Pruning roses

There is probably no aspect of gardening that causes so much needless anxiety as pruning : and particularly the pruning of roses.

R oses are pruned to produce an attractive shape, to keep them healthy and to encourage flowering shoots to develop. The method of pruning varies ac-cording to the type of rose because cultivated roses replace old and exhausted stems in slightly different ways, and they don’t all flower on wood of the same age.

However, most roses flower well even if they are only lightly pruned, so long as you follow certain basic steps , which should serve as the starting point for any surgery.

Equipment for pruning

A pair of sharp secateurs, either two-bladed (bypass action) or anvil action, will cut most stems, provided the blade is sharp. Cut thick stems with a saw or long-handled loppers; use a sharp knife to trim rough cuts. Always wear gloves to guard against thorns.

When to prune

With established plants, major pruning is carried out during the dormant season, from late autumn to early spring. In mild areas, where new growth starts early, prune sooner rather than later.

Never prune during prolonged, hard frosty weather. Harsh winter weather may damage roses pruned in autumn, so they may need additional trimming in the spring. It’s best to trim and tie in long stems before they are lashed about by winds. Newly planted stock should be pruned in late winter or early spring.

Deadheading

Deadheading during the flowering season encourages a second flowering of recurrent-flowering roses. With those roses that flower only once, it saves the plant putting all its strength into the development of seed. However, don’t deadhead types with attractive rose-hips that are a feature in their own right or the display will be lost.

With hybrid teas, cut off spent flowers above a strong outward-facing bud. Later in the season, cut back to the first bud below the flower; at the end of the season simply remove the flower stalk. With floribundas, remove the whole spent flower cluster, cutting back to the first bud. Dispose of the prunings – they’re too woody to compost.

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