Climbing To New Heights

Many exciting developments in the Garden In A City since returning from San Francisco, hard to know which to write about first. Perhaps the most dramatic involves plants that climb and ramble: My Clematis ‘Jackmanii’, Illinois Rose (Rosa setigera), and Rosa ‘Darlow’s Enigma’. (Alberto – no snide comments, please.)

Clematis 'Jackmanii'
Clematis ‘Jackmanii’

First, Clematis ‘Jackmanii’. I realize there are many other Clematis species and varieties out there that are more uncommon and perhaps more interesting. But still, this is a beautiful plant when it is happy. And ours, planted six or seven years ago, is pretty happy.

In fact, I just had to tie the trellis to the iron railing because the Clematis is threatening to pull the whole thing down. Without the Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) that used to grow in front of it, the Clematis has now covered the whole west-facing wall against which it is planted, and is expressing some interest in taking over the iron railing as well.

2013-07-04 12.02.08
Note the artistically arranged hose at the base.

This Clematis does get plenty of afternoon sun, which is intensified by the white brick wall. The roots are shaded by a Vinca ground cover. I do give it extra helpings of compost and extra drinks of water, which is easy as it is located right next to the outdoor faucet. Otherwise, it gets no special treatment.

Prairie Rose seen from the roof of the back porch
Prairie Rose seen from the roof of the back porch

I planted Illinois Rose (Rosa setigera – also called Praire Rose) three years ago in a southwest facing corner. It is mingling nicely with a Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). Illinois Rose is a native wild rose that will climb, and ours has climbed the water spout almost to the roof of our back porch.

Illinois Rose
Illinois Rose from ground level.

This is the first year our Illinois Rose is flowering freely. The show has just begun, as there are many unopened buds. But I can already see how the flowers open a dark pink, then fade almost to white. This gives the plant a multi-colored effect.

Illinois Rose
Illinois Rose, again from above.

Illinois Rose is a very vigorous plant, and I have read plenty of warnings that it will demand a lot of space. However, I always take such warnings as a challenge to be overcome. So go ahead, Illinois Rose, make my day.

‘Darlow’s Enigma’ is considered a rambling rose. I have no idea what the difference is between a rambler and a climber, but then I also don’t really care. What I do care about is that ‘Darlow’s Enigma’ is filling in nicely on its side of the arbor near the entrance to the back garden.

Darlow's Enigma
‘Darlow’s Enigma’

‘Darlow’s Enigma’ has sprays of small semi-double white flowers. It is a robust plant. It hasn’t shown any sign of disease and I haven’t sprayed it. Unlike most roses, it is tolerant of some shade.

'Darlow's Enigma' blooming on our arbor, seen from the back porch roof.
‘Darlow’s Enigma’ blooming on our arbor, seen from the back porch roof.

The flowers are fragrant, and you can smell their sweet scent as you walk under the arbor.

Do you have ramblers or climbers in your garden?

44 Comments on “Climbing To New Heights

  1. I would say that clematis is very happy. To think I get excited about 3 or 4 flowers open simultaneously on my clematis. Maybe I’ll print out a photo of your clematis and hang it on the fence by mine as an example of what it should aspire to!

  2. It really is amazing what a week away does to the garden. I too came back to crazy garden growth spurts, blooms and weeds. I too have many vines but they were not the ones making the show. Even a few weeds bloomed!

  3. Oh truly beautiful…love purple, and I love clemies. Mine are just little babies so far, maybe in the next few years….


  4. Just beautiful! Your climbers are amazing!!! And that happy clematis took my breath away! I hope that you and your family are having a wonderful 4th!!!

  5. the ramblers or climbers are all weed or vegetables :-). Any of the mentioned rose or clematis smell really well? I am looking for some.

  6. Everything looks so gorgeous in your garden! I love ‘Jackmanii’ clematis as well – plus, they’re one of most suitable varieties for our cold climate. This year I finally planted one…we’ll see how it does. I have two crazy Engleman ivies that I prune severely every year to keep down to a dull roar. They’re at least twenty years old and I love the way they fill the space, as well as their autumn foliage. Happy 4th of July!

  7. Hi Jason! The Jackmanii is a classic! I love clematis and have a Mrs C (need to recall how to spell the rest of it!) outside my front door plus on a recent trip to sissinghurst (which was fab & I’ll tell you about ASAP) my cousin bought me 2 really cool climbers, need to get the spelling of those right too! I also have jasmine and a potato plant relative. I love climbers! Do runner beans count too?!

