We are very lucky to be working on a beautiful garden at the moment. The garden is around an acre and full of seasonal surprises. One of the jobs the
lovely owners have asked us to do is prune their roses. A combination of standards, climbers and bushes - now is the right time to prune them, while they are dormant. Feeding during their growing season and pruning during their dormant season one the basic rules to follow.
Get The Right Tools
A clean, sharp pair of pruning shears is key. If you're working with older bushes with woody canes, you might also need a pruning saw. Lastly, get yourself a strong pair of leather gloves to protect yourself from the thorns. Roses bite!!
Why Pruning Is Important
Sure, your bush might very well survive without being pruned, but over time, you'll have a much weaker, much less attractive plant. A weaker plant is more susceptible to pests and diseases. A properly pruned plant is cleared of diseased canes. The pruning triggers vigorous growth of strong canes, certain to bring you plenty of blooms come next spring and summer.
Initial Clean Up
Start with the obvious by removing any small, twiggy growth, dead, diseased, or crossing canes.
Most roses are sold as grafted plants, meaning the desired variety is inserted into the rootstock of another strongly rooted variety. Suckers refer to any canes that emerge beneath that graft, also known as the bud union. You want to remove them by digging down to their start below the bud union and pulling them off with a twist of your fingers.
Open up the center of the plant by removing any canes growing directly in the center (this will create a v or vase shape). Doing so encourages plenty of circulation, which roses greatly appreciate.
Figure Out What to Keep
Identify three to six healthy outside canes to keep, and leave three to five buds on each cane. Buds appear as tiny bumps or dots growing along the cane. Come spring, they are where branches will emerge.
Where to Prune New Growth
Since the new branch will grow in the direction the top bud points, cut to a bud that is facing away from the plant, preserving the vase shape. Cut on a diagonal 1/4 inch above the bud. This way, any winter moisture drains away from the bud rather than towards it, minimizing rot or disease.
If it hasn't happened naturally, remove any remaining leaves. Clean all leaves and debris (carriers of overwintering disease) away from the base of the plant and toss in the compost.
Time to Mulch
Two to three inches of fresh mulch go a long way for moisture retention and weed prevention. Prevent rot by keeping the mulch pulled back from the base of the roses.
IN A NUTSHELL: Prune mid - late winter. Decide on 3 canes to keep and then leave 5 buds on each cane, make sure the top bud faces out from the plant as that is the direction the branches will grow. Apply mulch but not around the base of the rose.