It’s time to give those roses a long hard stare with loppers in hand. Here is a quick guide to make sure you make the right cut.
Words Hayden Foulds
The good news is that if you do get rose pruning wrong, roses are very forgiving. The worst they will do is sulk for a while – it’s very difficult to kill a rose by pruning it. So, with that said, it is coming up to that time of the year to get pruning. In most parts of New Zealand, rose pruning is done in July through to mid August. Up north, people usually start a bit earlier and down south a bit later.
Get the blooms
Though it is not absolutely essential to prune your rose, it is highly recommended. Roses have been around for a reported 35 million years – people considerably less, so they can survive without it. But to get optimal results, the most satisfaction and the best blooms, you need to get pruning.
When you prune roses, you are removing unproductive growth in order to encourage new growth. You also need to open up the centre of the bush to let more light and air circulation into the centre of the plant. This helps to minimise disease problems.
Pruning also controls the shape of your rose plants and, for climbers and pillars, helps to train them.
Don’t be tempted
From March, your roses will start looking a bit worse for wear and you may be tempted to prune them to tidy them. Resist. If you prune early, the plants will come into new growth that will be knocked back by the cold weather later in winter – pruning early doesn’t result in earlier flowering either. The exception is if you need to remove any large canes. This is best done during May to prevent infection by silver leaf. The spores are not around during this time so it helps to prevent infection.
Rose thorns have a remarkable habit of finding bare skin, so make sure to cover up as much skin as possible. A good pair of gloves will protect your hands and allow you to handle even the thorniest material. Next, make sure you have a good, and comfortable, pair of secateurs. Keep them sharp by using an oil stone or a hand-held sharpener.
For larger stems, a pruning saw and a pair of loppers will come in handy – don’t strain your secateurs trying to remove a large branch. I find a pruning saw is good because it can get into tight places that loppers cannot.
To prevent double handling, make sure you have something to put your prunings in as you go.
The bud union (also known as the basal union or crown) is the area where the new shoots (called basal shoots) are produced from. These are the lifeblood of the plant and form the basis of future seasons of growth and flowering. When removing complete stems at the base, make sure it is cut off cleanly at the union, rather than leaving an ugly stub that will die back.
It is also beneficial to give the bud union a light scratch with a wire brush after pruning. This area often gets a build up of flaky bark, moss and lichen that often inhibits the production of new shoots. Just be careful when giving it a brush that you don’t accidentally damage any shoots already growing underneath. Clear away any soil or mulch covering the union.
Read more in our June issue.