A Gardening Journal

New Dawn rose

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Cold weather: The time for ruthless rose pruning.  Without the foliage to block your view, you can see what to cut—and enjoy the stubs you create in doing just that.  These stubs are of 'New Dawn', a rose that is particularly needful of stubbing.  

 

Do it each year, almost any time the weather is cold and the bush is leafless.  If not, your bush could look as scary as mine does below.  I "forgot" to attend to the bush the Winter before, and 'New Dawn' grows so quickly that forgoing even one year's pruning can make the project just about overwhelming.  

 

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'New Dawn' sends up cane after cane right from the base.  Tying them to a frame, as I have done, at least keeps them out of the way of the rest of the bed.  The thorns on 'New Dawn' canes are particularly painful, and new canes can grow ten feet a season. 

 

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It was time to catch up, to do a thorough pruning.  'New Dawn' wants and welcomes your most unstinting intervention.  Your motto should be, "When it doubt, lop it off."  

 

Are there twenty canes in the picture below?  Thirty?  Far too many for the growth of each to enjoy the full sun it will need to flower well.

 

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And so I followed my own advice.  I lopped and then I lopped some more.  An hour later, the 'New Dawn' had a a third as many canes.

 

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And all of them had had all their side branches pruned back to stubs.  

 

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As I tied the canes back to the frame, I fanned them widely.  The flowers will arise at the tips of the new growth that springs directly from each of these canes as well as from each of their stubs.

 

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When this 'New Dawn' is in full flower next June, it will be a wall of color—its best display ever.

 

 

Here's how to grow this remarkable rose:


Latin Name

Rosa 'New Dawn'

Common Name

'New Dawn' rose

Family

Rosaceae, the Rose family.

What kind of plant is it?

Climbing shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 5 - 9

Habit

Large-scale, sprawling unless trained, very thorny.

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

To fifteen feet wide and ten feet tall if growing untrained.  To twice that or more when tied to large enough support.

Texture

Generic rose foliage on strong thick canes; depending on how the bush is trained, it can be a massive disorderly haystack, an expansive orderly espalier against a large wall or fence, or the high and wide canopy for a pergola.  This is a rose with definite architectural possibilities.

Grown for

its vigor:  'New Dawn' is just about the easiest and most vigorous of the hardy (Zone 5) climbing roses.  If you've never grown a climbing rose before, start with 'New Dawn'.

 

its ease of handling.  Although 'New Dawn' is rambunctious and fiercely thorny, the canes themselves are flexible, at least when young.  And the bush is flexible overall in terms of training options.  See "How to handle it" below.  You can train 'New Dawn' as obsessively as you want, or just let it explode into an impenetrable haystack.  As long as it gets plenty of sun, it will still bloom.

 

its flowers.  Sprays of semi-double shell-pink flowers that, depending on the size of the bush and how you've pruned it (see "How to handle it" below), seem to number in the thousands.

 

its architectural possibilities:  'New Dawn' canes get much longer when they're supported, so 'New Dawn' is an excellent possibility for training over an arch, onto a tall and broad wall, out along a twenty- or even thirty-foot stretch of fence, or up onto a pergola.

Flowering season

Early Summer: Late June in Rhode Island.  'New Dawn' blooms earlier if it's unpruned; later flowering is always better with once-blooming roses, and serious pruning encourages that.  See "How to handle it" below.  I hear that 'New Dawn' will "recur"—bloom later than this initial big show—but in my experience this is sporadic at best, much in the way that wisteria will occasionally produce a stray flower cluster or two in August.  No one who says the bush is even modestly recurrent ever seems to have such a 'New Dawn' themselves.  Possibly in a milder climate?  Here in New England, 'New Dawn' is really just once-blooming.  Fabulous, but only once.

Color Combinations

'New Dawn' is pink and there's no denying it.  And the bush is—or should be—absolutely huge and flaunting many hundreds of flowers when in bloom.  Plus, it's often used in big as well as prominent architectural locations—see "Where to use it" below—so all that pink is going to be prominent, indeed.  If you're not to have an indigestible mash-up of colors in your garden in June, then, you'll need to consider what other hues are likely to be visible in the same breath, so to speak.  White, blue, burgundy, silver, and green are the choices; it would be scary, indeed, to be able to see orange or red or sulphur yellow, even peripherally.

Partner Plants

The floral display is as magnificent as it is transient.  In early Spring, it's only a promise; by mid-Summer, it's just a memory.  There are two quite different strategies for partner plants, then. 

