When I was a boy, I used to help my father prepare his climbing roses for the winter. We used to dig a 1-foot (30 cm) trench next to them as long as the plant was tall (often 6 feet/2 m or more), carefully detach the branches, bundle them together, then lay them in the bottom of the trench. Then we filled in the trench with soil, adding a good 6 more inches (15 cm) of soil brought in from elsewhere for extra protection. Then we covered the entire mound with a thick layer of spruce branches.
Come spring, we had to undo the whole thing and dig up the branches and attach them back on their trellis for the summer. It was a huge amount of effort, but if you wanted to grow climbing roses in zone 5 (where I lived at the time), that was the only way to go.
Fast forward to today. The frost-tender climbing roses are still around and widely sold, to boot, but there are now much hardier climbing roses, most created by crossing tender climbing varieties with extra-hardy shrub roses. The Explorer series produced by Agriculture Canada comes to mind, with tough-as-nail climbers like ‘John Cabot’ and ‘William Baffin’, but there are others. They require no winter protection whatsoever: really, zilch! Just cut back any dead branches in the spring… and there won’t be many of those!
You’d think I wouldn’t have to point out that hardy climbing roses need no winter protection, that the very term “hardy climbing rose” would say it all, but you’d be wrong. I still receive plenty of questions from gardeners wanting to know how to protect their hardy climbing roses, including people who have been putting theirs in trenches for the winter for decades and are getting a bit tired of doing so!
The point is that, no matter how cold it is where you live, even in zone 2 in some cases, you no longer need to put all that effort into protecting your climbing roses for the winter. Just plant hardy climbing roses, attach their branches to whatever support you’re using and let them grow.
Gardening can be so simple when you choose the right plants!
A Few Extra-Hardy Climbing Roses
Here are a few examples of truly hardy climbing roses that gardeners in colder climates might want to try:
- ‘Alchymist’ zone 3
- ‘Captain Samuel Hollande’ zone 2
- ‘Félix Leclerc’
- ‘Henry Kelsey’ zone 4
- ‘John Cabot’ zone 3
- ‘John Davis’ zone 3
- ‘Louis Jolliet’ zone 3
- ‘Marie-Victorin’ zone 3
- ‘New Dawn’ zone 4
- ‘Polestar’ zone 2
- ‘Quadra’ zone 3
- ‘William Baffin’ zone 2
I live and garden by Lake Superior in northernmost Wisconsin, USA. A local climbing, yellow very old rose survives beautifully with no care and I would like to identify it’s name. Probably a species. Can you recommend or help? Thank you
I just signed up for your emails once I saw that you are in Canada. I live in the Ottawa Valley and like the sound of the John Cabot Climbing Rose Do you know of a supplier? Thanks Victoria
It’s widely available You should be able to find it locally. Welcome abord! Larry
Explorer roses and Parkland roses should be easily available in reputable garden centers in Canada. Winters here in Ottawa get to -30 Celsius. My William Baffin, planted over 25 years ago, is about 7 feet high and a repeat bloomer.
New Dawn is mentioned in a number of sources as a hardy rose but I have not seen it any local nurseries. Is it actually hardy in my area?
It’s supposed to be.
Where are you located. Can I order hardy roses now advice
I live in oshawa ontario
I don’t sell plants. Only write about them.
Velvet, try looking up the roses that The Laidback put up here on “Help Me Find” website – if you are willing to buy online.
I notice New Dawn is one of the roses listed above – just died sadly under my protection in a cold greenhouse – is it possible we’re talking about another “New Dawn?
I’m gonna try the root cellar method this winter I think…. I guess I’m not that laid back yet. I want to experience some specific roses like Little White Pet and Souvenir du docteur Jemain. Will try keeping in pots, waiting and helping with dormancy and putting away in the root cellar til…May?
I live in south central Oregon 4200 ft elevation, zone 5, east side of Cascade range, and can grow many roses easily-climbers: Henry Kelsey, John Cabot, William Baffin, Seagull as well as many shrub roses. I have not been able to grow White Dawn. I grew in a pot for a year or two, a tiny band from High Country Roses. I planted it in a sheltered spot, sun for most of the day and it never grew well and finally died. I have a New Dawn which has not done well and has significant winter dieback. I am about to move it to a more sheltered spot where it will get good morning sun and some late afternoon sun to see if it does better but I’m not going to hold my breath.
You can only try! Gardening is experimenting, after all!
Where do I buy winter hardy roses? I live in northern Montana and none of the roses I’ve planted up here have survived the winter.
is there any place in or near Montana that sells truly hardy roses? I bought some that purported to be hardy, they didn”t last at all!
There must be, but I’m not aware of one.
i am in zone 3 North Dakota… will the John Cabot grow here?
Yes. At worse, there may be some dieback in really bad winters, but if you cut it back, it will regenerate.
Hello everyone. I live in Kiev, this is zone 5. I bought John Cabot because of its winter hardiness, but we sometimes have little snow and frosty (-20-25 Celsius) winters, do I need to cover it for the winter in order to preserve the branches? Thanks for the advice.
Hi Irina, There’ll be no problem. It grows in a wide range of conditions here in Canada, even on our Prairies (zone 3), much colder than the Ukraine and often with little snow cover.
Yes. I’m in central ND and there is a John Cabot and a William Baffin rose planted on our property from a previous owner. They’re doing fine. 🙂
Now lost as no one left to sell. Can you say where I can buy Canadian range of hardy roses now as Im in north Europe
I saw some of the Explorer roses in Germany at the Europa-Rosarium in Sangerhausen, Germany, a number of years ago: a huge public rose garden. Maybe you could contact them and get their suggestions. They’re probably Europe’s greatest rose experts.
I even found a man in Latvia who grows and sells full range of Canadian Explorer roses. I will say John Cabot rose laughs at -32 cel winters and blooms so well each summer that people are amazed.
True enough: its hardiness is legendary!
Nice info on hardy climbing roses! I wish I knew where to find them for sale!
Fraser Valley roses has some,also Cornhill nurseries,if you are in the Usa,there are lots more nurseries Rogue Valley etc just google hardy roses
Pingback: Winter Protection for Tender Roses – Laidback Gardener