Roses are pruned in the winter to:
- to remove dead, old and diseased stems,
- to keep the bushes to a manageable size
- and to encourage the development of new growth.
When you prune will depend on your local mini-climate. Experience will soon show you your best time. An indication will be when new buds start to appear at the top of each cane. When they do come away get started with pruning the bushes.
When you are ready to prune choose a day which is dry and sunny. If it looks as if it might rain, there will be moisture in the air and this can cause fungus diseases.
Your aim is to end up with a bush which is shaped like a cup – narrow at the base and widening out as it gets higher. Air currents will be able to filter through the bush creating conditions that will help keep it disease free.
The first job is to remove any dead growth, any weak and spindly stems and any clutter in the centre of the bush.
You will be left with some stems that can be cut back, usually to about one third of the original bush.
Always cutting to an outward facing bud. This is not always easy as the rose bushes don’t know this and develop buds where they wish. However pruning like this will help to create a well shaped bush that will flower well in the Spring.
When you’ve finished pruning clear away all prunings and leaves and dispose of them completely. The compost bin is no place for dead leaves as these may harbour diseases. Burn them if you can or put them out with your rubbish.
When you’ve finished pruning it’s good to spray them with a copper and oil mixture. A dressing of Blood and Bone can be applied and hoed in. It is a slow release fertiliser.
Take care when pruning. You are the most important being in the rose garden. Make sure your implements are clean and sharp. Blunt secateurs can be a menace.
Use the correct tool. Use loppers or a suitable saw for thick stems too much for secateurs. Wear stout gloves. To see what is what when there is a lot of vegetation on the stems I like to cut them back a bit before trying to cut a cane out near the bottom. I nearly tried that with a finger once. OUCH!!!
And take your time. Do not rush things. Then enjoy your roses when they flower from late October/early November
Graham Williamson was a member of the Wellington Rose Society and the Kapiti Rose Society. He wrote the cultural notes for the newsletters for these societies for many years.