A Brief ‘How To’ Guide.

This week in our gardens we have been carrying out a winter clean-up in the borders as the Spring flowers are already coming through and, in some cases, already in bloom – a testament to the effects of climate change. We have seen plants such as Campion, Azalea and Cherry’s in sporadic bloom throughout the winter. As lovely as it is to see some cheer it’s a little unsettling! However, let us focus on more positive things… our Forsythia has begun to bloom and to a rose grower that is the signal that it’s time to prune!

Here’s a quick rundown on how to go about it.

Bush Roses

Remove any dead, dying, crossing or thin stems in order to leave a strong framework with good air circulation. You are looking for an open centre: a little like the shape of a trophy cup. This should help to prevent the development of fungal diseases during the growing season. The strong remaining stems should be cut back hard to an outward facing bud in order to encourage vigorous growth. Do this with a sloping cut to prevent any water settling on the wound and causing the wood to split. You are looking to reduce the height of the bush by a half to two-thirds. Any remaining old leaves should be stripped from the rose and destroyed.

It is essential when pruning, particularly thick stems, that your secateurs are sharp, as blunt blades will crush or split the stems, making them vulnerable to disease. Also ensure that when pruning multiple roses that you clean your secateurs in between each, to avoid spreading any disease that may be present.

We recommend applying a mulch of about 2-3” thick in a ring around the base of the rose, 3 or 4 inches clear of the stems. The reason we leave a gap is that if manure is used which is insufficiently rotted it may ‘burn’ the stems. You may use compost, manure or even chipped bark.

Climbing and Rambling Roses

Climbing and rambling roses require only training. Perhaps a little pruning to shape and occasionally the removal of one of the oldest canes to encourage the plant to replace it with a younger more vigorous cane.

When training a Climber, try to tie the canes in almost horizontally across the wall or fence. By doing this you will prompt the plant into producing an abundance of flowering canes which, at the end of the season, can be cut back to a few inches. Similar to pruning an espalier apple. You want to be left with a fan shaped framework with numerous ‘fruiting spurs’ coming from each cane.

With a Rambling rose you need to be sure which type you have – summer flowering or repeat flowering.  The Summer flowering varieties need pruning in late summer, just after flowering. Pruning later than this will greatly reduce or even stop flowering the following year.

If you have a repeat flowering variety then you can prune any time through late winter or early spring. In both cases you are only looking to tidy the shape and remove any unwanted growth.