It’s rose pruning time in the Southern Hemisphere!
Pruning can be an art form or very brutal and basic, depending on its location; your needs and your time:
If a shrub is getting too big for its location, it will need pruning to restrict growth and keep enough air flow around the plant.
If you want a large single flower: remove more wood; or a mass of small flowers: leave more growth.
I have even seen time-poor gardeners take to the shrub with a chainsaw and the plant still survives and sends out lots of flowers in the new season, but I would probably avoid this technique, as I think you have more control and can make more considered decisions using secateurs, as well as still have continual flowering if you are doing minor pruning while there is still plant growth.
However, this post is about the major prune at the end of the growing season and before the next one!
In areas with mild Winters: Winter to early Spring.
There are two schools of thought! Later pruning avoids damage to new growth by late frosts, but earlier pruning of repeat-flowering roses allows them to get a head start and have a longer flowering period.
Old once-flowering roses can be pruned immediately after flowering, unless you want the decorative hips.
In areas with cold Winters: Delay pruning till the Spring growth is starting.
We tend to prune in late July to early August, because of our frosts. Here is a photo of our wild and woolly Soho rose garden, last week in the depths of Winter, followed by a photo of the garden post-pruning! Pruning Technique
Make sure your secateurs are sharp and clean. Have a pruning saw or large pruning shears handy for tougher wood.
Disinfect secateurs if plants are a bit diseased, so you don’t spread any disease. I soaked two pairs of secateurs (so one pair could be soaking, while I used the other, swapping them for each new rose) in solution of diluted methylated spirits: 3 parts metho to 1 part water and soak 15 minutes.
And wear strong gloves to protect your skin from vicious thorns!Prune to an outer bud, so the new growth shoots away from the plant, rather than towards the centre; and
Cut the stem on a diagonal, just above the node, so that any pooled water runs off and downwards away from the shoot, rather than into the corner, where the new shoot branches off the main stem. Refer to the websites at the end of the post for clear explanatory diagrams!
Remove any spindly, ill, dying or dead shoots. Cut right back beyond the disease source, so that the surface of the cut is clean and there is no sign of disease in the stem.Remove the following :
Any stems growing inwards and overcrowding the centre of the bush, to allow for more air flow.
Any branch crossing another and rubbing against it, resulting in damage and the creation of a possible site for infection; and
Any suckers, which come from the root stock below the bud union and will rob your rose of its nourishment.
Note: Suckers are best pulled out, rather than cut, which still allows for their regrowth. Here is a sucker on my Fair Bianca:And above all, don’t overstress!!! Roses are tough and even Hybrid Teas will recover well after a good prune!
The amount you prune a rose is dependent on the type of rose:
Species Roses and their hybrids, Ground Cover Roses and Miniature Roses require little or no pruning, except the removal of old spent or dead wood.
Ramblers can also be left to their own devices, unless you are growing them over an arch or pergola, in which case, remove any shoots growing in the wrong direction and cut back side shoots to 8 or 10 cm.
Modern Shrub Roses can be treated like Species Roses, unless they repeat-flower well, when they should be pruned like English Roses, cutting the main shoot back by a third and the side shoots to 8 or 10 cm. Here is Fair Bianca, a David Austin rose, before and after its haircut!Old Roses also require minimal pruning, removing only dead and dying wood, and should not be touched for the first two years. After that, they can be pruned if needs be, their main shoots cut back by a third and side shoots to 8 cm. Very tall roses can be pruned to half their height if they are getting away! Cut back any dead branches hard.
Hybrid Teas and Floribundas should be pruned to 12 cm from the ground in their first year, and after that, prune the stronger shoots to half their length and the thinner side shoots to 5 or 8 cm. Here are before and after photos of Mr. Lincoln, a Hybrid Tea:Standards should be left with a broad head, while growth should be encouraged in Weeping Standards to ground level.
Repeat-Flowering Climbers require special pruning, depending on which wood they flower on: Noisettes (especially the larger flowering varieties), Climbing Teas, Hybrid Teas and Hybrid Perpetuals flower on wood produced in the same year, while ramblers and scramblers (R. arvensis; R. wichuraiana; R. sempervirens; R. multiflora and R. setigera) flower on wood produced in the previous year.
In the first type, the main stem should be tied or secured with wire or cleats in as many directions as possible, including a horizontal direction to encourage vertical laterals in the coming season. The side shoots, which bore last season’s flowers, should be shortened to 8 or 10 cm or to one third their length. These spurs will then produce several flowering shoots, which will then be pruned in turn the following year to produce an increasing number of flowers.
With the ramblers and scramblers, leave them be for several years, till they densely cover their supports, and only prune when necessary after flowering in early Summer. Remove dead and old non-productive wood.
Having said that, I am not allowing my Wichuraiana Rambler, Albertine, to indulge in its typically thuggish behaviour, due to lack of room, and am keeping it under tight control, treating it as a climber rather than a rambler! In the photo below, I am training its prickly stems horizontally along the wire and trellis to encourage plenty of vertical growth along the stems, so eventually I will have a wall of pink roses against the shed.After Pruning
It can be beneficial to prick over the soil with a fork to a depth of 2 to 5 cm to aerate the soil and remove weeds. Dig in a long-term fertilizer and mulch with well-rotted compost or animal manure.
If you would like more information about pruning your roses, here are three excellent sites, as well as a rose calendar:
Propagation by Cuttings
A terrific way to enlarge your rose collection without breaking the bank, as well as conserve old roses found in old abandoned homestead gardens, cemeteries and roadsides. It is also a great way to share your roses and swap cuttings. And finally, roses grown on their own roots avoids the problem of root competition by root stocks and they are tough! In windy situations or light soils, they anchor themselves more effectively.
Roses can also be propagated by seed, division, layering, budding and grafting and finally, tissue culture (micro-propagation), but cuttings are by far the easiest for the home gardener starting to propagate roses!
The best time to take hardwood cuttings is when the leaves begin to fall and the wood has ripened over the entire Summer. Choose mature, one-year old wood, the thickness of a pencil and 15 cm long, and cut to a growth bud at the top and bottom. For heel cuttings, keep a small slice of two-year old wood still attached at the base.
Remove leaves, dip the end of the cutting in root hormone powder or honey, push into a labelled pot of equal amounts of sand and moist peat, and place in a protected sheltered spot away from frost. A cold frame or warm glasshouse will encourage root development. By early Spring, the cuttings should start to root and the following Autumn can be planted out into their permanent position.
I took cuttings from my old Armidale garden and that of a fellow rose-a-holic during our first Winter here, and while some did not strike, many did, including my three cuttings of Albertine, which are now gracing the shed wall; three cuttings of Multiflora Rambler, Russelliana; two cuttings of New Dawn, another Wichuraiana Rambler, and Climbing Hybrid Tea Rose, Mrs Herbert Stevens; and one cutting each of a Climbing Tea Rose, Sombreuil; a Centifolia, Fantin Latour; a Noisette, Reve d’Or; Bourbons: Mme Isaac Pereire and La Reine Victoria; and Shrub Roses, Leander and Fritz Nobis. Most of them are now planted out in my garden and growing madly, with a few given away as gifts.
Good Luck with all your rose pruning! May your house be filled with masses of blooms and scent this coming season!
Next week, we return to reviewing our natural history library with a post on books about the environmental challenges facing our unique and special planet and all its inhabitants.