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Pruning This Winter


Roses have a long and colourful history. According to fossil evidence, the rose is 35 million years old. (Not the one in your back garden, obviously, but the species!) They have been symbols of love, beauty, war, and politics. In nature, the genus Rosa has some 150 species spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere, from Alaska to Mexico and including northern Africa. But wasn't until the late eighteenth century that cultivated roses were introduced into Europe from China – and the love affair with these gorgeous plants began…. Most people are wondering at this time of year about how best to prune their roses. Let me start off by saying – hold that thought! It’s not quite time. We’ve always taken our cue from the great rose growers we have in the country and the moment they take to their rose stock with chainsaws, that’s the time to get busy. (For the neophytes, rule of thumb for many is first couple of weeks in August, although you’ll see the garden centres lopping their plants down towards the end of July.)

I love this piece I found by Anna Pavord in the Independent Online: How eloquently put.... For many, watching master pruners at work, well, frankly, it may feel like murder. Although year after year, garden aficionados can’t wait for pruning demos (even if they’ve seen them twenty times before), because it’s amazing to see how the rose bushes get completely annihilated! There’s something weirdly satisfying about seeing a big bushy plant reduced to four sticks in a loose ‘teacup’ shape. And having the knowledge that that plant will come back beautifully come spring. The gasps of astonishment as first time spectators see the chainsaws taking off two thirds of the plant in one fell swoop are great to hear.

But if you get it right, your plants will thank you – and reward you for it with more blooms that you can shake a cane at. It helps to control the size and shape of your plant while ensuring its health. Knowing just when to prune has to be one of the most common gardening quandaries. If you’re not in the know, it may seem unimportant as to when you make the cut. But in fact, it makes the difference between a healthy plant and one that may not see spring in.

In nature, roses have the ability to ‘self-prune’ during the winter months, as really cold temperatures will nip off those ends. Sure, many plants including roses can fend for themselves without our intervention. But why not give them a little help to be the best plant they can be? And have a longer shelf life.

Pruning can be a little confusing, specially when you have to look at the type of plant you’re going to be shaping. Whether they’re hybrid teas, or Old garden roses, shrubs roses, ramblers or climbers. (For instance, climbers are happy with a late autumn and/or early winter pruning to keep them neat and tidy and flowering well, whereas ramblers prefer pruning in late summer after their flowers have died out.) The type – and the time of year it flowers – influences the amount of pruning you’ll have to do, because although general pruning principles apply to all roses, there are some differences. Hearing this, I’m sure that many people think that when in doubt, do nothing at all... rather than mess it up outta hand.

Annihilate them I say! One only has to spend an hour with rose growers to realise that your little pretties can handle a whole lot of hard pruning.

You should learn how to make the kindest cut before you let yourself loose with a chainsaw, so get the proper tools first. And I’m not talking about secateurs and loppers. It all starts with a learning curve.

Need some help? Just get in touch with Lifestyle College to find out about the best pruning courses bar none. The sooner the better! Before you know it, winter will be over...


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