  8. Hi Jason!
    Climber roses are normally supposed to repeat flowering and they have a more rigid habit, ramblers are once-flowering and with a more vigorous but lax habit. The latter usually set flowers in ‘old wood’, it means no hard pruning in winter.
    Clematis Jackmanii is always a good classic that never tires me, indeed, and it looks just perfect against that white wall.
    I gathered some information about rosa setigera and it seems to be the only dioecious rose existing and you don’t even know if you picked a male or a female because flowers look alike but males seem to produce more roses while only females produce, obviously, hips (you may need a male around though). Never heard of dioecious roses before.
    But that Darlow’s Enigma looks very similar to a rose of mine… I don’t recall its name though…

    • Thanks for the info, Alberto. Now I’m not sure DE really is a rambler, though that is what the catalog said. DE blooms through the season starting in June, though later blooms are more sporadic. Also I don’t think it blooms on old wood.

  9. One of the best things about going away is coming back to the garden and seeing it with fresh eyes. I have a transplanted jasmin which desperately needs some trellis as it has taken to its new home and is growing very well so thats my job this weekend.

    I love the colour of your clematis

  10. Your clematis is very impressive! I have several as well and one that I got for .50 cents on the clearance rack last year is performing the best (go figure). It is on its second set of blooms, probably as a result of all the rain we’ve had.

  11. I like clematis because they don’t require a lot of fussing-I usually plant them and forget them and let them thrive on neglect, which they do nicely.Yours is doing very well.

    • I think in the Midwest they are thought of as needing more attention, though I haven’t done much special for mine.

  12. Though it’s flowers are relatively small, Darlow’s Enigma is also highly fragrant, which is lucky for me since it is one of only two roses I can grow in my shady garden. The other is Apple Jack, which smells like apples and cloves. Both roses are shade and heat tolerant, and very disease resistant.

    I adore your Jackmanii. Good photos from the roof! Be careful:^)

  13. It’s easy to see why ‘Jackmanii’ is such a common clematis–all those blooms are gorgeous! Hope you enjoyed your trip to San Francisco; looks like your garden is very happy in spite of your absence.

  14. ramblers can grow 20 feet or more and ramble up a tree and they bloom on old wood, so if your tops die you get no flowers they flower once, while climbers are really just shrubs with long canes, and were produced either by cross breeding large flowered roses with shrubs with long canes (sometimes climbers are grafts on multiflora rose (also called wild rose) using hybrid teas or sports of said roses, my new dawn was a sport off a white rose rose shrub, forgot how to spell the name something van der cna’t remember, anyway I would love a rambler that the tops survive i wanted to try a few I read about forgot the names but the flowers are purplish red flowers, I really love lady banks rambler but it won’t survive in my zone 5/6 that climatis is really big, prarie rose is that the real name of it then? because I like it.

    • I don’t think DE does bloom on old wood, as I told Alberto. Haven’t had a problem with die back either, seems pretty hardy.

  15. Your climbers are gorgeous. I have a friend who has a rampant Darlow’s Enigma which makes me very jealous. You are the only person I know, besides me, who has a rosa setigira. Mine will start blooming soon. It does not climb in my garden. The nursery told me lots of people just let them grow in a clump. I haven’t gotten to that point either.

    • I’ve seen an older DE at the Chicago Botanic Garden and it is indeed rampant. What can I say, I have a fatal attraction for huge, uncontrollable plants. Don’t you love R. setigera’s multi-color effect?

  16. Hi Jason, the clematis looks amazing, completely covered in flowers! With such a small garden, I’m a great fan of climbers and have them growing over walls, the house, fencing, arches, obelisks, and other plants!

  17. There’s a reason Jackmanii is “overused” – it’s fabulous. Besides, most of those big blue clematis look exactly the same, so you might as well plant one that does really well!

    • Good point. I keep having to remind myself that just because a plant is commonly used does not mean that it does not provide high value to the garden.

    • I checked out your blog post – makes me eager to see my Illinois rose more fully mature. As I say, this is the first year it has put on much of a show.

  18. My climbing roses and clematis are quite happy this year…I have a Jackmanii growing through my red twig dogwood and another “might be Jackmanii’ is covering the mailbox and draping like a painting…yours is lovely….my native rose is looking healthy but has not flowered.

  19. Wow! Those Clematis[s?] aren’t happy, they’re ecstatic! I’m with Jean; mine make me smile if I get 3-4 blooms. But maybe one day mine while drink the same potion yours did. Or maybe they need your touch.

    • I wish I could claim some special technique but I have done very little for this Clematis. My sense is that the real key to this plant’s happiness is: location, location, location!

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