Question About Graham Thomas

alameda/zone 8May 13, 2012

I have a 3-4 yr. old Graham Thomas. Its very healthy, gets plenty of water from all our rain. It is sending out long stems everywhere, but no buds or blooms. It doesnt seem inclined to bloom, just grow tenacles. Should I trim it back? Let it grow? What is the best way to treat this rose to encourage blooms? Thanks...


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Mine blooms like mad -- it does grow longish canes, and I've trained mine to a rebar teepee. So, the canes are pulled down from straight to 45 degrees. Is your rose own root or grafted? I've found that the own root roses can take several years longer to mature (longer than I expected). Maybe too much nitrogen?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 10:02AM
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I've seen Graham act like this, growth and no blooms, and my best guess is that it is overfertilized. He's a sparse repeat bloomer here in Kansas anyway, so I think it works best to treat him a little roughly, use only organic fertilizers (no high nitrogen) and keep him trimmed around 5-6 feet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Musings blog

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 10:34AM
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petaloid(SoCal 10a/24)

It took mine almost three years to bloom. I was ready to get rid of it and threatened it with the shovel.

Now it blooms very well in spring, with some repeat bloom later, and is about twelve feet tall.

I agree that you can skip the chemical fertilizer on this one -- mine seems to like compost mulch and kelp meal.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 10:56AM
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alameda/zone 8

I have only fertilized mine with Mills Magic Rose Mix and Texas Tee, a good all around organic fertilizer - no chemicals. I dont know if its own root or not, but probably not - I got it from a local nursery on sale in the fall several years ago as a very healthy bush. I seem to remember it bloomed better last year but not that much. This year, I have seen one, maybe two blooms, but the bush is really healthy. These longer canes come to a fine point at the end - I keep looking for buds but there are none. I cannot imagine why this rose was picked to be the best rose ever by some survery - its a pretty yellow, but if the thing doesnt bloom, whats the point? And even if rebloom is infrequent, why would this be touted as a great rose? I am certainly not going to shovel prune a perfectly healthy rose.....but would sure like to hear some success stories on it. Its placed next to a long fence along with other shrub type roses in full sun, prime real estate, and I dont want to make it a pillar rose. Would it help to prune off these longish tendrils? We are having lots of rain and coolish [for Texas] temperatures and this is wonderful blooming weather - my other roses are doing great. This one laggard is frustrating! Thanks for any advice.....

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 11:30AM
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Campanula UK Z8

I have never managed to grow GT as a bush whatever Mr.Austin claims - it really performs best trained and treated as a climber - which means a good bit of pulling those long canes as horizontal as you can. I have 2 of these and will try to get a picture posted to illustrate a well grown GT and, right next to it, a bizarre and oddly shaped disaster which blooms still, but at a height of around 8 feet in the air. Luckily, both these roses are grown side by side so I can cover the bare legged disaster zone of one with the long canes of its neighbour.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 11:43AM
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mzstitch(Zone 7b South Carolina)

I'm an amateur rose grower, so I cannot give advice. I do understand what Campanula is suggesting though, to treat it as a climber. My courageous gives more blooms when treated as a climber than a shrub. If you didn't have room to try treating it as a climber would the long branches be limber enough to be pegged? I watched a video on pegging recently which I found very interesting.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 2:24PM
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seil zone 6b MI

I grow mine on a stand alone trellis and wrap the 8 foot canes down to encourage more bloom.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 3:19PM
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stlgal(south z5)

Mine blooms like crazy and maybe this is pure laziness on my part. If it gets fertilizer at all it is as for this weekend, when I tossed a couple of scoopfuls of milorganite in the general direction of that bed.

As others have said, for me it behaves best when treated as a short climber and tying the canes to the trellis (in a more horizontal position) induces a lot more side branching and blooms. If they go straight up, they bloom on the end only, out of reach/nose range, and that is no fun.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 12:23PM
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alameda/zone 8

Mine is planted next to a fence - guess I could let the tendrils get long enough to attach to the fence and try that. Its such a healthy rose, and large - would really like to see some blooms out of it so will try this method. Apparently it doesnt want to be a blooming bush. Does anyone have any photos of GT in bloom? Would love to see some! Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 3:05AM
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ilovemyroses(8 Dallas TX)

I have one in full, great sun, great bed, etc. And it blooms consistently. I don't do alot of special treatment, other than prune a foot or so off of it after a bloom cycle, as it is so leggy. I got mine own root from ARE.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 8:53AM
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The Graham Thomas out front receives sun 90% of the day. It has been in place for over fifteen years (unfortunately) and receives no fertilizer at all because the toy fox terrier gets into that terrace, she's omnivorous and a real FOODIE! I do my best to keep the plant to eight feet (zone 10), hacking yards of thorny tentacles from it frequently. The ONLY time it is inclined to flower is when it receives tons of water. I mean TONS. Nothing else on this hill is as water demanding as GT is, which has been my experience with it in several gardens in three zones. If your climate controls its growth and you receive good rainfall with good ground water, it's going to flower more as expected. If you're hot, dry, with little ground water and don't flood it frequently, it is going to tend to grow more with less color. If I could get the blamed thing out of where it is, it would be GONE, but the access is too tight and I'm increasingly less inclined to climb up into that tangle of thorns and likely kill myself hacking it out. No, given the chance, I would never plant another, but this was inherited and had been installed by a landscraper. I'm sure it's good elsewhere, but not in a savannah type of environment. Kim

