History of Climbing Bourbon Roses:
The first of these roses were discovered on a small island in the Indian Ocean, just off the Madagascar coast. Today the island is known as Reunion, however history recalls the island once carried the name Bourbon, which is where this group of roses got their name. These original roses were believed to come about by the crossing of an Old Blush china rose, and the Autumn Damask rose. These two roses were often grown on the island and used for hedges and borders.
In 1823 these roses were introduced in France where their popularity began to soar. Some early examples of bourbons were the Pierre Oger and the Louise Odier. Of all the varieties out there, the Zephirine Drouhin is the most popular and well known of the climbing bourbon roses and this variety is grown around the world. These roses are known to be vigorous growers that grow canes with a purplish tint and they will often flower frequently throughout the growing season.
Growing Climbing Bourbon Roses:
These roses are not terribly difficult to grow and they usually will produce a very strong fragrance so they are a great choice if you want a certain garden space to carry the rose scent. The climbing varieties will grow up to around 6 to 8 feet tall, while the shrub varieties will stay a little shorter. Like most roses, you should give them a lot of sun light if you want them to perform. A good rule of thumb is no less than 6 to 8 hours each day of direct sun light. Many varieties will survive and do ok in partial shade, but you will almost never get the best performance out of them as you would in full sun.
Climbing bourbon roses will also require soil that is well drained. If you are unsure about the quality of your garden’s soil, you can take a trip to your local garden center and pick up a bag of a good organic compost. When you dig the hole for your roses, mix in the compost with the loose soil at a ratio of 1 part compost for every 2 parts soil. This is a great mix for roses and will help them establish themselves quickly in your garden.
Planting Climbing Bourbon Roses:
How you go about planting your roses depends a little on how you purchased them. If you bought them from a local retailer than chances are they were already established in containers and probably ready to bloom. These are the easiest to plant. All you need to do is dig a hole that is at least twice the diameter of the container, and equally as deep. This will give you plenty of room around the root system for your new soil mix, while still keeping the bud union at its current depth.
If you bought your climbing bourbon roses from an online vendor, then they could have come to you as barefoot plants. These may look intimidating but they are not that difficult to plant. You should first soak the plants overnight in a bucket of lukewarm water prior to planting day, to rehydrate the roots. Then dig a hole that is as wide as the longest roots on the plant, and deep enough to allow you to set the plant atop a mound of soil and still keep the bud union an inch or two below the surface of the soil.
Once you have your rose set in place, spread the roots out in all directions around the mound and back fill halfway with your soil mix. Take your garden hose and water the loose soil heavily until it flows around the roots like mud. Then go ahead and back fill the hole the rest of the way and give it one more heavy watering, being sure to top off any final settling that may have occurred. This method should ensure that no air pockets have formed below the soil.
You should also mound up some mulch around the exposed canes of the plant until new growth forms. This will help prevent the canes from drying out while new roots are forming.
Caring for Climbing Bourbon Roses:
Taking care of these roses is pretty straight forward and you can follow basic rose care guidelines. The most important thing you need to do is maintain a consistent watering schedule. You have to give your roses ample water while being careful not to over-water them. A good rule of thumb is one deep watering per week.
You should also give your climbing bourbon roses a dose of an all-purpose granular fertilizer in early spring when the leaves begin to open. This will help them get a jump on the season. Since bourbons tend to be repeat bloomers, they will benefit greatly from additional feedings throughout the growing season. I will typically give my roses a second feeding just after the first big bloom, and then a third feeding around the middle of summer to help encourage additional blooms in the late season.
Pruning Climbing Bourbon Roses:
You should prune your climbing roses in the early spring before the leaves open up as this will make it much easier to see what you are doing. Start by removing all the dead and discolored canes from the plant. Next, start pruning back any lateral canes that overlap one another as these will eventually compete for sun light once the leaves fully open. Lastly, give your roses a light pruning for shape and to train them to grow around the supports.
This is also a great time to rake up around the base of your climbing bourbon roses and clean up all the dead leaves and debris that may have collected there from the previous growing season. Throw away this material in the trash, along with all your cuttings. Never throw them into the compost bin and never let decaying matter lay around your roses as they can become breeding grounds for certain pests and diseases. I always finish up my pruning by giving my roses a fresh layer of mulch to start off the growing season.
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