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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Climbing plants, Rosa, Disease-resistant plants, Organic gardening

My neighbor wants a rose, but it will be planted in an organic garden. It is a sunny warm spot (for Seattle), but I think disease resistance is a must. What is a source for disease resistant roses for our climate? Also, does growing clematis on a climbing rose limit its disease resistance?


The reason that clematis and rose make good companions has to do with the rose providing the structure the clematis needs, and the pairing allowing for interesting combinations of color and shape, rather than one providing disease resistance to the other.

Generally, the most disease-resistant roses are species roses, but there are additional choices.

This article from Oregon State University Extension lists resistant roses and their other qualities (scent, repeat bloom, color).

This article from Washington State University Extension is entitled "Disease-Resistant Roses for the Puget Sound Area."

There are several excellent books on growing roses in our area:

North Coast Roses : For the Maritime Northwest Gardener by Rhonda Massingham Hart (Seattle : Sasquatch Books, c1993)

Jackson & Perkins Beautiful Roses Made Easy : Northwestern Edition by Teri Dunn & Ciscoe Morris. (Nashville, Tenn. : Cool Springs Press, 2004)

Roses for the Pacific Northwest by Christine Allen (Vancouver : Steller Press, 1999)

Roses for Washington and Oregon by Brad Jalbert, Laura Peters (Edmonton : Lone Pine Pub., 2003)

Roses for the Inland Northwest. Washington State University Extension ; [Washington, D.C.] : U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, [2004])

This book is a comprehensive guide to combining clematis and roses: The Rose and the Clematis As Good Companions by John Howells ; photographs by the author ; flower arrangements by Ola Howells (Woodbridge : Garden Art Press, 1996)

All of these titles are available in the Miller Library.

Date 2017-05-10
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Hedera, Invasive plants, Climbing plants

My question is about ivy for growing up a brick wall. What would you recommend? How do Boston ivy and English ivy compare for this purpose? We live in New Jersey.


First of all, it is important to know that clinging plants, such as Boston ivy and English ivy have the potential to "damage old, soft mortar and strip off pebbledash". (Gardening with Climbers by Christopher Grey-Wilson and Victoria Matthews) It is also suggested that these vines have a "structurally sound surface and must be prevented from reaching under house eaves and roof tiles and into window casements." (The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary Manual of Climbers and Wall Plants edited by JK Burras and Mark Griffiths)

The New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team has a factsheet on both English ivy (Hedera helix)and Boston ivy (Parthenocissus).

In addition to taking this information into consideration, it would also be important to identify the amount of sunlight and the extent to which the side of the house will be exposed to harsh winter winds and temperatures. Neither Boston nor English ivy is recommended for full sunlight. Boston ivy will give you more fall color and interest and will withstand cold winters. (Simon & Schuster's Guide to Climbing Plants by Enrico Banfi and Francesca Consolino)

If you want to consider an alternative vining plant, you might want to install a trellis. That way you will not have to rely solely on vines which cling to the brick. You could try Clematis or some the honeysuckle species that are native to the northeastern U.S. There are several listed in this article by William Cullina, "Alternatives to invasive or potentially invasive exotic species," from the New England Wildflower Society:

  • Lonicera ciliosa (Orange Honeysuckle)
  • Lonicera dioica (Limber Honeysuckle)
  • Lonicera flava (Yellow Honeysuckle)
  • Lonicera sempervirens (Trumpet Honeysuckle)

Date 2017-01-18
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Climbing plants, Arbors, Clematis

I'm planning an arbor in my garden which will be 6' wide, 4' deep, and 6-7' high. I'd like to plant on one side Clematis 'Polish Spirit' . Can you suggest a climber that would go with the Clematis for the other side? The other climber would be in partial shade. Great Plant Picks says that Clematis, with pruning, can be managed to 12' long. How wide can it get or, a different question, would I need to plant one or two for coverage of the planned arbor? Also if you have other favorite arbor climbers and combinations of climbers I would love to know about them.


There are many choices for combining with your Clematis. Climbing roses are considered a natural companion of clematis and, depending on your color preferences, perhaps something which contrasts with the deep purple would be nice: either white or a pale pink. When you say the other side is in part shade, I wonder how many hours of sunlight it does get. Once the prospective climber reaches the top, will it be in sunlight? You could also plant a clematis of contrasting color or flowering season on that side. There are many books in our library on combining clematis with other plants, such as Companions to Clematis by Marigold Badcock (Master Craftsman, 2000), and Clematis as Companion Plants by Barry Fretwell (Cassell, 1994). There is even an entire book on clematis and roses: The Rose and Clematis as Good Companions by John Howells (Garden Art Press, 1996).

If you like roses but not thorns, you could grow a Lady Banks rose which is thornless, but you would have to keep it pruned (it wants to be 20 feet high). The Northwest-based gardening website, Paghat's Garden, describes it.

Rosa 'New Dawn' is a very popular choice in the Northwest, and is recommended by virtually every local garden writer I have come across. Here is a (non-local!) description from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Another option might be the white variety of potato vine, Solanum laxum 'Album,' though it may be a bit tender in cold winters.

Eventually your clematis will cover the width of the arbor, but Clematis viticella cultivars like yours are easy to prune (late winter/early spring) and keep to a manageable size. If you like the idea of having more than one color/plant/flowering season, it's perfectly fine to add another climber. I would avoid anything that is highly aggressive or rampant (Passiflora, Akebia, Campsis, Clematis montana, and others), as you don't want to overpower 'Polish Spirit.'

Date 2017-05-10
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Climbing plants

Growing Up: A Gardener's Guide to Climbing Plants for the Pacific Northwest by Christine Allen. (Steller Press, 2001)

Urban gardeners need to maximize every inch of their gardens and growing vertically adds another potential place for more plants. Growing up details vines to plant season by season for a year of vertical interest, plus lists the best plants to use for a particular situation, like covering a chain link fence, or for training up a tree.

Date: 2007-07-12
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August 01 2017 12:36:01