This past weekend, I pruned my roses. I am a little late; it is now March. Time simply got away from me. However, it turned out that it is still okay to prune roses in April, according to the David Austin website. And since he only produced the best roses in the world, I trust in that adviced. Even though there is 4 – 5 inches of new growth, it is still better to prune the roses back and force it into dormancy, so that the rose bushes can use that stored energy to produce better flowers throughout the year.
Even though I learned last year how to prune my roses by reading countless articles and watching the same videos over and over, there is still a big part of me that wonders if I’m doing it correctly EVERY SINGLE TIME. Throughout last spring, summer and fall, I dead headed my roses after each bloom and lightly pruned here and there. I was pretty confident that I was doing it correctly but I always wondered if I cut it back enough, too much, at the right place of the cane or at the right angle. There is a lot of thought that went into cutting each branch, as you should.
This year, was pretty much the same. I was really nervous about cutting back the shrubs especially since some of them had healthy looking foliage or small buds starting to appear. I wondered if I should just leave it alone or proceed with pruning. In the end, I decided that I will do what I set out to do.
I started out with Harlow Carr. This bush simply got neglected. Look how dried up she is. She was put in the corner and did not get any rain unlike the other roses. I felt really bad for letting her get to this point.
Harlow Carr’s grow long, long upright canes. Be careful of their thorns! This is my most feared rose bush but also my most romantic. She gives out the old world rose scent. When it’s warm in the summer, and I walk on to the porch, I can smell her fragrance and am invited to sit and stay awhile. She is certainly my feistiest plant but the heaviest scented too. Just lovely.
After she is pruned. I really worried that she might be dead. But I saw some green in the branches when I trimmed them. I’m praying this girl makes it.Transferred into her new home.
Working a tablespoon of rose feed into the soil. Eyeball it.
Water, water, water.
More water please! She is thirsty 😦
Then I went down the row of roses, repeating the same process – Brother Cadfael, Huntington Rose, Alnwick Rose, Violet’s Pride, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Pink Eden Climber, White Eden Climber, and Lady Emma of Hamilton.
Here’s the approach and process that I took:
- Begin by starting with the branches that are thinner than a pencil. This is a good rule of thumb. Always start with this approach. I cut the whole stem away. I found that when I started with this rule first, no matter how much foliage or how long the branch is, after pruning it away, it cleared out half of the bush and really opened it up. Only after this step am I able to better assess which canes need to go next.
- Next, prune the center. I cleared out the center as much as possible to open it up to allow air to circulate through. Find and keep one or two strong canes and prune out the rest of the center area. Find crossing canes and prune out the one that is less favorable. I arbitrarily selected which section of the canes to cut. I left enough length in the cane, but also pruned back because I wanted a compact bush until I can transfer them into the ground. Prune at an outward facing angle. If there are two equally healthy looking canes, imagine how the rose will look after one or the other is cut. Which will look better? It’s kind of like selecting which scarf, shoe, necklace or earrings will look better with the rest of your outfit.
- Next, assess the stems and canes on the outside of the bush. Prune them down. I pruned them way down and left about 5 – 8 inches just depending on the stem itself. Some stems I kept much longer and the others I cut down to as short as 3 inches.
- By the time the three steps above are done, my roses looked like nothing but dead, naked branches. It is very scary to see them like this, honestly. With each cut that I made, I usually talked myself through it, “Each cut you make, as painful and scary as it is, it will make the end result better. Everything will be okay. Roses are hardy and will grow back, even if you cut it down to its base.” I read that last part on David Austin’s website which really helped me gain the confidence to “just do it”.
- I rolled the fiber pots around to loosen the dirt. Because the soil was pretty dry, I was able to pull out the whole plant out with the dirt and transfer it into the aeration bag. I had to force some of them in by simply putting weight on it with one foot and pulling the handles up and around the bush.
- Add a tablespoon of Shake and Feed rose food. I eyeballed it. Work it into 2 inches of the soil.
- Water until the soil is drenched. Roses LOVE water. That was the first advice I was ever given by a co-worker when I was trying to keep a French rose tree alive at my old house. She said, “If you aren’t going to do anything else, just water it once a week.” The rose was well established in the ground so that advice worked! The other rule to follow is never water the leaves or rose buds itself as it will invite mold and disease to your plant.
- Since these roses are only in year 2 and still in pots, I will continue to water them every 2-3 days.
All the roses pretty much stretched their roots past the bottom of the fiber pots.
Huntington rose only bloomed twice last year. The roses did not last a week like some of the others. She did better later in the year after she got some roots into the ground. Very beautiful cupped, magenta roses which flowered in a set of three but I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed. Seems very opposite from the description on the website. However, I am hopeful. I think what this girl needs is to be planted into the ground.
Lady Emma of Hamilton is a very hardy rose bush. One that produced the biggest flowers in all the roses. A main cane snapped in half (but did not break) due to the weight early last spring and I decided not to cut it off despite the advice I was given at Regan Nursery. That broken cane continued to produce large beautiful flowers. Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut! The two new rose buds to the right of this picture are also growing off that snapped cane.
Here are all my rose bushes pruned and transferred ready for their second year. I left at least three main canes for each of the roses. I think they look a lot like first year bushes but that’s okay. I know they are ready for transplanting into the ground and when they are, they are going to take off.
The whole time I pruned, I kept thinking, “Gosh I hope I’m doing this right,” and then assuring myself, “Yes everything will be OK. Trust that your roses will be bigger and better soon.”
Pruning roses is a lot like trusting in the Lord! You won’t see the benefits today, but know that good things are coming.
Silver lining: The Exemplary goatskin gloves are awesome! No more thorns.