Time to prep for first rose pruning
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Jan 30, 2013 | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most rose growers begin to be concerned about pruning about this time each year and this is a subject which needs some clarification. First, before going into the pruning aspect, there is a simple procedure which may save you a lot of time and trouble with roses. To keep from spreading disease from one rose to another, and thus through the whole bed, wipe your shears with alcohol after pruning each rose. Use just plain old alcohol which is in your medicine cabinet.

Pruning at this time of year depends on whether your roses bloom on new growth or old. Those that bloom on new growth are the Hybrid Tea roses, Grandifloras, Miniatures, Floribundas and the China roses. These need really hard pruning. Cut out all dead stems and then cut out any cross branches or those stems which grow toward the inside. That’s to keep air circulating. Remember that you want to prune so your rose is shaped like a vase.

On miniature roses, cut back some of the oldest canes all the way to the ground. Then cut back at least a third all over. On climbing roses that repeat blooms off and on all summer, prune them in late winter during dormancy. On those climbers that bloom only once, prune them only after they finish blooming. Also remove one or two of the oldest canes all the way to the ground. If you need to, you can trim some of the side stems several inches in late winter.

On grafted roses, watch for “suckers”, those stems which come up from the roots. Those must be cut down at the root.

Other things that you need to do to grow beautiful roses will be taken up in a few weeks.

So often I have wished that I had asked ma questions about the care of her flowers. I remember one little rose, a miniature, which grew at the end of her front porch. Though it was larger than we think of miniatures being, it was by definition a miniature, one which has very small perfect roses. I remember that it was white with little yellow centers and that she had brought it to the Lewis home after she married Pa and moved into his mother’s home. She had taken cuttings from her old home where she was raised.

Deadheading is such an important part of growing roses and Ma must have known that because she always told me that cutting roses for decorating the house was good for the plant. She cut any and all her plants at any time she felt the need of a nice bouquet whether to take to the cemetery or to put in the “sitting room” or on the dining table. I can still remember the joy of cutting those flowers.

Another thing which she did, and I wish I knew if she understood why, was to leave a wide strip of weeds and wild flowers between the old orchard and the big front yard. That strip also bordered one side of her kitchen garden. I would have loved to get into that strip to pick some of the wild flowers but that was absolutely forbidden territory. Ma or Pa would say, “You must stay out of those weeds, honey. It’s too snakey.” Now, I know that every other part of that area was mowed with the big mower and a team of mules or cut back with an old weed sling. Years ago I read that if a strip of wild flowers and weeds is left to grow around a garden, the insects will prefer the wild part and leave the cultivated garden alone. I read that in an organic gardening magazine and thought, “Aha, that is the reason they left that strip”. And I wondered if they consciously knew that reason or if it was lore handed down. I will never know that and the many other questions that came to me over the years.

One thing that I do know is that Ma’s kitchen garden was almost free of insects. Was it the tobacco stems which Pa brought from the tobacco barn after “stripping” for her to criss-cross over most of the rows in the garden. Or was it because she had no insecticide spray to indiscriminately spray everything, killing the “good” insects along with the bad.

I do remember that she knew that the tobacco stems would discourage insects though she never used the word “systemic”. Maybe she didn’t know how it worked but just knew it did. I will never know that but I wish that I did.

I am discovering that I get calls from many states far from Kentucky and I wish to thank those readers. I can be reached at 270-522-3632 and I will answer your questions to the best of my ability.
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