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Pruning like a Pro


The end of July is always an interesting time of the year for me. It’s the time when I need to make my secateurs sharp, and then go roaming the streets of Little Chelsea, vigorously pruning my neighbours’ pavement roses (whether they want them done or not – or even notice until they suddenly start looking so fabulous when they grow out!). It’s also interesting from the point of view that no matter how many times you watch an expert prune a rose properly, the next time pruning season comes around, everyone wants to see roses being essentially... annihilated.

So what is it about pruning that has people in a tizzy so much of the time? With the exception of ‘how can I sort out my lemon tree?’, the question I’m most asked is ‘when and how should I prune my roses?’ If you’re one of those people who would rather be poked in the eye with a sharp stick than getting your hands pricked, let’s just tell you – roses aren’t the pernickety, finicky prima donnas that everyone makes them out to be. They’re really easy to deal with, when you know how.

I’ve seen some people lopping their roses off in early to mid-July, but I really do think that’s just too early. Some experts will tell you that you should check the ground temperature to a depth of around 15 centimetres, and if it’s above 12-13 degrees Celsius, you’re good to go. Going with all the people I’ve spoken to over the years, I opt generally for sometime in the first couple of weeks of August, although I do try and get it sorted in the first week as all too often, it rains in the second week, and I believe that makes the plants wake up, and I’d rather ‘hurt’ them while they’re still in dreamstate, thinking about pushing out that new growth. Seriously, when you see the masters of the art attacking their prize bushes, you really don’t believe that the poor plant will ever recover.

But it’s not really an ‘art’. To hear how it’s done proper, the Taschners at Ludwigs will tell you that they just go after them with chainsaws (I told you, it’s a massacre). It’s really not that difficult either, although people tend to be so scared of making a mistake that they don’t prune hard enough. Which is what you need to do. To leave room for circulation of air, and for new growth; to remove parts of the plant that you don’t want so that it will grow in the parts that you do.

But, I hear people say, roses in nature aren’t pruned. So why do we need to do it?

Well, in their natural colder habitats, roses get bitten back by the late winter frosts and colder weather, especially the dead and diseased or damaged canes on the bush that can’t handle the conditions. In more protected environments, this doesn’t happen, so we need to give them a bit of judicious care, and help them with the removal of any unsightly and un-useful parts of the plant. But it mainly boils down to aesthetics. And getting more and bigger flowers which are at eye level instead of somewhere up above our heads.

Ultimately, you don’t need to become an expert at pruning these delicate (not) flowers. That could take years. Even if you end up pruning your roses badly, it’s better than not doing it at all. But if you’re wanting to find out how easy it is – well, we could give you a step-by-step right here, but you really do need to see someone in action to get the best lesson. Just invest in some good thick gloves and a sharp tool and get stuck in. And of course, if you are new to all of this and need advice, you can just get in touch with our friendly, shear-wielding experts at Lifestyle College to get all the answers you need. Just don’t leave it too late now.

e now.


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