Rose Cuttings – June, 2011

‘Mermaid’ is a super-vigorous, thorny rose, suited to climbing in wild places and on large structures. Photos courtesy of Mike Shoup.

The Character of a Rose

To choose two examples, ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Sombreuil’ are often listed in the literature as “climbers,” but, unfortunately, this broad terminology for garden use is not adequate to portray how best to use the two. For example, ‘Mermaid’ is extremely vigorous with vicious thorns. She is well adapted for naturalizing into “wild” areas, or covering up unsightly fences or structures. ‘Mermaid’ is not a good choice to use on a trellis or at an entryway, as she would most likely grab passersby with her hooks. To characterize her, one would use words like invasive, massive or even mean. The pretty “fried egg”-like flowers that she bears are to be viewed from afar, because the enormous character of the plant itself is so imposing.

‘Sombreuil’ is well-behaved and easily trained on fences and trellises.

‘Sombreuil,’ on the other hand, is mannerly in her size. She is best used on a trellis or entryway where the fragrant, perfectly shaped flowers may be enjoyed by all those who pass. Training her 6- to 8-foot canes is easily achieved so as to enhance the beauty of the supporting structure. Words like romantic, dramatic and controlled are better words to describe ‘Somberuil’. So both ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Sombreuil’, even though listed as climbers, have very different personalities and character.

This variability can be applied to almost all garden roses. When choosing roses, sometimes it is not enough to know if they are shrubs or climbers. They each have character and personality, and that will show the gardener how best each should be utilized.

About the author: Mike Shoup is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium. Visit his company’s Brenham and San Antonio display gardens for endless ideas on landscaping with roses. To order roses online, visit

Posted by Neil Sperry
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