English Climbing Rose Bushes

Written by seth silberman
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English Climbing Rose Bushes
English roses are an engineered, fragrant hybrid that continuously blooms. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Known for their alluring fragrances as well as their resilience on the vine and in vases, English climbing roses are hybrids engineered by British breeder David Austin to grow as shrubs. They match old European garden rose characteristics with modern rose habits. English roses are not an official class of rose and they are not as disease-resistant as other recent hybrids. Still, their popularity stems from their old world flair.

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Tallest Climbers

Of the 12 English shrub rose types, three can reach heights of 12 feet: the Constance Spry, Graham Thomas and Mortimer Sackler. Warmer climates will encourage the best and highest growth. The oldest of this group, bred in 1961, the Constance Spry has an average diameter of 4 inches and gives off a strong myrrh scent. It blooms once in spring or summer with large, cupped pink petals.

Introduced in 1983, the Graham Thomas boasts deep yellow petals that give off a bold tea scent and blooms in flushes throughout the season. Graham Thomas roses can open between 4.25 and 8 inches wide.

The Mortimer Sackler, the newest of these three introduced in 2002, bears small clusters of blooms that open on average 2.75 inches and can repeat later in the season. Mortimer Sacklers emit an old rose fragrance. The Mortimer Sackler is cold-hardy to USDA zone 6b; while both the Constance Spry and Graham Thomas are cold hardy to zone 5b. Zone 5b includes most of the northeastern United States, the Pacific Northwest and the southern areas of the Midwest. Zone 6b dips further south.

Medium Climbers

Three more English climbing rose bushes can reach heights of 10 feet: the Crown Princess Margareta, the Pilgrim and the Generous Gardener. Both the Crown Princess and the Pilgrim were bred in 1991. With a strong fruity fragrance, the Crown Princess Margareta sports apricot orange flowers that can open as wide as 4 inches. The Crown Princess is cold-hardy to zone 6b. It blooms throughout the season, as do Pilgrim roses, which are more cold-hardy, to zone 5b. The Pilgrim's flat, rosette blooms open as much as 3 inches and give off a combination of tea and myrrh scents.

The 2002-bred Generous Gardener bears light pink double blooms with more than 40 petals that open to 2.5 inches. Generous Gardener bushes offer a combination of myrrh and old rose fragrances. They first bloom in spring or summer, with another scattered bloom later in the season. The Generous Gardener is cold-hardy to zone 5b.

Shortest Climbers

The remaining six English climbing rose types can reach as high as 8 feet. Three of these have an old rose scent and can bloom throughout the season: the Gertrude Jekyll, Tess of the d'Urbervilles and James Galway. The oldest of these three, the 1986-bred Gertrude Jekyll's pink petals open in a quartered bloom shape, can average 4.25 inches in width and are hardy to zone 5b.

The cupped crimson blooms of 1998-bred Tess of the d'Urbervilles roses can open 3.25 inches and are also hardy to zone 5b. The newest 2000-bred James Galway roses come in clusters with dense light pink blooms that have more than 40 petals and are cold-hardy to zone 6b.

The remaining three of the shortest climbers also bloom throughout the season. The 1988-bred Teasing Georgia sports yellow apricot cup-flowered roses that open as much as 3.25 inches wide, give off a strong tea fragrance and are hardy to zone 6b. The 1993-bred St. Swithun's light pink double blooms have a bold myrrh scent, can reach 4 inches in diameter and are cold-hardy to zone 6b. The 1997-bred Shropshire Lad's 5-inch wide peachy pink double blooms have a fruity scent and are cold-hardy to zone 5b.

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