Winter Rose Pruning

The pruning of the Nymans rose garden is now well under way and in this edition of the blog we’ll share some practical hints and tips with you, as well as explaining the reasons for doing what we do.

Photo 1

Aerial view of Nymans rose garden before pruning

Roses are prickly plants so it is important to use the correct equipment, including gloves and eye protection. Roses such as the Moss and Rugosa types, which have thousands of tiny prickles (note: roses do not have thorns) are much more bothersome than those with larger protective hooks.

Photo 2

Prickles on a moss rose                                                              Tools of the trade

Before pruning a rose we consider its position in the bed and visualise a rough pruning height – roses in the centre, or at the back, can be pruned higher than those at the front. Otherwise, it is good to match heights between like plants and between those in similar positions, and to prune away from path edges.

Photo 3

Variation in pruning height                                                 Encroachment on a path

There are many types of rose and their pruning requirements vary, but as a general rule: remove dead, diseased and dying material; try to create a pleasing shape with a good balance of shoots, and avoid crossing stems where possible. Remember, old wood can act as a support for newer stems. Also, when pruning, we stand back to view the rose from where it will be seen by our visitors.

Photo 4

Roses pruned with the internal space and balanced shape required.

The weather can be a challenge at this time of year: pruning in very cold temperatures can potentially lead to stems being crushed by the secateurs; a good clean cut with a sharp blade will look something like this. When buds are breaking early due to warmer weather, care must be taken to avoid damage.

Photo 5

Prune at an angle away from the bud, with a gap of around 5mm

Dead or dying rose plants are easy to identify and can be dug up and replaced. Suckers (i.e. unwanted rootstock growth) can be tricky to spot, especially if they have been overlooked previously and now merge with the main plant; however, different stem colour, leaf shape and growth rate are usually giveaways. Suckers should ideally be dug out.

Photo 6

A rogue sucker left to grow

At the end of a day’s work it is important to dispose of the rose prunings (diseased or not) via a process called phytosanitation; this involves simply burning the waste material to help avoid any future fungal re-contamination.

To save time later we dig out weeds as we prune, especially from the centre of the rose, and check that the labelling is correct; a tag around the base of the plant is very effective. The next steps will be to feed, mulch and tidy the edges, and assess any gaps in the roses or under-planting.

Tom Whalley, Assistant Gardener



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