always only in the root area, to prevent fungal attack. After the first year, additional watering is only necessary in very dry conditions. With good soil preparation, additional fertiliser is only necessary after a whole vegetation period. It is best to start fertilizing in spring when the first shoots appear. Compost or horn shavings are suitable. In June after flowering, it is best to add commercial rose fertilizer. Work the fertilizer shallowly into the soil around the plant, but be careful not to damage the sensitive roots.
As a rule, Rambler roses do not need a classic pruning. In the case of single flowering rambler roses, a small pruning is carried out if necessary, during which the densely growing shoots are thinned out or dead, wilted branches are removed. However, this should not be carried out before the third year. The best time for this is in spring at the time of forsythia flowering. Otherwise you can remove withered branches after flowering, but this can be difficult due to the height of the plant. This measure is only necessary for optical reasons.
In the case of more frequently flowering rambler roses, only pruning should be carried out in the branches which are very proliferating. A radical pruning must be avoided, as it would considerably reduce the flowering.
The rambler varieties that can be purchased in this country are hardy and therefore do not require any special winter protection. Only with freshly planted or self-propagated plants should frost protection in the form of brushwood, mulch or a frost protection fleece be applied in the first two winters.
Rambler roses are mostly used for greening house walls, carports, archways and pergolas. This way they create a fairy-tale ambiance even in dreary corners of the garden in the third year after planting at the latest. Very often they also conquer old fruit trees and enchant after the spring blossoming of the trees in June and July with a further blaze of colour. For this purpose, the selected woody plants must already be “grown up”. Ideally suited are deep-rooted larches, pines or laburnum, which do not compete too much with the flat-rooted Rambler. Rambler roses cover everything that gets in their way with a colourful band of flowers. If the climbing artists cannot find a hold, they pull their long shoots over stones and embankments all over the place. What is fascinating about these climbing roses is that, despite their long shoots, they can manage even in small gardens and on the narrowest of planting sites. Rambler varieties such as ‘Bobby James’ have proven themselves as fencing or hedge roses. They are a space-saving, easy to shape and colourful hedge alternative for confined spaces where there is simply not enough room for a free-growing shrub rose hedge.
There are more than 170 different varieties of rambler roses, some of the most popular:
- “Albéric Barber”:cream, double, single flowering, 300-500 cm
- Bobby James:white, semi-double, single flowering, 300-500 centimetres
- Filipes Kiftsgate:cream white, single, single flowering, 700-900 cm
- ‘Flame dance®’:red, double, single flowering, 300-500 cm
- Paul Noel:pink, double, late flowering, 300-500 centimetres
- Paul’s Himalayan Musk:light purple to pink, semi-double, single flowering, 600-1,000 centimetres
- ‘Raubritter’:light purple-pink, semi-double, single flowering, 250-350 centimetres
- Super Dorothy®:pink, double, often flowering, 300-500 centimetres
- Super Excelsa®:carmine pink, double, more often flowering, 300-500 centimetres
- Violet Blue’:violet, loosely double, single flowering, 300-500 centimetres
- Venusta Pendula:pink/white, semi-double, single flowering, 300-500 centimetres
Rambler roses can easily be propagated by cuttings. The best time for this is at the end of July/beginning of August. Cut off pencil-length pieces with at least three leaves from a one-year-old shoot. Remove all leaves except the top two. There should be a leaf or bud at the bottom of the cuttings. Then dip the cuttings in rooting powder and place them in a pot filled with soil. Then all you have to do is water the cuttings well, cover them with a foil hood and place them in a sheltered, semi-shaded place outside. Alternatively, the cuttings can also be placed in humus-rich soil in a semi-shady place outdoors. Place an empty jar over the cutting and keep the soil evenly moist. Stagnant moisture should be avoided. In winter the young plants need special protection from mulch, brushwood or antifreeze fleece, as they are still somewhat sensitive to cold.
Diseases and pests
Like all roses, rambler roses are somewhat susceptible to mildew and other fungal diseases. Therefore, make sure there is sufficient air circulation and always water the Rambler roses from below. Do not plant the Rambler roses on a hot southern wall, as this will encourage the development of mildew. If necessary, a large-leaved ivy can cover the hot wall and act as a cool background for the rose. If the leaves of the rambler curl up, this is most likely an indication of the rose petal roller wasp. It lays its eggs on the edges of the leaves and larvae grow in the curled leaves. It is best to remove the affected leaves immediately and dispose of them in household waste. Aphids are also occasionally found in rambler roses. Often a shower with a water hose will help. When infested by the rose cicada, the tops of the leaves are speckled white and small greenish-white insects appear on the undersides. If this infestation becomes too strong, it is best to use a suitable plant protection product.
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.