 

The first is to consider plants that will partner with the 'New Dawn' when it's in bloom.  These tend to everything the man-in-the-street thinks of as being iconic in English gardens:  Foxgloves, delphiniums, more roses, clematis.  But, like 'New Dawn' itself, they also tend to fall apart after that big June show.  Bully for you if you've planted your 'New Dawn' in a June garden, but the rest of us will need to be looking at the 'New Dawn' before it's in bloom as well as after.  The wiser strategy, then, is to worry about plants that peak with 'New Dawn' only to assure that they don't clash, and to focus instead on plants that will peak before and after 'New Dawn'.  

 

It's a big bush in or out of bloom:  A lot to enjoy in flower, but a lot then to finesse before and after.  I've espaliered my 'New Dawn' roses on tall frames at the back of each of the pink borders.  The plants in front grow tall as well as bulky by mid-July, hiding the 'New Dawn' for the rest of the season. 

 

A third path between letting the bush be a solitary star when it's in bloom and then hiding the bush when it's not, would be to use 'New Dawn' as a scaffold for a flowering vine or two that peak later in the Summer.  As long as the vines aren't so vigorous that they shade the 'New Dawn', this is plausible.  But keep in mind that the 'New Dawn' will still need its big annual going-over sometime during the off-season, and the vine will only add to the tangle to be reorganized.  Yes, annual vines could be ripped out at the ground, but would still need to be yanked out of the canes themselves so you can think through which cane needs to be tackled next.  You don't rework a 'New Dawn' by cutting all the canes off at once.  Perennial vines would need to be those that can be cut off low to the ground—Group C clematis, say—but still present the same added hassle of extraction from the canes.  All in all, growing vines through 'New Dawn' roses makes a labor-intensive bush all the more so. 

 

Me, shy away from the higher-maintenance option?  If I can locate a source, I'm adding Clematis viticella 'Margot Koster' to my north-most 'New Dawn'.  I'm already testing a variegated Akebia quinata 'Konin Nishiki' with the south ones.  Yipes.

Where to use it in your garden

Because 'New Dawn' needs to be trained onto something, it becomes a structural and often focal element in the garden.  Train it atop an arch that spans a pathway—or a really high arch that spans a driveway.  Train it against a fence, the higher and wider the better.  Train it up really high pillars.  Or train it up only medium-high pillars so its canes can "swan dive" from the top to make a weeping standard; see "How to handle it: Another option" below.  No matter how to handle it, when 'New Dawn' is in bloom it will be powerfully prominent.  So site it where you truly want your gaze to be drawn.

Culture

Regular to rich soil, regular water, full sun, good Winter drainage.

How to handle it: The Basics

'New Dawn' is too big a shrub to grow free-standing: It would take up much of a normal-sized garden, making it impassable as well as staggeringly colorful, at least for a few weeks in late Spring.  Plant this rose with a structure on which to train it already in mind, even at hand. 

 

The canes can grow into trunk-like permanence.  New canes arise right from the base, shooting to ten feet and more in a single season.  Old canes continue to grow, too, sending out long side shoots.

 

'New Dawn' blooms only on the new side growth—the "laterals"—that sprout up and down the long canes that grew last Summer.  You'll need to keep some of those long canes as the bush's permanent skeleton.  But the rest of last year's growth is only of value this year if you need those canes' extra length (and the new growth they'll make this year) to continue expanding the rose's coverage atop a pergola, or farther out on a wall.  

 

Here's the yearly calendar of handling those new canes:  After the single glorious Spring show, 'New Dawn' takes the rest of the Summer to put out loads of long unbranched canes, both afresh, from the base, and from high up, off of canes formed in previous years.  They slow down or even stop growing if their tips dip below horizontal, so if you need to expand 'New Dawn' coverage, let them grow up and out until frost stops their growth in the Fall.  Then tie them to your structure or cut them off as needed.  If you're so lucky as to have a 'New Dawn' that's absolutely as large as you could ever want, though, feel free to prune off the quickly-growing new canes almost anytime in the Summer.  

 

Fall is a great time for any kind of work on training 'New Dawn'.  I look forward to an all-day session of untying the whole bush, even the huge trunky canes.  Don't try this on a windy day:  With all the leverage that their sub-canes and lengthy growth creates, the trunky canes are somewhat brittle.  Speaking from experience, it's trying indeed to have one snap off at the base because it was a gusty day.  But on a calm Fall morning, giving 'New Dawn' a day of beauty can help freshen up both of you.  As you untie a given trunk and its branches, prune off almost anything that doesn't help even out as well as expand the bush's overall coverage.  Canes that were a thicket of branches will have become skeletons, now with only a few "important" lengths and branches to get tied back onto the structure, which, in my case, is a vertical frame of galvanized pipes and horizontal wires. 

