Q: Last year, we became proud owners of a long-neglected garden. Do we have any hope of transplanting the old climbing roses successfully? — Theresa Jordan, Arlington Heights, IL
A: Absolutely. Old climbing roses are rugged and will survive what may seem like rough treatment. All you need to do is cut the stems back to within about a foot of the ground, dig the plant out and replant it. Heavy pruning makes the roses easier to handle and less susceptible to dehydration, as most leaves will be removed. Before you dig out the rose, decide where its new home will be, and dig a hole there. This minimizes the amount of time the roots are exposed to the air. To remove the plant from its original spot, dig a circle with an 18-inch radius around the plant, and dig at least a foot beneath it. Roses don’t have masses of dense shallow roots, so it can be hard to keep the root ball together. Do your best, but don’t worry too much if the soil crumbles away. I’ve moved many a rose in this way and have never lost one. It's crucial to get the plant back into the ground and watered immediately. Also, make sure the plant gets water every other day for the first few weeks. The stems will do enough photosynthesis to keep the plant alive, and new leaves will soon sprout. After that, water the plant once a week for the rest of the season. Where you live, the best time for this work is right after the heavy flowering; that will be in late spring. This way, the plants have several months of good growing weather in which to recover. Earlier would be fine, too, but you would miss out on the spectacular bloom. In mild climates, transplanting in midwinter, when roses are dormant, works really well.