In season: rambling roses

Frothy, fragrant and requiring little care, rambler roses are a must for every garden in June

Nothing surely captures the essence of an English summer more perfectly than the sight of a rose rambling over a pergola, fence or a tree? Highly scented, ramblers are vigorous, with sprays of three to 21 single to fully double flowers. They were especially popular in the 19th century, when French growers produced many new varieties.

Ramblers and climbers are often confused but, broadly speaking, ramblers are robust, with small flowers, and lax, supple growth. Less vigorous climbers have larger, if fewer, blooms, stiffer growth, and flower summer-long. Exceptions include ‘Lady of the Lake’, a repeat-flowering rambler introduced at the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show by David Austin Roses. Michael Marriott, chief rosarian at David Austin, in particular loves the blush pink rosettes of ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’, attractive to bees and with a strong musky scent which wafts on the summer air.

Pruning rambling roses: a quick guide

“I’ve been known to chop ramblers right down and they’ve always come back,” says Henry Robinson, holder of a National Collection of Rambler Roses.

Ramblers flower on old wood, so prune immediately after flowering.

Ramblers produce most of their growth from the base.

You can be brutal if the rose has grown into the wrong shape.

Take shoots out laterally, to break the apical dominance.

After three years or so, cut at least a third of old flowering branches back to the base.

Bend the shoots down for more flowers.

If you can, disentangle jumbled growth to allow better air circulation.

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