Pillar rose question

ptwonlineApril 20, 2014

I'm still a relatively new rose gardener but the idea of pillared roses appeals to me: visually stunning vertical element and takes limited precious space in my urban garden.

But one thing I wondered: what do you do when the rose is still growing? Do you just wait until the rose is more or less full-sized and then pillar? Do you pillar halfway up the structure and then keep tying it around as it grows? Do you untie the rose and re-tie it as it grows?

I was looking at an Explorer climbing rose--maybe a William Baffin--to be hardy here in Toronto and (from what I read) not requiring any special winter protection. But I just wasn't sure about what to do while the rose is still growing, and when to pillar it.

One other question: what makes a good pillar? Do I need to cement in a post? Or do iron frames (like obelisks or tripods) have enough weight to keep them from being blown over?

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I pillar mine on a lattice frame but I have seen them growing against a wall with no support except the brick wall.

Pillar roses usually grow with an up-right habit so you would just need to tie it to the support or weave it through the frame as it gets taller.

You don't need to untie and re-tie as the growth comes from the top so you just attach the new growth to your support.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 11:08PM
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Sow_what? Southern California Inland

I can say plenty about about garden structures, but someone more experienced with roses should answer your questions about the "growing".

I've made rose pillars out of simple 4 x 4s. You can take a ten foot tall 4 x 4 and pound two feet of it into the ground. Using a post level (a tool that attaches to the post and costs less than $10), helps you keep the post level while you're installing it, or you can just do this by eye. I don't like using concrete in planting beds, so if I need more stability or don't want my 4 x 4 in the ground, I use a post stake on the 4 x 4, and pound that into the ground. You can get post stakes at any Home Depot. After the 4 x 4 is installed, I insert very long wood screws up and down the post on all four sides, but leave them sticking out as much as possible. These serve as anchors to grab the rose canes. A touch of clear silicone on the screw threads will keep them from scratching the canes. As an alternate, you can drill all the way through the 4 x 4 at various points and insert 20" or so lengths of rebar through the holes so that half the rebar is sticking out on each side of the 4 x 4. The rebar then serves as an anchor to drape the rose canes over. Or, you can just tie the canes to the 4 x 4 with something soft as you wind them around, but having ties showing isn't as nice looking. For a crowning touch, I use screws with hand forged fancy heads instead of plain old wood screws, and I top the 4 x 4 with a decorative finial.

I have a new Claire Austin pillared right now, and I'm very happy with it. I assume that at pruning time each year, I'll need to unwind the rose from the pillar, prune back the secondary canes and any dead main canes, and then rewrap the rose on the pillar.

I can try to take a picture of my pillared rose tomorrow.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 3:33AM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

I have four metal obelisks -- from places like Jackson Perkins -- about 8 ft tall-- that I use as pillars, except I somewhat circle (kinda upward circling) the rose around the obelisk to promote extra bloom.

The obelisks are secure if you follow directions and bury the legs about 18 inches (I always give them an extra shove into the ground even after I reach 18 in.) I've never had an obelisk blow over as a result.

I plant rose and obelisk at the same time--rose outside of the obelisk, for convenience. Then I tie as needed.

Eden rose on obelisk.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:15AM
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That obelisk looks like the ones I was thinking of. So, as the rose grows you circle and tie it up low, and then just keep going as the rose grows? If the rose grows too large do you loop it back downwards again, just let it flop from the top, or re-tie it with more loops around the obelisk?


    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 1:32PM
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toolbelt68 (7)(7)

A 4x4 post is actually a 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 post which brings the total inches around the post closer to 1 foot. That would make each loop around the post a minimum of 1 foot. If you have a rose that climbs 15 feet when mature and you had a 8 foot high post that's almost 2 loops per foot of post. At that rate one would have to start winding almost at the get go. That's the math end of it whether that's the way to do it is better described by those that have done it. I will be doing it later this year so let's hope your question gets answered.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 1:48PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

In general, hardy, repeating climbers are not the easiest roses in the world to train. Wrapping them around an obelisk may sound reasonable, until you actually try and do it. How it gets done in real life, is the basal canes (the ones that grow from the bottom) shoot straight up, are tied to the support, then arch over from there. This is a particularly good way to grow large Explorers. They aren't really climbers, but more very large, hardy shrubs that don't necessarily stay up without support.

Captain Samuel Holland

To a certain extent, the base of this obelisk is stuck together. The rose was originally supported by a locust pole, which didn't last all that long. So then the problem was to get an obelisk in there around a large, existing rose.

I'd highly recommend Captain Samuel Holland for this project over Billy the Beast. It's a much better size match, and better behaved in general.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 2:11PM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

I do take care to select climbers that supposedly grow 8-10 ft tall. or maybe even 12 ft tall. That size fits nicely on the 8 ft obelisk. I certainly wouldn't put one of those 20-30 ft. climbers on such an obelisk.

My roses are tied in gradual circlings moving upwards around the obelisk. No rigid circles, no tying anything low. Just an occasional tie to keep it going the general direction I want it to go.

No way would I ever re-tie it with more loops around the obelisk. Only a masochist would do that!

If it grows beyond the top of the obelisk, I have let it flop from the top and I have tried looping it back downward. Not sure which is best. Best would be not to buy such a tall climber. In my case, I basically hope that the next winter causes some die-back on the ends. Then the next spring I prune off the die-back, and there is no problem with excess.

At some point, if the rose is healthy, you will have so many laterals growing that you will need to prune most of them back to about 6-12 inches long, but you might strategically let a few keep on growing and start tying them in a gradual upward path around the obelisk also.

Partly it will depend on what climber you are growing. Let the plant tell you what it wants done and where it wants to go.

And part of it is make-it-up-as-you-go-along. : )


    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 3:20PM
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Sow_what? Southern California Inland

When you're making loops, the circumference takes up a good length of the cane (I'm not going to do the calculation this late at night, but circumference is 3.14 x diameter, and you can tell how much of the cane you're using up as you're doing it, AND you're keeping it pretty loose). So as long as you pick a short climber, it should fit well. You can also get a taller post or use a wider diameter pillar. I am winding from the get-go, in gradual upward loops, and I'm using the wood screws to guide my loops and help hold the canes so I don't have to tie much. In some roses, stressing the canes by bending them this way leads to greater bloom production, and that's what I'm aiming for. In my limited experience, when I take the cane straight up the post or the arbor, I only get blooms at the top. When I stress the canes by bending them horizontally, I get lots of roses all along the post, and that makes me very happy.

I've gotten many bare roots this season, and almost all of them have flexible canes, so this was not a rocket-science level task. Even my Tradescants, which are reputed to be super rigid, are flexible enough at this early stage for me to easily weave them on their arbor. On the other hand, the floribundas I used to work with -- forget it.

Best of luck. I think these pillared roses can be very pretty.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 6:25AM
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I have 2 pillared climbers on obelisks and treat them as...climbers. The stiff canes grow upward and I wrap the laterals loosely around the obelisk. After several mistakes, I do not force anything and leave enough space for airflow.
That said, my non expert suggestion is to use suitable climbers only. Not every climber works well on a pole.
The obelisk is where I learned that rose climbers aren't really climbers in the way we imagine a vine. As with so many things, the name is misleading.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:52PM
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