Time And Method Of Pruning Roses

Pruning, as already stated, is done mainly at the end of March in the south, and beginning of April in the cold districts. This applies to the bushes and standards and climbers, but not to the rambler roses, which are pruned in late summer.

Spring pruning is designed to rid the rose of its thicket of young stems, each of which has leaf-buds at every joint. If these stems were all allowed to remain, the result would be such a crowd of weak stems that the quality of the flowers would be poor—in fact, they would generally revert to the wild type after a few years.

The time for spring pruning is selected for this reason : as soon as the pruning has been done, the bud left at the end of the shortened woody stem begins to swell and grows into a new shoot. This will carry the first crop of roses. Should this growth of new season’s flower buds be allowed too early in the year, there is a great probability that May frosts would ruin the buds. Delay beyond the chosen pruning times is less dangerous, but it probably means delay in the arrival of the first flowers, and so there may be fewer flowers through the season than might have been produced. Beginners should note that it is not the weather in February or March that dictates the rose pruning dates, but the probable weather in May; the advent of fine days in February causing the roses to break into growth should not be taken as a sign that pruning can be done earlier than usual.

Now for the question of how to use the secateurs. (Secateurs of the Rolcut type, or a sharp knife, used with an upward cut, are recommended by the National Rose Society.) Newly planted (first season) bushes are pruned in this way. First any broken stems are cut away cleanly; then any old or weak wood is removed, leaving if possible a skeleton of stems radiating in all directions, so that they leave an open heart to the bush.

Each stem is examined carefully, and a bud (or the scar that is often the only sign of the bud) selected that is on the outer side of the stem, about two-thirds of the way down. The stem is cut immediately above this bud, so that when the bud develops, as it will, a new stem will push out away from the heart of the rose. Thus a sort of goblet-shaped skeleton will be built up.

After the first crop of roses fade, they should be cut away with long stems, as this automatically prunes the bush again, and fresh stems come for the second crop from a point low down on the plant.

At the end of summer, the last roses are snipped off without stems, but no pruning is done. The flower stems remain long during the winter, and are a kind of protection to the lower portion of the plant. Should some of the wood be killed back by frosts, the lowest parts, with fully dormant buds, will generally come through unscathed.

Rose beds where bush roses are growing should be dressed with fime every winter, and when the pruning is done in spring, they should be forked over, with either animal manure or bonemeal as a dressing just before forking.

Polyantha roses, that is the roses that grow in clusters, of the dwarf or bush type, are not so hard pruned as the ordinary bush roses; but they can be cut back a little, and also thinned out in March to prevent overcrowding.

Standard roses of similar varieties to the bush roses are pruned in exactly the same way, regarding the head of the standard as the bush, and carefulfy removing any suckers, or any side shoots that come from the main stem below the head.

Suckers, if they appear in a rose bed, should always be removed.

Roses are grafted on to common stocks, and the suckers come from these briar roots. If they are allowed to grow, the strength of the rose will go to the sucker, and the results will possibly be fatal to the rose you want to keep.

Now for the pruning of the rambler roses. These flower on the long growths sent from the base of the plant the previous year. They should be pruned as soon as the flowers fade, all stems that have borne flowers being cut away right to the base and the new ones tied in to replace them.

Manuring or a good dose of liquid fertilizer is advisable after pruning, to encourage the development of strong new growth.

Certain of the pillar roses seem to have a habit of growth that is something between the two types described. The only thing to do in such cases is to use your discretion. If there are no fresh basal stems, but some very strong new growths coming from somewhere near the top of the old stems (as in the rose Alberic Barbier) it would obviously be absurd to cut the whole growth away, though if the rose is overgrown, it would do no permanent harm. Alberic Barbier grows very well indeed with a minimum of pruning, the new growth being tied in with the old, and allowed to make a real smother. On a stout pillar, set in a small bed of its own, it makes a fine lawn specimen treated in this way. So also do a number of other roses, Albertine, Mermaid, etc.

It will be seen that the principles of rose pruning, once understood are capable of wide adaptation by the grower of experience, and the novice is advised to grasp these fundamental principles and then to experiment freely, rather than to fly to a reference book for a detailed description of the right way to prune his particular varieties of rose.

Another difficulty that presents itself is that of pests and diseases. Clean healthy cultivation, regular and sufficiently hard pruning, hoeing the soil to keep it open and weed free, will do more than anything to solve these problems. There will always be times, however, when greenflies or other pests will appear, or when such diseases as black spot” will prove a menace to the rose beds. Nicotine sprays used freely among the roses, or Derris dust dusted over them, to keep down most of the pests (handpicking of maggots may be required also), and the use of Bordeaux mixture (the best-known fungicide) when disease seems troublesome, are the recommendations I make to the novice. For the rest I should be inclined to let the problem arise before considering it, and I doubt if the gardener who is supplied with a syringe, nicotine wash, and Bordeaux mixture will ever have much trouble in his rose garden.

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