ISSUE 76  |  American Beauty

DIY: Braided Rose Pillars

June 12, 2013 5:00 PM

BY Michelle Slatalla

The best way to get to know a rose is eye to eye, and this is perhaps the reason that England’s great gardener Gertrude Jekyll trained roses to grow up and around pillars. If you keep them pruned and train their canes to wind around a pole, you can coax a profusion of blooms at eye level (hint: choose a thornless variety):

In England, where pillar roses are common, the walled rose garden at Mottisfont Abbey is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of fragrant old roses. You can recreate the look in a home garden by training a climbing rose or a rambler around a pillar. Here’s how.

Above: A pillar rose at Mottisfont. Photograph via Mama UK.

Perhaps you have noticed that a rose trained to grow up and over an arbor doesn’t produce blooms along the length of the vertical canes. Instead, the flowers cluster at the top, above your head. But if you train a cane to grow horizontally, it will produce blooms all along its length.

The easiest way to pillar a rose is to start with a young plant and to train it around the base of a pillar or pole that’s secure in the ground.


Above: Photograph via Wikipedia.

Choose a climber or rambler that is thornless. ‘Madame Plantier,’ for instance, can be grown either as a shrub or a climber that will reach heights of 15 feet; from $16.95 to $32.95 depending on size from Rogue Valley Roses.

Above: Photograph via Mama UK.

Above: To train the rose, identify both the main canes–which are long and originate at the base of the plant–and the lateral canes, which come off the sides of main canes. Main canes are the ones you will braid by wrapping them in both directions around the pillar and tucking them under each other as they grow. 

Lateral canes are the ones that bear flowers; they flop around and give a rose its wild and shaggy look. These are the ones to cut back. As the rose grows, prune lateral canes to within a few inches of the main canes to force laterals to produce blooms all along the length of the main cane.

Above: Braided pillar roses at Mottisfont. Photograph by Tere Sue Gidlof.

Once you get started, training plants can be addictive. If you have some unruly wisteria you’d like to get under control, see DIY: Train a Wisteria Vine Not to Eat the House.