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 3:46PM
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seil zone 6b MI

Here's mine in bloom last spring.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 6:02PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

I tried it years ago and when after a year it hadn't bloomed I took it back to where I got it, ARE here in San Antonio. They said theirs didn't bloom either and took it in trade for another rose.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 6:17PM
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I bought one of these Graham Thomas early april last year as a climbing rose for my balcony. My balcony is on the west, the rose is located on the south facing trellis I put up.

It bloomed briefly last year but wouldn't go for any repeats, and this year it seems to be very fussy. Most of the buds froze off because we still had frost as late as april, and a very warm period had gone before them, it;s also terrorized on it;s sprouts by lice (whom I battle fiercely with an eco spray. seems to work) but it still won't really develop new, young sprouts. It has one, the rest are almost bare, tall branches with a few leaves on the end. I have no idea to get it to sprout again, and am becoming a little hopeless. Also young sprouts seem to wither and die and go black/yellow, but only the young leaves. I've searched the net fruitlessly to find out what this is.

My other climbing rose on the north facing trellis is booming like mad, even bloomed still in december last year and has a great amount of flowers even now, though it's also suffering lice. It's a climbing iceberg and sadly has no scent.

I'm really sad the Graham Thomas won;t bloom because the blooms were wonderful and the scent lovely. Does anyone have tips on how to get some new sprouts? of it is a loss and should I get a new one? I'm a total amateur btw. I've tried fertilizer (special ones for roses, grains and liquid) but now I'm not sure if that;s a good plan, having read the reactions here.

Should I cut it back excepting the one sprout that does seem to do well?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 10:33AM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

We grew it years ago, and it never bloomed at all, but at the top end of 12-15-ft. canes. Miserable plant. Oh, and it mildewed. It probably wanted more water.

Had we known, we'd have planted it to be a climber, but we were among the first to grow it in SoCal. I came to hate it.

Golden Celebration has been a far, far better rose for us. But I do know that if you are in blackspot country, you won't want that, either.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 11:45AM
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jardineratx(zone 8, Texas)

I purchased my own-root Graham Thomas at Chamblee's roses in 2007. This year, I dug it up after seeing that it was a stingy bloomer and an unshapely bush. I don't know WHY it was such a poor performer, but the bottom line is that it was a poor performer.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 8:33AM
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thorngrower sw. ont. z5

Last year was the 1st time it really got leggy 8-9 ft but it always blooms well. This year I cut it back hard with good results..

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 9:15AM
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Judith - I think the advice to stop feeding it ( or you could try some "high bloom fertilizer, which does not have nitrogen in it) is good. Also I would take those long canes and tie them as horizontally as you can onto the fence. Then it should make blooming shoots all along the canes.

Years ago I planted mine at one end of an oval bed which is surrounded by patio & driveway. When we realized it was really a climber, my DH built it a structure to climb on. You are lucky to have a fence nearby! Here is a picture -


    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 9:28AM
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alameda/zone 8

Beautiful photos of GT, I especially like it with the purple clematis. When I was at Chamblees last Septemberl, I asked what in the world I could do to the thing to make it bloom. They suggested Carl Pool BR 61. I doused it with that.......lo and behold, a few fall blooms! I did it again in spring and the bush actually bloomed well! I also used the combination of Spray N Gro/Bill's Perfect Fertilizer on it. After the bloom cycle, I cut it back - [when I pruned in spring, I didnt allow those long tendrils]. It lost leaves, looks ratty. I kept pouring the water to it and it is now leafing out again. Going to put more Carl Pool on it and see if I can get another bloom cycle. This has really been a tough rose to bring around. It is in a spot I can easily water all the time and do. It is in full sun which it does seem to like. I am determined to make this into a good plant but I will not buy another one. I cannot understand why this rose was voted best rose or whatever the title is. Its saving grace is that it is a big healthy shrub and I just cant shovel prune a healthy bush. Its become sort of a challenge now to get it to bloom.......but I certainly couldnt recommend this rose to anyone. Maybe it grows well in England......but Nacogdoches is by far a better yellow. I am still amazed I got the thing to bloom at all........

Am enjoying the comments on this rose - if anyone has any other tips on how to manage it, that would be reat!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 10:48AM
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The reason it is not blooming very much might be because you are cutting it back and "not allowing those long tendrils" too often. If it really wants to be a climber, it will put its energy into getting as tall as IT thinks it should be (no matter what you think), instead of putting its energy into blooming.

So, I would tie the long canes as horizontally as you can, and stop cutting it back (just deadhead it after bloom), and see what happens.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 5:36PM
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ilovemyroses(8 Dallas TX)

Terrific picture Jackie! I think it will be many years til I have such combos mastered!!! Impressive!!!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 6:36PM
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