‘Climbing Cecile Brunner’ must be the most popular climbing rose in California. In the Bay Area, where I live, it definitely is. Our local Trader Joe's sports five new climbers on its east wall; Lafayette’s city square must have 25 or more planted on a series of pergolas; huge mounds of CB decorate our freeways. If you look over the fence in many a home garden, you might find it trained into submission, or it could be devouring garages and garden sheds.
I wonder how many people who plant the climber know what a ferocious grower this innocent looking rose is?
Of course, I had to have my own 'Climbing Cecile Brunner', what self-respecting brand new rose lover wouldn’t want a gorgeous arch blooming with these tiny charmers? I mail-ordered two climbers and a metal arch. I wanted a romantic entrance to a parterre, which led to a bench in our back garden.
Here’s the arch in 1990, its first year, the lawn isn’t even in yet, but the roses met at the top, and they were only bands to begin with.
Two years later, the arch became my photo muse. This is how it appears in my first book The Poetry of Roses. By 1995, the arch had buckled and was propped up with 2x4’s.
In 1997 the whole thing toppled into the parterre. Plonk! A wire connected to a massive silver maple, thirty-feet away, held the arch back in place until we could build a more sturdy structure.
Here’s the brand new 8-foot high pergola built with 4x4’s cemented into the ground. I had to prune the roses substantially and was worried that they wouldn’t bulk back up. Pegging came to the rescue. I grabbed the tips of long new canes and looped and tied them to each other. Next season the roses were back in business.
'Climbing Cecile Brunner' will always be my photo muse along with all the other roses in my garden that get to display themselves on structures. This one remains kind of special though because it’s not connected to a fence. Standing free, the structure and the rose become a focal point, a destination, and a backdrop. The arch makes a unique and impressive statement on all four points of the compass.
The photo above shows the northern exposure in early morning. My daughter Anna gave me the bird bath in the parterre’s center. Its design is a bit more feminine than I would choose now, but it really goes with the rose.
Symmetry thrills me. I learned about the concept of designing with an axis reading gardening books. This picture gives an idea of my own little axis. In this early morning shot, which faces east, you can see that the birdbath is the center of the axis. Behind me (the photographer) there is a gate to the side garden. The arch you see in the distance is actually a set of three arches forming a tunnel of clematis (they’re not in bloom yet). The bench (which is to the left and out of the picture), and its view through 'Cecile Brunner' to the rest of the garden, forms the axial cross.
For a different take, here’s a picture of my neighbor’s CB. It’s just a stone’s throw from mine, and nice to see another use for a big climber.
‘Climbing Cecile Brunner’ is pretty much a once bloomer and it has serious sharp thorns. Did you know that it’s actually a sport of a much smaller shrub? The shrub form even reblooms, and does not grow out of control. Take your pick.
If you’d like a fresh, signed copy of my first book, The Poetry of Roses, send me an email. It’s $25.00, plus shipping. The book, published in 1995, is out of print now. It's embarassing, but I should let you know that copies are available on the internet for as little as .89. I took all the photos in the book in our house and garden, and culled poetry from the world – most every poet has written about roses.
And One More Thing
'Climbing Cecile Brunner' is the C in my rose alphabet featured in my other book R is for Rose.