My friend Cath has an ‘Albertine’ rose which is beginning to trouble her. She doesn’t often ask my advice on gardening matters, but, like many climbers and ramblers this season, it is starting to present a problem.
‘Albertine’ is one of the most beautiful of all ramblers. It was bred by Barbier in 1921, and as a rambler, it is perhaps one of the most beautiful and uncomplicated varieties for just about every situation.
The semi-double flowers open quite early, in June, starting coppery red, fading to a pale salmon and the delicious perfume fills the air for weeks on end.
If there are any drawbacks, the main one is that it is a rampant grower, often reaching 20ft or more, and in bad years mildew can be a problem – one that just has to be lived with as the size of the plant makes it just about impossible to spray. Sadly, there is only one flush of flowers, but the display it gives at the time is more than worth it.
Cath’s problem is one often encountered when growing rampant ramblers and climbers – what to do when the flowers have faded. The temptation is to leave well alone, as the reddish new foliage is almost as attractive as the flowers. However, to do nothing would swamp the garden in no time, so my advice would be to start by removing all flowered shoots right down to the ground.
This will encourage brand new branches from the base. Any new shoots near the ground could then be trained into whatever support she is using, and those further up should be pruned down to a bud about 2ft from ground level. This will ensure a good display of flowers next year.
Even as late in the year as this, the rose may produce more long, strong, whippy growths. The best way of dealing with them is to weave them in and out of the trellis or whatever support she is using, or loop them over on themselves – this will keep the bush neat and help to encourage even more flowers next June.