During a break in the cold, winter weather, we decided it was a good time to do some work in the flower garden.
My gardener, Wilmer, started the task of pruning and tying the climbing roses, several of which are located on tall tower trellises - these climbers are thriving in this space. My head gardener, Ryan, helped to prune the rose bushes on the perimeter of the garden.
Pruning is about more than just looks; proper pruning improves the health of the plants, prevents disease, and encourages better flowering. There are different pruning strategies for different times of the year, but overall the goals are the same - to control shape, to keep the bushes fresh and open, and to allow for better air circulation through the center of the plants. I've grown roses for more than 25-years. Many of my rose varieties are prized for their petal formations and fragrances, so maintenance is very important to keeping them healthy and productive. Here are some photos of our rose pruning process - enjoy.
On the rose bushes that grow along the fence, Ryan begins by cutting any superfluous branches or shoots for better-shape. These roses look fuller every year – in part because of regular pruning.
Ryan assesses each bush from the bottom, and starts cutting out any of the “three Ds” – dead, damaged or diseased branches.
Dead wood is typically brown in color, so they are very easy to identify.
Ryan also looks for any thin or twiggy canes – in general, those that are less than the diameter of a pencil.
Pruning our roses also keeps the bushes in proportion to the rest of the garden. It is a time consuming task, but a very crucial one for the wellness of these specimens.
Ryan shows where the cut should be made – always just above a bud eye. The “bud eye” refers to the area on the stem where branching occurs.
When cutting, look for white inside the stem. If it’s brown, cut further down.
Healthy wood is always greenish white.
We use Okatsune Hand Pruners, with their distinguishable red and white handles. These eight-inch long shears are made from Izumo Yasuki Japanese steel, and are angled to provide a smooth, clean cut without crushing. Ours come from A.M. Leonard.
Ryan also looks for any stems that cross or rub together.
Removing these from the bottom ensures better growth – when parts of a plant are pruned off it uses its energy to produce new stems and leaves.
What a difference – well-shaped, and ready for a winter’s nap.
I also have six of these tower trellises in my flower garden. These rose climbers love these supports and grow beautiful blooms here every season.
These plant canes were growing in all different directions and needed to be pruned and tied.
When selecting a trellis, be sure it’s strong enough to hold the weight of a full grown rose plant in both wet and windy weather.
Also be sure it is easy to access all parts of the trellis for pruning.
When working with roses, be sure to use a good pair of gloves – the thorns can be very sharp. Here, Wilmer actually has another pair of gloves underneath.
To clamber upwards and reach sunlight, roses that climb take advantage of their thorns’ natural propensity to hook onto anything around them. It is important to train major canes in the direction you want on the armature.
Wilmer assesses which ones need pruning.
And then arranges the canes, so they aren’t crowded.
Main canes on a climbing rose are the ones that grow from the base of the plant. These canes form the structure.
Laterals are the “side-shoots” that come off the main canes – they bear the flowers.
On established plants, the basics are always the same – prune dead, damaged, and overcrowded canes.
Prune the flowering side shoots to two to three buds above the structural canes during the dormant season.
Prune canes back by one-third to one-half to promote branching and to keep your rambler tidy.
We use a natural jute twine for most of our garden tying projects.
When tying, the twine does not have to be tight – just enough to anchor the branch and provide proper guidance as it grows.
Knots should be very simple.
The loop around the plant cane should be just tight enough to keep the vine secure, but not break it.
Any hanging twine would be clipped close to the knot to keep it tidy.
To ensure canes don’t get tied too close together, twist the twine a couple of times before knotting around a vine.
Snip off branches that are growing too thickly. Every three years, also cut out some of the older canes and allow new, younger canes to replace them.
Always remove the weak canes so that the plant can focus strength into a few strong main canes.
Don’t worry if you need multiple ties to secure the canes.
Climbing roses tend to overtake the space they grow in, so they should be positioned away from trees, shrubs, and other plants. I can’t wait to see the long, arching canes that will grow many flowers on these trellises.