Winter rose pruning is around the corner and Alice SpenserHiggs gets some tips from expert Ludwig Taschner
JULY is traditionally rose pruning month and from the end of this month one can start preparing for it by sharpening the pruning shears and stocking up on fresh composts for the beds.
In most areas of Gauteng, roses can be pruned from the middle of next month to the beginning of August, except in very cold areas where pruning should be delayed to the middle or end of August.
Cutting back and tidying up is always therapeutic, though some gardeners approach rose pruning with trepidation.
Rose grower Ludwig Taschner has a mantra that one should mutter under one’s breath as you move from rose to rose: “I can’t do it wrong, I can’t do it wrong….”
Taschner maintains that the rose always sorts itself out. “Don’t worry about cutting to an outward growing bud, what angle the cut should be or painting each cut with a sealant,” he says.
“Whatever way you cut, the rose itself will decide where it is going to sprout. The only thing to remember is to pull off all the remaining leaves so that there is no place for pests to overwinter.”
Taschner says the reason for pruning is to shape and neaten the plant, to encourage strong new growth by removing dead, old and diseased growth, and to encourage the production of more flowers. Those that benefit most from pruning are hybrid tea, floribunda and bush types of English and Nostalgia roses.
For gardeners who want to finesse their pruning, Taschner suggests three different modes of pruning — light, moderate and severe — according to the space available and growing conditions.
Light pruning is best for bushes that receive sporadic attention or have not performed well, possibly due to compacted soil, shady conditions or competing plants. Cut the rose bush back by a third, leaving several side stems on the main branches.
Remove all the leaves. This forces the development of green leaves that give power to the roots.
Medium pruning is for gardeners who feel that their roses need more pruning than light pruning, but that severe pruning is too extreme. After cutting back the rose by a third, inspect the remaining growth to see which main stems (this season’s growth) or branches (two years or older growth) should remain. Select three or four suitable stems and reduce the length by about a third. Remove or shorten remaining side stems and forks.
Severe pruning is suitable for roses that are planted very close together, or ones that grew very tall last season. This is also the best method for floribunda roses, except Iceberg.
Only prune the bushes severely if you intend to enrich the soil after pruning and if there is a regular programme of watering and fertilising the roses during the growing season. Cut the rose back as you would for light and moderate pruning but shorten the remaining stems to 40cm. Remove or shorten remaining side stems and forks.
For Iceberg and similar roses that develop new stems from old wood, it is not necessary to cut out the thicker, mature stems. Just trim and thin out the bush.
Prune miniature roses and groundcover roses with hedge clippers, trimming them back to about 30cm from the ground.
Standard roses are treated like a bush rose that is suspended in the air. Cut back all stems and branches to between 30cm and 50cm of the crown or bud union and then remove all the older wood and twigs.
Remove the old stems from climbing roses and trim the remaining stems. Position the stems as horizontally as possible to encourage sprouting. Climbing Heritage roses are only trimmed after flowering in spring.
Shorten the canes of Panarosa and Spire roses and they will flower very well in October.
After pruning, renew the soil with compost and organic material. This determines the performance for the next season.
There are three modes of pruning; light, moderate and more severe. Light pruning is for roses spaced well apart, whereas severe pruning is for closely planted roses. Heavy pruning the previous winter resulted in a bushier Iceberg.