As I worked, I realized that what I was doing could make a very helpful post for the blog. Keep in mind, this is much easier to show you in person, but I will do the best I can with photos and diagrams.
My victim for this little lesson is Zephirine Drouhin, a very popular climbing Bourbon rose.
This is what Zephirine Drouhin looked like before I did anything to her.
It's hard to see in this harsh sunlight, but there are WAY too many canes in here and they're going every which way. Here's a marked-up version of the above photo to show you what a mess I had on my hands.
When pruning climbers, the object is to remove canes that are dead, old and bloomed out, or cannot logically be encouraged to attach to your support structure ... in my case, this arch. I always start at the bottom of the rose, cutting out anything that is dead or damaged.
My next step is to assess each cane and remove the older ones. Zephirine Drouhin tends to produce plenty of new canes every year, and she can quickly become a haystack. I cut them off right at the base. By removing canes that are 3-or-more years old, you keep her young and flexible, and she produces more flowers. After all, the object of all of this is to create a lovely display of flowers.
You can see in this photo that I have removed quite a few canes.
At this point, I step back and assess where I am in the process, and where I need to go. There are still WAY too many canes here for what I want to accomplish, so I remove a few more ... concentrating on keeping the canes that are younger and will attach easily to the arch. There's no point in keeping a lovely young cane that I can't get onto my structure.
I think I'm ready to begin to tie Ms. Zeffy to her arch now.
It is important to note that I haven't shortened any of the remaining main canes. I want them to be as long as possible to cover this arch. What I have done, to control the girth of the rose and to encourage better blooming, is to shorten the little lateral canes that branch off of the main canes ... in this case, I trimmed each lateral to about 6 inches or less. You can see how this (sort of) in this 'enhanced' version of the photo.
All that's left to do at this point is to take each cane and attach it to the structure. Here is my finished product.
I took more off of this rose this year than I normally would. Many of my climbers are incredibly overgrown, and I want to have a nice, orderly starting point for (hopefully) easier maintenance in the years to come. I also want garden visitors, and wedding guests, to be able to easily walk underneath the arches ... without having to dodge wayward, aggressive, thorny rose canes.
In a few weeks, we shall see if I succeeded.