Henry Kelsey (1984 Kordesii cross) is an Explorer Series rose from Ag. Canada that is hardy to Zone 3 and is considered by many to be the best red-flowered climber for cold climates. It is very vigorous and grows strongly even in lean soils. Whereas it can be grown as a low arching shrub to 4’, it excels as a short climber to 8’-10’ and looks especially good trained down a split-rail fence. The flowers are semi-double with prominent golden stamens, opening a luscious deep red and fading to a pinker medium red. The fragrance is light but pleasant and the clusters of flowers repeat from June until frost. Where I have grown it in a very low water area over the last five years it has performed well and has not died back on the trellis, but repeat flowering is intermittent rather than continuous. One of the truths of xeriscape is that not all plants that grow well on low water, flower as well. Sometimes just one or two deep waterings during bloom time will make a big difference in flower production.
Henry Kelsey has dark green glossy foliage that is very resistant to mildew and mostly resistant to blackspot. It is tolerant of some shade, drought and poor soil. At Rose Fest ‘97, Canadian rose expert Joanne Baskerville named a select 20 roses she would never want to be without: Henry Kelsey was one of only two climbers. And from a shrub rose evaluation program at the Chicago Botanic Garden based on hardiness, disease-resistance and appearance, Henry Kelsey was one of only ten out of fifty to get a “good” rating.
There are other red climbers that will succeed here in Colorado, but none of them combine so many desirable qualities of cold-hardiness, repeat blooming, disease-resistance and tolerance of difficult conditions.