Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ask Heirloom Gardener: How to Prune an Old, Neglected Rose

One of the unexpected responses to starting Heirloom Gardener is the questions I receive from readers about their gardens. Given how interesting I have found the inquiries, I thought I'd start sharing some of them with all of you. If you have a question for me, email me at heirloomgardener[at]aol[dot]com.

Question for Heirloom Gardener: I just read, and very much enjoyed, your series about pruning roses. Thank you. I've inherited a rose bush that is about 70 years old. It has some huge, gnarly growth at the bottom, from which is growing a horrible mess of old, twisted, and rubbing branches. The rose has been neglected for years, and what I have to deal with is a basic framework of very old growth supporting a mess of spindly young growth. So my question is whether this rose would be injured by being cut back to little more than its basic framework. I fear that such old branches might not like my demand that they be responsible for new canes again after years of playing a supporting role.

Heirloom Gardener's Answer: You don't want to shock the rose too much, so I'd prune it back over a two year time period. In my zone (6b), I would prune it back by one third in April. You may also remove one third of the canes from the ground. After it blooms in the summer, you can prune away any new growth. In the fall, bring it back to the height it was in the spring. The next year, repeat the process. Best wishes.


Randy Emmitt said...

We used to have a red tea rose that lived at the corner of the house in Ohio. It went neglected for many years at a time! Several times over the years we just trimmed it off to the ground (or near), it would come back and do great for a few years. I think it is gone now but lived for more than 40 years.

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