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How to prune roses

June 20, 2011 | Filed under Soul food

A rose bush, unlike a tree, does not grow by producing shoots which steadily increase in size every year. A rose stem grows actively and bears flowers for only a few years, after which the upper portion becomes exhausted. A new shoot then appears from a bud lower down the stem. The part above the new shoot dies.

This means that a bush left unpruned becomes a tangled mass of dead and live wood bearing flowers of poor quality on spindly stems.

Pruning is the means of getting rid of the dead and diseased wood each year and encouraging the development of new strong and healthy stems. It will also give you a well shaped bush which will flower freely, giving you quality blooms on strong stems over many months each year for many years.,

Rose bushes are pruned in the winter when they are dormant. they will reward you with flowers from late Spring through to Autumn, even early winter depending on where you live.

When you start pruning,  you may have a lot of old leaves to cope with. Start at the top.  If you prune from the bottom of the bush you may remove stems you really should retain. You cannot put it back!

Remove some of the top growth then cut out dead and diseased wood, the weak and spindly wood that is cluttering the bush and stopping air circulation that will lead to disease. The best flowers are produced on new wood so if you have had sufficient new growth to maintain the shape of the bush, COMPLETELY cut out unwanted old stems.

You will now be able to “see” the bush properly and can make your final cuts. Medium pruning is a good general guide, i.e. prune to about half the original height of each stem. Some roses, such as FIRST LOVE, resent being pruned too hard and should be lightly pruned, i.e. to about two thirds of the original length.

The final cut should be to an outward facing bud to keep the centre of the bush clear and aid air circulation. You should now have 3 or 4 good strong stems ready for the coming season.

When you have finished pruning and have removed all the prunings carefully hoe the soil to loosen it up where you have been treading. Add a dressing of blood and bone.

SPRAY the bushes, paying particular attention to the bud union at the base of the bush.

A suitable spray is a mixture of a copper spray such as Copper oxychloride and All seasons oil. Mix separately as directed on the container and combine after mixing.

DO NOT prune during or just before rain. If the cut has not sealed there is a risk of infection by disease. The oil in the spray mixture will help seal the pruning cut.

Notes provided by Graham Williamson of the Kapiti Rose Society.

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