Well it’s that time of year again. I’ve sharpened the tools and donned the gloves that are never quite thick enough. I’m going to share a quick how-to on here as rose-pruning seems to be something people are a little scared of sometimes. I’ll follow up with a post on climbing roses in a week or two.
You need sharp and clean secateurs, loppers and a saw. Oh and gloves unless you enjoy laceration. I keep a bucket of made up Jeyes fluid in the shed and between areas of roses and at the end of the day I give the tools a swish and a clean to avoid spreading diseases about the place.
First things first – a healthy, happy rose is about the toughest thing in the garden. Even if you cut it off to an inch above ground level it will probably be fine, so don’t stress. Having said that … the idea of doing this with a hedgtrimmer… erm. Yes. Well, if you want your roses to look like a tangled mess, prone to disease and reduced flowering, go ahead. They’ll survive. Probably.
Any cuts you make should be as small as possible and angled so that water doesn’t sit on top of the cut. You’ll sometimes see ‘at 45 degrees to the stem’ as the required cut angle but frankly as long as water won’t sit you’re fine.
First have a stand back and look at your rose. Is it wonky? Are there dead bits? Learn from my mistakes – really look at the branch you’re about to snip, follow it right to the end. How many times have I made a cut and groaned as the wrong bit of plant has fallen to the ground? Ho hum.
So now to the cutting! Remove any dead or diseased branches right to the base and then anything rubbing on other branches. I also remove anything crossing the centre of the bush as I want to keep the middle clear to create a nice open shape with plenty of airflow. You might also want to remove one or two of the older, gnarlier looking branches if it’s looking a bit crowded.
Then cut all the remaining branches back to a bud which faces away from the centre of the bush (or otherwise in the direction you want the rose to grow, like away from a path or wall) to about 1/3 of its original height. Note – I’m a little vicious and err on the side of a somewhat brutal interpretation of ‘1/3’. Seems to work fine…
Stand back and admire your work (and try not to swear about that bit that broke when you cut it and you had to cut back further than intended).
I am nowhere near this brutal with old english roses or miniature ones although the same general principles apply. For species roses and others which tend to spring in an arching fashion from the base I remove a few of the oldest stems but otherwise leave them to their own devices.
I’m sure most of my readers have no need of this post but thought it might help the occasional passer-by. Good luck with your rose surgery!