Time to Prune your Roses

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July is the peak of rose pruning time in most parts of the country, but there are exceptions. Roses that produce all of their flowers in one glorious massed show in spring – many of the heritage roses fall into this category – should be pruned after their spring flowering. And, in cold areas that experience heavy frosts in August and September, it’s safest to delay pruning until just a few weeks before the last frost is expected. Otherwise the new growth that’s stimulated by pruning will be cut back by the late frosts.

Start by gathering the equipment that you’ll require. Most important is a good pair of gloves that will protect your hands from the thorny rose stems. Sharp secateurs are essential and a pruning saw is useful for cutting out old wood. Long-handled loppers could replace the saw, but a saw with a narrow blade will often make more accurate cuts.

Use the saw to remove any of the oldest wood completely from the base of the rose. This allows the newer, more vigorous shoots to take over. Then, with the secateurs, take out anything that’s dead, very thin or criss-crossing through the centre of the bush. Remaining branches should all be relatively young – no more than three years old – and vigorous. These can be shortened by about one third, with the cut just above an outward facing bud.

Make adjustments, of course, for special roses such as miniatures, climbers and standards. Standards, roses that are grafted on top of a straight stems, are pruned just like their bush equivalents but take care to avoid cutting below the graft or you’ll lose all of your pretty top. Miniatures, because of their close growth, can be a bit difficult to prune. An overall trim is the most practical way of dealing with them but it does help, if possible, to completely remove any dead sections.

Climbing roses are challenging, too. The rambling types that only flower in spring (such as ‘Dorothy Perkins’) are pruned after flowering. Long-blooming climbers can be pruned in winter, but some growers prefer to leave them until the first main flower flush in spring. Apart from that, the rules are the same but it’s always helpful with climbers if you can tie any branches into a horizontal position. This is more likely to encourage short, flower-bearing shoots.

Disease and pest control

Ideally, between each cut, dip the blades of your secateurs into a solution of disinfectant. If this is too much trouble, at least try to dip and wipe the blades after you have finished each rose, before you move onto the next. Pick up all the fallen leaves, especially if they show signs of disease, and put them into a plastic bag. Leave these in the sun to cook and reduce in size before binning. Put the pruned rose stems into the green waste bin – it’s said that it’s almost impossible for rose thorns to break down in a backyard compost system.

After the job is done, spray all over the plants with Yates Lime Sulfur. This disinfects the rose, treats rose scale and gives the plant a clean bill of health to start the new season. Do this while the rose is still leafless; otherwise the Lime Sulfur can burn tender new growth.

When the soil starts to warm up, feed the rose plants with some Dynamic Lifter Flower Food and renew a layer of organic mulch over their roots.

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