Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to Prune Roses, Part I: An Introduction to One Gardener's Observations on Pruning Her 150+ Roses

On Monday, the temperature reached 65 degrees. I could not stay inside, so I began my early season rose pruning. This is the first of several posts that I plan to write on rose pruning because that is most of what I do in the garden in February and March.

Rose pruning is a year-round job, but a significant part of it happens now. In my garden, I have about 150 roses representing 95 varieties. About half of my roses are once blooming species and old European roses. Most of the other half is a mix of Rugosas, Portlands, Hybrid Perpetuals, Chinas, David Austin roses, Bourbons, and Ramblers. I also have a few Noisettes that are hardy to zone 6 and modern shrubs.

The first step to all pruning is gathering your tools: Felco hand pruners, loppers, glue, gloves, and a bucket to collect the prunings. If you haven't sharpened and cleaned your tools already, it's time to do so. There are lots of simple sharpeners out there and sharp tools make pruning easier and are better for the rose. For older shrubs with very thick canes or to pull out material without thrusting your hand into the middle of the bush, loppers are handy.

As I prune, I seal every cut with Elmer's glue to deter bores from entering the freshly cut stems. I got this tip from the DVD Secrets of a Rose Gardener. If you haven't seen this, it's a wonderful day with rosarian who started as a garden volunteer to became the head rosarian at Long Island's Planting Field Arboretum. I've been glueing for three years now. From observation in my garden, this does help prevent the borers from damaging the fresh cuts.

When I prune roses, I sometimes start barehanded, but I always regret it and end up going back to the house for gloves. The thing I don't like about most gloves is that to be thick enough to not let the thorns in, the gloves restrict the movement of your hand. Last year, however, I bought a pair of rose pruning gloves from West County Glove that are wonderful. They go up to my elbow and allow very free movement of my hands and wrist.

I also get a kneeler because most roses require you to get down onto the ground to have a good look and them. Lastly, I bring out a bucket or large garbage can to hold all my prunings to make clean up easier. My favorite buckets are Tubtrugs.


For "How to Prune Roses, Part II: Old Rose Pruning Secrets" click here:

For "How to Prune Roses, Part III: Why Prune?" click here:


Frances, said...

Thanks for the glue tip! I pruned the roses yesterday, of course they got me through the gloves anyway, but hope it's not to late to apply the glue to the cuts. I can't imagine having that many roses to prune, you have my admiration just for being able to stay up with it!

Frances at Faire Garden

Unknown said...

Sigh....65 degrees...well, maybe by mid-May here...on occasion. Today it's about 20 degrees F and windy, but at least it's sunny. I can't imagine having that many roses, it must be just indescribable when they're all blooming!

Julia Erickson said...


I'm sorry to say it's back in the 40s with snow in the forecast tomorrow. Oh well, I enjoyed my one day of warm weather!

-Heirloom Gardener

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the pruning tips, especially the glue tip. I will be picking some up soon so I am ready for my pruning. I love roses and only have a few compared to you, your roses must be beautiful when in bloom :).

Search Heirloom Gardener


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