The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

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Canadian Climbing Roses reach new heights for durability and beauty

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

Despite the preponderance of selfies many pictures continue to be taken with a beautiful backdrop in mind. I wonder how many graduation or wedding pictures highlight a blooming rose bush background. Beyond photo opportunities roses can be memorable landscape plants. However for many people pondering planting roses their reputation as picky and persnickety produces a hesitation.

Some roses may indeed be the delicate divas of the garden requiring regular primping and preening. However through several breeding programs many newer cultivars offer low maintenance needs, remarkable winter hardiness and great disease resistance as well as a plethora of pretty flowers.

The Canadian Explorer series offers roses as tough as their explorer namesake. According to retired UI Extension educator Greg Stack the Canadian Explorer series of roses is a group of about 22 cultivars bred from the 1960's through the 1990's at agricultural research stations first in Ottawa, Ontario, and later at L'Assomption, Quebec.

Canadian Explorer roses are mostly pinks and reds with a few yellows. While they don't bloom continuously, many do have repeat blooming if old flowers are removed. This Canadian series includes three basic groups: climbers, rugosas, and shrub types.

One group I have found particularly useful are the climbers. We call them climbers; however, roses don't actually climb like wisteria or clematis vines. Instead they have long canes that can be trained along fences or up pillars. Horizontal training actually encourages more flowers. As the canes are bent horizontally the dominance of the top bud is eliminated and more side flowers form along the canes.

One of the dependable climbers is 'William Baffin' with its fragrant deep pink, double petaled flowers. The canes can grow to 10 feet long and work well trained along split rail fences. As with many of the Canadian roses 'William Baffin' has large showy fruits called hips that offer winter garden color.

According to Stack William Baffin was a British explorer who in 1615-1616 was sent to find the Northwest Passage which would have made it easier for seafarers to more quickly reach the spice markets in the Orient.

'Henry Kelsey' is a climber with long limber canes growing to about eight feet. It has red semi-double flowers with a spicy fragrance. This rose is named after the young explorer known as Boy Kelsey, the "discoverer" of the Canadian prairies in the 1600's.

'John Davis' is a climber growing to eight feet with glossy green foliage and contrasting red canes. The double pink blooms have a spicy scent. John Davis was a navigator in the 1500s whose exploration led to a passage from Europe to the Indies. The strait between Baffin Island and Greenland now bears his name.

'John Cabot' is a very vigorous climber growing to nine feet. The orchid-red to fuchsia-pink fragrant blooms are followed by orange hips in the fall. John Cabot was an Italian explorer sailing under the British flag. He landed in Newfoundland in 1497 and believed he bested Columbus by finding a more direct route to Asia.

Other good Canadian Explorer climbing roses include 'Captain Samuel Holland' and 'Quadra'. Thanks to Greg Stack for sharing his take on the tough roses of Canada. Don't let their reputation as divas keep you away from roses.

Check out University of Illinois Extension website on roses, Our Rose Garden

Join Master Gardeners and other garden fanciers during the 2015 Garden Walks:

Sunday June 14 from Noon-4pm Vermilion County Master Gardeners host lovely gardens tucked into Danville's neighborhoods.

Saturday June 20 from 9am-4pm Champaign County Master Gardeners. 8 gardens and plenty of shopping at Idea Garden in Urbana.

Tickets available at area garden centers and Extension offices. All proceeds support local Master Gardener community gardens and programs. For more information contact UI Extension: Danville office 217-442-8615 or Champaign office 217-333-7672

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