Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pruning Day

"I think I killed my rose bush."
This was an unsolicited comment from a woman in the Kmart nursery section. We were standing, side-by-side, perusing the selection of roses for sale.
"What did you do to it?" I asked.
"I pruned it," she said.
"Well, I don't think you killed it by pruning it," I assured her. Then I asked her what kind of rose it was. She had no idea; it was there when she bought the house.
After a brief discussion, I deduced that perhaps her rose was a hybrid tea that had died down to its rootstock. I suggested the possibility to her and her bewildered look spoke volumes. She had no idea there were things like hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses, much less grafted, budded and own-root roses. I tried to explain about grafting and I sensed it was all too much.
"Could you help me pick out another rose to replace it?" she asked.
I could and did. All she wanted was a rose that bloomed a lot and didn't need any care. Well, to my mind that ruled out all but the Knock Outs and perhaps a 'Nearly Wild.' She left very happy with a Double Pink Knock Out and a jug of systemic "2-in-1" rose food, another suggestion of mine. It is a granular fertilizer that also keeps aphids and thrips at bay. They even have "3-in-1" now, that keeps black spot and other rose diseases under control. You never have to spray!
After I sold her on the product I added, "It's a great product, but you can't eat your roses if you use it!" Another bewildered look.
Sometimes I can't help myself.

There are a number of good books and web sites that cover pruning roses. I have read them and am still somewhat bewildered myself! It all seems like too much work. Basically, what I do is let roses go until spring. On a nice day in March, I go out and shorten any really long stems by about one third, trying to cut above an outward facing "eye." At this time of year, it's hard to tell for sure, so I don't worry too much about it.
Then, once leaves break out, I get more serious. I cut out any branches that show no signs of life and I ruthlessly thin out the bush, eliminating crossing branches, any that are too low or misshapen or that grow to the inside of the shrub. I aim for an up and out look. I then shorten the branches another third or so, and here I am more careful to cut 45 degrees down and inside and just above a bit of new growth that is pointed in the direction I want the rose to grow--generally out and up.
The three new roses that I planted last year all get just a light trimming of the dead ends with a hedge clippers. No worry about individual branches and growth direction. I just want any and all healthy growth this year.
All that being said, if a rose dies, it wasn't meant to be. My best advice is to buy healthy and hardy roses and let nature run its course. And a little "3-in-1" doesn't hurt, either. Pruning Photos by JulenaJo.


  1. I agree totally. I have a few roses in my garden, but most-no way! I especially like 'The Fairy', no coddling needed. You were sweet to help out the lady. Knockouts are good!

  2. Your grass is so green! I'm envious, ours is just barely showing green, we're still enjoying the crocuses. Our spring is 2 weeks late! But I did get the garden all tilled and the onions planted today. Lucky woman to run into you in the plant nursery!

  3. As I found out, roses are tougher than we think.

  4. so delicate Julena, and i am amazed at your loving care and dedication. You'll be happy always.

  5. Good pruning there, Julena, at least as far as I am concerned. Roses are indeed more and less hardy than we think - while they can handle the abusive prunings everyone gives them sometimes, they also do pick up an amazing number of ailments, from Black Spot to aphids. I used to shy away from putting anything but the most hardy shrub roses in my landscapes. Only if someone requested a specific rose - and if I found it - would I plant them. I am huge on Double Delight, myself - and, well, I guess I am lying because I couldn't resist planting a few of those just to get the responses later, lol.

  6. Seems like I lose a rose every winter for some reason to my frustration. I love the knock out roses for their continuous blooms.I have a crimson rose that has been around for years though and its fragrance is so wonderful. The double delights are gorgeous. I bought some mail order roses on year that were coated with a wax to keep them. Only one of those grew,Have you ever gotten any of coated with wax?

  7. Hi Julena~~ I'm so behind on my blog reading! The Knock Outs are a good, safe bet. I'm sure she'll be happy. Like many die hard gardeners, I go through cycles of love/hate with plants. I'm on a love (again) with roses. Typically an eschewer of trends, I finally succumbed to the Knock Out lure. I couldn't decide on the double or single red so I bought both and planted them near each other. We'll see how they work--or don't.

    I hate pruning roses with all the nasty thorns and all but when they bloom they're so worth it. Cheers.