You’ve got to be cruel to be kind
WHEN long- neglected roses and deciduous fruit trees are finally pruned, it is sometimes a cruel- to- be- kind job. The aim is to cut out old, diseased or dead branches which restrict healthy growth.
July is a perfect time to get to work and liberate and stimulate these plants, back to full vigour.
Roses often become badly overgrown and full of dead wood. Most thrive when regularly pruned every winter. Here are some easy ways to prune various types of rose plants this month.
Large- flowered and cluster- flowered bush roses ( once called hybrid tea and floribunda) are the most commonly grown varieties in Tasmania.
To prune, start from the base and cut out all twiggy material close to the ground. Suckers always sprout below the graft- union, so cut them right out even below the soil if possible.
Next, cut out any dead or old branches which have lost vigour. All weak, spindly shoots should be completely removed.
Any long, vigorous branches that grew last summer are water- shoots. Apart from removing old seed or flower heads, leave them untouched.
All remaining healthy branches are cut back by a third.
Standard roses are simply bush roses grafted to the tops of metre- high stems. They are pruned the same way, but always above the graft union. The main standard beneath the graft is never pruned.
Patio roses are small bush varieties and are pruned a little harder even using hedge shears. Groundcover or “flower- carpet” rose plants are also cut back very hard using a brush- cutter if necessary to leave just a cluster of short, 100mm- long stubs sticking up from the soil. Just rake all debris clear afterwards.
Miniature roses are cropped back to just above the ground. Any showing weak growth can be thinned to remove dead, twiggy material.
Old- fashioned or shrub roses which are neglected usually look an absolute mess. Most flower only once in early summer.
The branches are best thinned rather than cut back hard. The easiest way is to cut out one or two of the oldest branches, close to the ground.
The remaining branches are left intact, apart from the removal of withered blooms and seed capsules.
Climbing roses which have been ignored for too long need drastic treatment in winter. If one third of the oldest, thickest branches are completely cut out almost to the ground these wonderful flowering plants take on a new, vigorous life.
Resist the temptation to cut back any long canes that reach for the sky. Instead, pull them down carefully so they can be tied in to the supporting frame, trellis or pergola.
Weeping standard roses are once- blooming ramblers grafted on to tall standards, 2m long.
The young, drooping branches are never cut back hard. Only the oldest, thickest branches can be cut out from where they emerge just above graft unions and all remaining healthy branches left to weep to the ground.
Other ornamentals can also be pruned in July. Hydrangeas are pruned by first cutting out old branches close to the ground and then pruning the remaining, young branches back to a pair of fat buds.
Paniculata hydrangeas are cut back very hard in winter.
Wisterias are vigorous climbers that need to be kept under control. They are normally pruned immediately after flowering in early summer by reducing all long side shoots to about 10 buds.
However, if the new growth from these shortened shoots is pruned by half during winter, spectacular displays of flowers are assured in late spring and early summer.
The lower branches of many ornamental trees, especially those with attractive bark such as birch, maple and Chinese Elm can be cut off almost flush with trunks.
This not only displays the attractive bark textures and colours but also allows rank grass or weeds growing close to these trees to be more easily mown.
There is no point in cutting back the tops of ornamental trees unless threatening to grow close to overhead wires.
Most trees and shrubs that bloom in spring or early summer are never pruned in winter because it removes flowering wood.
Better to wait until after flowering before getting stuck into them.