Carol’s se­cret to glo­ri­ous sum­mer roses

Treat your roses to the right prun­ing now, says Carol Klein, and they will re­ward you with a fab­u­lous show next year

Gardeners' World - - Contents -

Who doesn’t like roses? Now and then a per­son wi l l de­clare that they don’t – their dis­like is al­most al­ways couched in terms such as, ‘ they’re so dis­ease-prone,’ or ‘they’re dif­fi­cult to prune’. But the great ma­jor­ity of us recog­nise not only their value as one of the best and eas­i­est flow­er­ing shrubs, but also their ut­ter beauty, their scent and their di­ver­sity. They’re ver­sa­tile too, some climb up arches or frame a door­way or, in the case of ram­blers, climb into trees. Some are ideal for con­tain­ers while oth­ers are in­te­gral to our mixed beds and borders. You can even make hedges of roses, or train some of them into in­tri­cate shapes smoth­ered in flow­ers for months on end. They need to live well if they’re to per­form well – plenty of or­ganic mat­ter ini­tially, a good mulch, and a liq­uid feed from time to time – but they also need a firm hand when it comes to prun­ing. Roses can be an­ar­chic. If left to their own de­vices they may end up as a tan­gle of branches with very few flow­ers. Reg­u­lar prun­ing will help your roses live longer, re­main healthy, grow stronger and pro­duce more flow­ers. Roses are tough and it’s un­likely you’ll kill one by prun­ing it badly or even by not prun­ing it at all, but roses will al­ways re­spond to good prun­ing and the re­ward is hap­pier, health­ier plants.

Plan your prun­ings

With any gar­den­ing job, and par­tic­u­larly prun­ing, it’s a good idea to think about what you’re aim­ing for, and from there work out what steps you need to take to achieve that aim. In the case of shrub roses, you’re after a rounded open bush with strong growth and

lots of flow­ers for as long as pos­si­ble. With a hy­brid tea the aim is usu­ally to en­cour­age a strong, stocky plant with per­fect flow­ers on long strong stems. If you’re grow­ing a climb­ing rose you want it to cover a wall with an even shape so that all of the flow­ers are vis­i­ble or, if your rose is grow­ing up a sup­port, obelisk, arch or per­gola, you want it to flower from the ground up to the top, and for its flow­ers to be eas­ily seen and smelled. You need to un­der­stand your rose and what it is ca­pa­ble of, so that your prun­ing regime en­cour­ages it to be true to char­ac­ter. The dif­fer­ence be­tween climbers and ram­blers, for in­stance, is that climbers tend to flower longer (es­pe­cially true of David Austen’s English Roses), they usu­ally re­peat flower and their flow­ers are big­ger and of­ten held singly. Whereas ram­blers are more vig­or­ous plants. Of­ten pro­duc­ing strong new shoots from the base, they tend to have masses of smaller, of­ten sin­gle, flow­ers, and most have just one glo­ri­ous show of blooms per year. Ram­blers should have dead flow­ers re­moved im­me­di­ately after f low­er­ing. Climb­ing roses tend to need train­ing, ty­ing in to the struc­ture sup­port­ing them. In the first year after plant­ing, roses con­cen­trate on mak­ing roots, so soil prepa­ra­tion is all im­por­tant to en­sure the for­ma­tion of a strong root sys­tem and of lots of fine fi­brous feed­ing roots. For­ma­tive prun­ing in the first and sec­ond years will es­tab­lish the shape of your rose, hy­brid teas need to be cut back hard so that they will make a sim­ple shrub with a few strong shoots. Shrub roses need a lighter hand, though you are still try­ing to es­tab­lish and main­tain a good shape.

Get­ting rid of the ‘3 D’s

Prun­ing is not a mys­tery – the same com­mon-sense rules ap­ply as they would when prun­ing any woody shrub. With old roses, some peo­ple ad­vo­cate a ‘ lit­tle or noth­ing’ ap­proach when it comes to prun­ing, but I find that old roses can dwin­dle when left to their own de­vices so most of ours get pruned reg­u­larly. Re­mov­ing the ‘3 D’s – dead, dis­eased and da­m­aged wood – is im­per­a­tive, after which the ob­jec­tive is to en­cour­age the rose to make an open shape so branches don’t get crossed and air cir­cu­lates eas­ily. The aim is al­ways to en­cour­age the for­ma­tion of wood that will pro­duce flow­ers, – after all that’s why we grow them. Although prun­ing can start now, you can do it any time un­til the end of Fe­bru­ary in the south of the coun­try, and the end of March in the north. This should be just as they’re about to start into new growth in prepa­ra­tion for their sum­mer show.

You need to un­der­stand your rose and what it is ca­pa­ble of

gar­den­er­ Shrub roses of­ten flower on older stems, so when prun­ing, keep a mix of old and new wood

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