Pruning Roses & More
There are several ways people describe pruning, like trimming, thinning, cutting, cropping and shaping, but, put simply, it is about removing dead, dying, diseased and distorted branches from your bushes and trees – including roses, of course. Whether you prune to manicure, straighten, shape and/or to give plants their best chance to flower, now is a good time to get on with the job – depending on what you are pruning.
How to Prune Bush & Standard Roses
First, ensure your secateurs are sharp, clean and oiled so they cut precisely and avoid transmitting diseases and fungal spores. Step back before you start and envisage your rose bush or standard looking like a bird’s nest
– with the bigger main stems on the outside cut back and the middle open for air to circulate. Prune away all dead, dying, distorted, crossing and diseased branches from their base. Then prune the remaining stems 3–4mm above outward-facing buds, so the slope is running downwards, away from the centre of the bush. A good prune will usually remove half of the whole
bush, slightly more for standards. If you are new to pruning, remember that rose bushes do not always grow in perfect shapes – so don’t worry if your ‘nest’ is not perfect either!
Once you have pruned any bush or tree, it is recommended you paint the larger cuts with pruning paste to prevent fungal disease and dieback from taking hold, especially if you prune a little earlier in the season than is ideal.
This is important for older roses and bushes/trees and if you live in an area where rain and high humidity are more the norm than not. When pruning ornamental and fruit trees, painting the cut ends is also recommended. Note that some experts believe that by painting the cut with commercial pruning paste, you are inhibiting the natural healing power of a plant and so they do not recommend it. In my experience, an older pear tree can be very susceptible to fungal damage as can older roses, so I always paint the larger cut ends of these bushes.
Pruning a Native Tree Hedge
If you have a native tree hedge at your place that has become impenetrable, start by taking off branches 20–40cm up from the ground to expose the base of the trunks and the earth around the base. Then, prune around a third (or enough length to create space between the trees) off the ends of the rest of the branches. If your trees are touching your backyard fence, house or garage, you need to prune branches back to create space between them. Always make pruning cuts on an angle so water cannot sit on the cut surface.
Pruning a Griselinia Hedge
If you have a Griselinia hedge, prune the tops to reduce height, and prune at the base if you want your trunks to show. Griselinia species make great hedges due to the way they weave and entwine into each other horizontally to create density for privacy, sound and wind protection. When mature they will take a light, overall prune to keep the hedge shaped.
Winter is a good time to prune apple and pear trees. Apricot trees are best pruned as soon as new foliage starts to appear in late winter or spring. Plum, peach, nectarine and other stone fruits can be pruned in late summer after you have picked their fruit.