Pruning ROSES for bower...
Over the years I have neglected my 4 Mme Alfred Carrières, which were planted around this bower about four years ago. I now have plenty of roses at the top, but nothing to speak of across the back. Should I take drastic action in the autumn and cut it all back to say 4 or 5 foot...? Am attaching pic (as I know I love to see pics!), but it is not too clear, because of the hedge behind.
I'm amazed you got 4 of those roses on that bower.. just one would do I think.... but you should be able to train canes around the bower, as this rose produces flexible canes that can be trained... I'm surprised actually that it isn't totally covered in roses at this stage Janie..
I would have thought you would have plenty of cane to work with from those roses, to train around the bower, covering it completely... without the need to cut any back off the top... I would be reluctant to remove what you've already got along the top there.. the rose at the back of the bower could be used to train intertwined between the framework more... I might prune that one back and allow new shoots to develop which I would then train between the diagonals...
you answered your own question I think! The roses will flower on new growth; being climbers, that will be at the top each year. They will never flower from old wood unless you cut away the growing leader. Then new growth will be forced from the stems.
Be firm and cut all growth down to (your) knee level. Wait a year while you train the new growth back up the arbour. BUT don't have all the long leaders going to the top. Aim to train for a structure like an espalier fruit tree - one leader to the top; then the rest to the left and right - HORIZONTALLY around the metalwork. Think fruit trees, think grape vines. The plant wants to grow up and fruit at the top. I know we want the flowers, but its aim in life is to produce rose hips. We want it to fruit all along the growing stem and the way to do this is to train branches horizontally - 'breaks' of new growth will appear along the length, trying to go vertically again. Nip any new growth which is going in a direction you don't want, in the bud.
The other advice I got from Simon White at Peter Beales Roses (Attleborough) which is feed, feed, feed. Just because it is growing on the ground it doesn't mean to say that the rose is getting all the nutrients it needs. Without regular feeding, they become stressed and more prone to black spot etc. I tried this last year and guess what - he was correct (of course, he's an expert!)
You HAVE to prune every year. The bower you want is in your imagination! In reality there is much hard work, training, pruning going into those perfect landscapes - see Monty Don in Japan.
good luck. Post us a photo of the 'new' arbour.
... With climbing roses like these, you prune the laterals hard back to 2 buds, but you leave the main framework, unless it's outgrown its support structure... if you don't prune the laterals back hard then it will become a complete mess... of course a very old thick cane can be cut out at the base [near ground level] in time..
...some angular training of the canes is best if possible, but it's not a rambler - not as flexible - so one needs to take more care.. and there's only so much you can do on a support like that..
I would find it difficult to cope with 3 of these roses.. it's also a tree climber and will flower as and when it's ready to do so, not always when the gardener expects...
..as for feeding.. people put a lot of faith in experts, who tend to give generic advice such as you have here... Mme A Carriere is a rose that, in my experience, doesn't even need much feeding, some years I never did any.. too much and you get a lot of vegetative growth at the expense of flowers. Some organic feed, some manure, in Spring is sufficient for most of these large growing types of older roses... and that goes for most large shrub roses too..
...leave the Miracle Gro excesses to potted roses... they do nothing for your soil...