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February in the Garden

Don’t be daunted by the task of pruning roses. Once you know the basics it’s hard to go wrong.  Yes, there are intricacies related to different rose types, but the principals are similar.  Modern and shrub roses as well as climbing and scrambling roses are all pruned in late winter or early spring, around the time new growth begins; this could be as early as January or as late as March depending on where you live.

The longer stems on some roses, particularly hybrid-teas, can be trimmed in the autumn to prevent them from snapping in high winds; but the majority of the work takes place in the coming months. Follow these simple steps and you’ll pruning like a professional!


1. Remove any remaining leaves, this allows you to see the structure and will remove any pests or diseases that may have been lurking over winter in the foliage.


2. Start with dead and diseased wood - brown is dead, green is living. Cut back any dead wood to the base.


3. Open up the centre of the plant in 3 steps:


Removing any branches which cross and rub. Your aim is to have upward-reaching branches with an open structure in a vase-like shape.


Remove any thin, weak growth - anything thinner than a pencil is too small.


Prune the remaining stem; for modern roses remove around 1/2 of the height, around 1/3 for single flowering varieties and 2/3s for hybrid teas and floribundas. Cut to just above an outward-facing bud eye (a small bump found where a leaf would meet the stem). The new stems grow in the direction of the bud and the cut will encourage them to grow outward, not inward. Make cuts at a 45-degree angle sloping away from the bud, allowing water to run off.


4. Tidy up by clearing underneath the rose, removing leaves and cut branches. Also, sterilize your pruners between plants to prevent spreading disease.


But even if you get this wrong you won’t kill them.  A trial conducted rough pruning roses with hedge trimmers did not prevent them from blooming the following summer!

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