Many rambling roses go on after blooming, produce beautiful rose hips

August 4, 2021

Like a flame that burns, the phrase carrying a torch for someone means holding out a love that is not returned. This phrase led to torch songs, songs that speak of love. Among the best torch songs is “Ramblin' Rose” sung by Nat King Cole.

In the garden, ramblers are a group or type of roses with long, flexible stems that scurry or ramble over fences, up trees, over arches, pergolas, and even through bushes and up into trees. Rambling roses bloom with countless small to medium-sized blossoms clustered in large bunches. They often sprout strong stems from the base of the bush. More often than not they only bloom once, in early summer, although re-blooming varieties do exist. 

Many rambling roses go on after blooming to produce beautiful rose hips. Rambling roses are so vigorous that they are often used as support for other climbers, such as clematis.

Modern repeat-flowering rambler roses burst into bloom with great flushes of flowers from late June right up until autumn.

Some of the more popular rambling roses include Malvern Hills, which blooms repeatedly with fully double, soft yellow flowers that form large clusters. Malvern Hills rambling rose has a light, musky fragrance. This is a very healthy rose bush that sports shiny foliage and very few thorns.

Another re-blooming rambling rose is Snow Goose. This rose produces lots of medium-sized white flowers often tinged with pink. Snow Goose has bright, glossy leaves and long stems that are easily trained. Snow Goose is slightly less hardy than Malvern Hills, able to live in USDA zones 6-11, and will thrive in Delaware.

An old but still popular rambler is the yellow-flowered Lady Banks rose. This is a strong plant that can easily grow up to 20 inches tall. Like many ramblers, Lady Banks is almost totally thornless.

Like all of the once-flowering ramblers, Lady Banks can be pruned to keep its shape immediately after flowering, because next year's blooms form on the previous year's growth.

The everblooming Cécile Brünner rose has a climbing version that qualifies as a rambler. Like the bush form of Cecile Brunner, the rambler, or climbing version, has small, delicate, soft-pink sweetheart rosebuds that open into two-inch blossoms. This rambler has the same light, spicy aroma as its bush relative and is nearly thornless.

Rambling roses are great to plant and forget. Left to their own devices, they will scurry over tall garden walls, along the tops of fences, and scramble up obelisks. With a large pot you can even grow them in containers.

Plant rambling roses in rich soil that drains well. It takes a lot of energy to produce stems that can reach 20 feet long or more, so you will want to add compost, bone meal or a slow-release organic fertilizer once a year. If your rose bush is bare root rather than in a pot, it is best to soak the roots in a bucket of water for 12 hours before planting. This will re-hydrate the bush and get it off to a strong start. Water roses once a week if there is no rain.

Plant a rambling rose and you will have one of the easiest, most romantic plants in the garden. While rambling roses can't hold a candle to modern hybrids, they have a quiet beauty and a strong constitution. 

Perfect for your own torch song.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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