 

If the thought of pruning for a few hours on just one bush makes your eyes cross, 'New Dawn' isn't the rose for you.

 

Especially because of its brief-but-explosive flowering season, a great portion of the display of a 'New Dawn'—as well as reward for you the gardener—is that it can be trained so impressively onto almost any large, heavy-duty, and long-lasting structure.  A well-trained rose is exciting and even moving, and not just in bloom.  All Winter long, the many (and in the case of 'New Dawn', massive) canes, so obsessively pruned and tied, really show that you've got energy, resources, and commitment.  'New Dawn' is the rose for gardeners who enjoy the long view, and think of gardening as an active partnership with their garden's plants, not just a passive forum for viewing them. 

 

Because 'New Dawn' can grow to huge size, it's probably not realistic to think of this as a rose that could be protected from the Winter.  Modest Winter die-back of the smallest new canes, though, is just fine: those were the little canes you were supposed to have pruned off the Fall before anyway.  But the main canes need to be fully hardy to get through the Winter and then sprout all kinds of flowering growth next May and June.

 

Happily, 'New Dawn' is as healthy as it is vigorous.  Bushes are typically untroubled by pests or diseases, although some people report a bit of black spot.

How to handle it: Another option—or two? 

Traditional rose standards are formed by grafting a bush that will produce the flowering portion onto a trunk of some other rose that grows thickly enough to produce a "trunk" that is, itself, grafted to the root-stock.  Either because the grafts themselves don't survive Winters colder than Zone 7, or because whatever's used for the trunk isn't hardy colder than Zone 7, rose standards are rarely used in Zone 6 and colder. 


Unless, however, you can grow a hardy rose bush into a standard instead of forming it by grafting.  'New Dawn' is very hardy, blooms only on new growth, and produces thick and "trunky" canes that can remain productive for many years.  So it's one of the few roses that you could train into a standard that's completely ungrafted top to bottom: A standard that's "own-trunk" not just own-root. 

 

In Spring, select whichever of an established bush's stems that can most conveniently staked to vertical, and prune off all the rest as low to the ground as you can.  Rose standards need to be staked for the life of the plant, so choose a stake that's long-lasting; I recommend a length of half-inch rebar.  When the vertical cane has grown as tall as you'd like—I recommend to six feet—pinch the tip to encourage side growth.  Let the bush grow for the rest of the season.  After the side growth has flowered next June, cut those canes back to two inches each.  In July, cut the resultant growth back by half, too.  If any of the newest sprouts produced after the July pruning become Winter-killed, so much the better: Their stubs will branch out even more by Spring.  After flowering has finished in June, start the cycle over again.

 

All the while, be ruthless about cutting off new shoots that spring from the base of the bush anytime they appear.

Downsides

'New Dawn' is as vigorous as it is brutally thorny.  Despite the pricks, ripped shirt-sleeves, and even blood loss every year, you need to remain committed to your bush's annual pruning and tying, let alone wrestling the lengthy prunings through your garden and onto the brush pile.  Come to think of it, better to cut the prunings down to yard-long lengths as you gather them up.  Then they'll be less likely to snag plants along the way. 

Variants

'White Dawn' is a descendant of 'New Dawn', and it has similar enthusiasm and scale.  'Dr. Van Fleet' is a parent of 'New Dawn' and is, if anything, even bigger and more vigorous.  It's absolutely once-blooming—but, then again, despite the literature, almost no one I know finds that 'New Dawn' reblooms, either.

Availability

On-line.  Be sure to buy only "own-root" roses, not grafted ones—and especially in the case of 'New Dawn', where you will have occasional or even regular need of the bush's ability to send up new "trunk" canes from the very base.  On a grafted rose, those canes would most likely be from the root-stock, so wouldn't be the real 'New Dawn' at all. 

 

Happily, there are many on-line sources for own-root roses.  I'm not aware of a retail nursery—even a "destination" one—that sells own-root roses.  This isn't a surprise.  Own-roots are so much smaller at the time of purchase than grafted roses, usually too small to be in bloom.  So they don't have near the "curb appeal" of grafted ones, which look like an actual bush even in the pot—and, often, one that's already in bloom.  Resist!  Buy only own-root roses.

Propagation

By cuttings.

Native habitat

'New Dawn' originated in the United States; it was introduced in 1930. 

 
 
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