Taking us to Chelsea in 2007.
Written by Wally Richards.
Gardening Articles for week ending
28th JULY 2007
It is about that time of the year when gardeners oil up their secateurs,
put on their gloves and go out to do battle with their thorning but well
loved roses. To give a guide to this annual event I have taken some extracts
from my recent book, Wally’s Down to Earth Gardening
Just how you go about pruning your roses is really up to you, but the
most popular cut is to prune somewhere above the third or fourth outgoing
buds. This will create a champagne-glass shape which means that the inner
part of the rose will receive adequate light. Some in growing buds can
be rubbed out to prevent the centre of the bush becoming too congested.
If you prune the low to second outgoing buds, you will end up with strong
new growths which will bear fewer flowers, but better blooms. If you prune
high, say to the fifth or sixth outgoing buds, you'll end up with a denser
bush with a lot of flowers.
Here's an interesting story which adds a twist to pruning. Owners of a
large rose garden invited several Rose Society members to come along and
each prune a rose bed in their preferred way. One bed was then left untouched
for a council worker to prune the following day when no-one else was around.
The council worker used - wait for it - a chainsaw with which he lobbed
off all the canes to just a few inches above ground level. In early summer,
another Rose Society's members was invited to the rose garden to judge
which of the rose beds had the best display. The judge's number one choice
was the bed pruned with a chainsaw!
PRUNING CLIMBING ROSES
Pruning climbing roses is a somewhat different affair. Assuming you don't
want a rambling rose which grows where and how it wants, you need to shape
your climbing rose to form a framework of main branches along a wall,
a fence, or over an archway. The aim is to have the new season's growth
sprouting from this framework and producing the much-wanted floral display,
but to get to that stage requires careful training and selective pruning.
After planting your climber, let the branches grow and tie them to the
support over which the rose is growing to cover the desired area. A reader
recently asked me how many plants he should buy, and how far apart he
should plant them, when putting in Dublin Bay climbing roses to create
a solid "wall" along his fence line. I replied that the normal
distance apart would be one metre, but it would be his subsequent pruning
and control which would determine how thickly the lower part of the floral
structure would grow. For example, I explained, take the lowest buds and
train them sideways to fill in the space between the rose plants. Take
the next buds at about 30 degrees, then 60 degrees, then 90 degrees until
each rose has a fan-like structure from which each year's new shoots will
grow. Once the wall is nicely covered, it is simply a matter of cutting
back or tying in those growths extending too far from the wall.
Once you've established the basic framework of the climber, the only pruning
needed is to remove any branches which have grown outwards and detract
from the desired effect, and remove any dead wood, spindly growth or dead
Over time, replace the old branches with new ones which you have trained
during the season to become part of the framework. Your work during the
growing season of a climber consists more of training and tying back than
anything else, as the branches will grow quickly from new shoots in the
spring and summer period. The chances are, they will initially grow away
from where you want them, but all you need do is tie them back to the
framework. Then comes winter, you can remove them if you want to prevent
the framework from becoming too congested, or you can leave them in the
framework and remove older branches instead.
It is really important to remember to never cut a climber down as low
as you would a bush rose. Climbers treated in this fashion often revert
back to bush roses. Always leave a few branches of a metre or more in
length, even when doing a hard cut-back such as might be the case when
you're repairing or painting the wall or fence.
I remember some years back a prominent rose grower criticised an article
that I wrote about using hygienic practices when pruning roses or other
plants. His retort was you did not need to take any special care when
pruning several roses, one after another.
My answer to this is common sense and logic. If an aphid can travel from
one rose to another and transfer a virus or disease then the jaws of a
pair of a pair of secateurs are a lot bigger than the jaws of an aphid!
Anyway lets read on a bit more;
Whatever rose you are pruning, and whatever technique you use, there are
some invaluable tips you should adopt for the post-prune process. First,
you must spray each rose with Liquid Copper immediately after pruning
to protect the wounds. Don't, however, prune on a cool moist day - remember
our earlier warning about silver leaf disease. It is also crucial to keep
in mind that viruses can be transferred from rose to rose, so make sure
you spray copper onto the secateurs after pruning each rose. Alternatively,
use methylated spirits. The latter is even better than the copper in providing
protection. Simply fill a cup almost full of the meths, and dip the partly
open blades into the cup, making sure all the cutting edges are well soaked.
In a nutshell then, pruning consists of cutting back the rose, spraying
the remaining canes with Liquid Copper, and then dipping the secateurs
blades into methylated spirits. Then move on to the next rose and repeat
Thats all fairly simple isn't it? But lets give a few extra tips.
Take your bottle of Liquid Copper, (it has the great advantage of already
being liquid so there is little risk of blocked jets in the middle of
a job) and double the normal amount (which is 3.5 mils to a litre of water)
to 7 mils per litre, add in one ml of Raingard so the spray stays on,
rain or shine for up to 14 days. Mix up and place in a trigger sprayer
and use this spray after pruning each rose to cover the wounds.
Once made up the spray will keep for sometime but you need shake the sprayer
well as the copper will settle. When using Raingard or its spray on frost
protection cousin, Vaporgard, you must remember that these are films which
set on the areas sprayed, to obtain their benefits.
This means that after you have finished spraying with these aids, that
you flush and spray some clean water through your sprayer otherwise the
residues left will set and block up the jets.
Hot water is best to use for this purpose and spray the water till it
If on the other hand you forget to do this simple task, then when you
come to use the same sprayer again and find that the jets are blocked,
you need to dismantle and clear the jets with a bit of fine wire and soak
them in methylated spirits.
Choose your day to prune carefully, it should be after a few days without
rain with sun and wind to dry the soil and air. This is very important
as the deadly silver leaf disease favours entering fresh wounds when the
air is moist and cool. In areas where silver leaf disease is a major problem
extra care should be taken. It is also a very good practise in the spring,
after a reasonable amount of new foliage appears, to give the roses a
couple of sprays, a month apart, with Perkfection. This builds up the
immune system of the rose and can allow a rose to recover from the disease
if it is not too far advanced.
It also protects against a number of other diseases as well, though the
fortified immune system.
Wally, another great read.
Problems ring me
at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
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