Thoughts on Rose Pruning
The weather was good this past weekend, so I got outside and pruned the roses in our garden. Pruning roses used to make me nervous, but now I relax by reminding myself that roses are basically brambles. At least mine are – two shrub roses (‘Sally Holmes’ and ‘Cassie’) and two climbers (‘Darlow’s Enigma’ and the wild Rosa setigera or Prairie Rose).
Anyway, the point is that it’s hard to commit a fatal error when pruning roses. Like brambles, you can hack away at them pretty ferociously and they will generally bounce back with renewed vigor.
Not that I am recommending that you lash out blindly at your roses with sharp instruments. First of all, that wouldn’t be nice. Second, just because it’s hard to commit a fatal error doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put some thought into what you are doing.
Above is a picture I took of ‘Cassie’ before I pruned her. Kind of a tangled mess, right? Pruning improves air circulation in the center of the plant, which reduces the chances for disease. It also lets in more light and generally improves blooming.
Before starting, I like to sanitize my pruners, either with disinfectant wipes or a spritz from a spray bottle. It’s a good idea to resanitize whatever cutting tool you are using every time you move on to a new rose, otherwise you may be spreading disease.
And just in case you, like me, need to be reminded of the obvious: wear gloves! Gardening should be a peaceful pursuit that does not involve bloodshed. I generally garden without gloves, which is fine except when you are dealing skin-piercing plants. Unless you are a gardening masochist, in which case I make no judgements whatsoever.
Though not all roses are the same in that regard – most of mine are not too bad except for ‘Darlow’s Enigma’. DE boasts some truly wicked thorns, curved and sharp as needles, that have been known to draw blood even through strong gloves.
So, now you’re ready to prune. I was taught to remove everything that was 1) dead, damaged or diseased; 2) potentially rubbing against another stem; or 3) thinner than a pencil.
The place to cut on the stem is just above an outward facing bud – outward because you don’t want growth in the center of the plant to be too dense. Sometimes the bud is obvious. Other times you need to look for the latent bud, which is not hard to find if you look closely.
Here’s ‘Cassie’ after I was done pruning. I probably could have been a little more aggressive in removing stems but this is good enough.
I actually like pruning, including pruning roses. Something very satisfying about clearing out a tangled mess of stems. Do you enjoy pruning roses?