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A guide to pruning roses

Published: 14th March, 2018

Roses bear their flowers on shoots of the current season and these grow out from older stems. Pruning reduces the amount of old wood and therefore the number of new stems and young flowering shoots, BUT the flowers on a pruned bush will be larger, healthier and more of a beautiful attraction in your garden. If a rose is left unpruned for several years the bush becomes a congested and tangled mass of weak, straggly shoots and the flowers, while more numerous, will be smaller and unimpressive.

Now is the time to get your rose bushes in hand. As the weather begins to warm the sap is rising and growth just commencing. If rose pruning is done in autumn or winter the buds are encouraged to grow during mild periods over the winter. But if those mild periods are then followed by hard frosts the soft new shoots are liable to be killed or damaged, weakening the plant.

Before heading to the garden to begin your pruning make sure you are wearing sleeves, and grab the best pair of gardening gloves you have, as roses can be vicious!

The easiest way to start with a shrub rose is to cut back all canes to a manageable height so you don’t have sprawling canes in your eyes and in the way of you getting into the centre to really work out which stems you want to remove. Using a clean and sharp pair of secateurs, a garden knife or, to avoid the thorns, a pair of long handled pruners, make all cuts on a 45-degree angle. Cut back the long sprawling canes so that you have them all at a similar height, about half the height from where you started.

The main thing to always bear in mind when pruning shrub roses is that you are aiming to keep the centre of the plant open and create an open goblet shape. To do this the first step each year is to remove branches that are growing into each other, crossing over and fighting for space. You don’t want anything to be rubbing as this will create wear and weak spots, opening up the flesh of the stem to disease.  Remove any branches that are growing horizontally into the centre of the plant.  To encourage the plant to produce growth that grows outwards, cut back canes to above an outward facing bud, about half an inch above the bud with the angle of the cut away from the bud.

How to make the cut when pruning roses

Remove anything that is diseased or dead. If you’re not sure if a branch is dead cut into it near the top and if it’s brown inside then you can be assured it’s dead…

Don’t be afraid of taking out what appear to be big, established canes. What you really want is to promote the newer growth to keep your plant healthy and blooming for years. Cut Back an occasional stem right down into the old wood near the base of the plant. This will induce the production of shoots from below the point of pruning and ensure a succession of new growth from the base of the plant stopping it from looking rather bare at the base as the years progress. The whole process can seem quite severe but the plant will ultimately thank you for it!

You’re looking to go from this to this!!

How to prune roses

Having completed your pruning make sure that nothing is left behind. Clear away all your cuttings and sweep up well behind yourself. There may well be leaves from last year’s growth that have fallen and got caught up in the branches and thorns near the base of the plant. Pull these out and dispose of them – do not add them to your compost heap. These will harbour spores and may create problems later in the spring. Blackspot, mildew and other rose diseases can originate from such spores.

You’re now all set to enjoy a summer of beautiful rose blooms!

If you’ d like more information on rose pruning Henry Street Garden Centre is holding Rose Pruning demonstrations on 14th, 17th and 18th March at both 11.30am and 2.30pm. The events are free to attend. They will take place outside so be sure to dress to suit the changeable English weather!



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