"Go forth and multiply," and wow did my Gertrude Jekyll rose get busy.
Look carefully at this image of two Gertrude Jekyll canes. The one on the right has thirteen times more flowers than the one on the left. You might wonder why and how this happened.
Well, I took the tip of an exuberant long cane and bent and tied it to a lower cane. The stress on the forced curve of the cane encouraged bud eyes to develop bloom-bearing stems. The method is called pegging or tying.
I first saw this treatment in England at Sissinghurst –– this shrub of Zephirine Drouhin, in Vita’s rose garden, is tied to 4 arcs made from branches inserted around the shrub. One of the arcs is somewhat visible in this picture –– it looks like part of the shrub. I wouldn’t have been the wiser if there hadn’t been several other specimens that weren’t fully leafed out yet. The living armatures that the gardeners created looked like globes. I couldn’t wait to get home and try it myself
GOOD PEGGING CANDIDATES
Certain David Austin roses are great contenders for pegging –– many of you know the ones –– they shoot up eight and ten-foot bloomless canes in late summer. I used to cut the gangly things down, but not any more.
It’s a challenge to photograph tying in action, because luxuriant growth usually hides the handiwork. And you want it hidden, but I happened to catch this cane on David Austin's Othello displaying its prowess. In this case, I simply tied the cane to a nearby branch. Sometimes the branch might be on another shrub altogether –– whatever works.
The fresh new growth many Heritage roses produce after blooming is fun to use for pegging. I wait until the canes have matured a little before bending. For several years, I pegged my Madame Hardy into big loops, tying the tips to the bottom of the shrub. Here (pardon the brightness of fresh mulch) you can see the first appearance of leaves. By bloom time the canes disappeared into a mound of leaves and flowers.
Ramblers, with their pliable canes, peg really well. This is a Chevy Chase that I previously would chop at the knees, because of its tight location. It became quite a showpiece with pegging. This photo is at the beginning of the bloom cycle, near the end it was a mass of red. CC climbs a fence in another area of the garden. My husband eventually dug this one up––it took 2 hours! I gave it to my friend Susan who is a florist. CC laterals are a bouquet on a stem, and hard to beat for bloom production.
As you might have figured by now, I don’t use actual pegs and I try to avoid ties. I like to spiral a thorny cane around itself or another cane. The grip of thorns is often very helpful for keeping the connection in place.
Here's an example of two canes entwined around each other into a nice curving arch.
Take a look at your rose canes and observe the possibilities. Experiment. One year I'll peg a shrub and the next year I might not. Realize that cane length can mean increased bloom production if pegged, tied, looped, or entwined.