First, DO NOT PRUNE CLIMBERS NOW. Do you have a climber? Are the canes over 6 feet tall? Do not prune before the first bloom, or you will cut off your spring flowers. Climbers/ramblers should be pruned AFTER they're finished blooming in Spring.
Second, CLEAN YOUR PRUNING SHEARS. If Black Spot has been a problem in the past, be ESPECIALLY sure you clean them. Also, you'll want to discard of any clippings and dropped leaves in the trash. Do not compost them, as they carry the fungal spores that spread the disease. You can clean your shears by spritzing them with a 1:3 bleach solution and wiping them dry, swiping a cotton ball with Rubbing Alcohol over the entire cutting surface, or using a Lysol™ Disinfectant wipe over the entire cutting surface. Again, if you've had problems in the past with Black Spot, you'll want to wipe your shears down after pruning EACH plant to keep the spread of disease to a minimum. (Or, you can shovel prune that plant and put in a healthy one better adapted to your soil, as weak plants are what continued disease indicates. *g*)
Your shears should be like scissors, not with a flat side and a sharp side. Those latter shears crush the canes, which invites disease. Also, the scissor-type require less torque, something helpful for people who may have arthritis or weakened hands/wrists. More and more gardening tools are being adapted to people with varying levels of disability, which is awesome.
What To Prune
The idea behind pruning is to remove dead or weakened parts of the plant, to increase air circulation (which a lack of contributes to powdery mildew and Black Spot), and to keep two canes from rubbing against each other. You also want the blooms on the OUTSIDE of the plant so you can see them. You need to remove the canes from the center of the plant. Here's a diagram for a standard bush rose:
It's pretty severe, huh? Your plant will love you for it. Roses are a lot tougher than people give them credit for.
What was done to get from A to B was this: the center canes were removed. On the bottom left were two canes rubbing against each other. The outer most cane was selected to stay, the other was removed. The idea here in Texas is to remove 14 inches on Valentines Day. Roughly: an arm's length. If you have an especially unruly rose bush, you can remove up to two and a half feet of cane. Mini-roses are pruned almost to the soil's surface. The harsher you are with a mini-rose, the better it blooms.
How To Cut
It's important to cut the cane at the right place - too high and you have necrotic tissue taking away growth hormones from buds. Too low and the bud won't form a shoot, and as a result, no blooms. Here's a visual:
On the left is a cut too high. Food and nutrients, not to mention the hormones that signal the plant to form blooms, will needlessly travel to this top portion above the bud on the left. As the tissue slowly dies, the plant will continually send "help" which means energy not sent to form flowers.
In the center is a cut that is too low. While it's good to angle your cuts (this is so water droplets roll off the cut - if water sits on the cut, it can form mildew, disease, etc.) this angle is severe. The "tail end" of the cut is BELOW the forming bud. This will actually tell the plant that NO GROWTH hormones should be sent to that bud on the left of the cut. you won't have growth there, and that portion of the cane will most likely die back to the next lowest bud. Which will slow down the formation of flowers below the cut, etc. etc.
On the right is a perfect cut. There is just enough cane left to support the weight of the new growth (which can grow to a few feet, mind) but not so much that it will become necrotic and die back. The "tail end" of the cut is just above level with the bud - growth hormone is now triggered to be channeled to that shoot forming.
It sounds a little complex - it's really not. Once you know what to cut and how, you can hack away madly at your roses and encourage lovely growth. It's a good idea to feed the soil after pruning. Old tried and true rose food is crushed Epsom Salts (if you have alkaline soil like in North Texas, DO NOT use them - you'll make your soil TOXIC.) Spread crushed Epsom salts at the rate of a cup per foot of soil. Just sprinkle it on top of the soil and ruffle the soil surface with your fingers to incorporate.
I use compost as fertilizer before there is growth - I put a top dressing of two to three inches on the ground. Once I have leaves forming, I use seaweed solution as a foliar spray for faster absorption.
The good thing is that roses are pretty forgiving. You can neglect them for a while then come at them like a crazed person and they'll bounce back. Give them just enough water and loads of sun (and I water my roses by rainfall - TEXAS rainfall, mind - and maybe 4 supplemental waterings a growing season) and food and you'll have plenty of blooms.
How To Cut Blooms For Display
This is pretty easy for basic shrub varieties. Count 5 groups of leaflets from the bloom down. Cut using the same methods mentioned above, preferably so the cut is made where it sill encourages growth to the OUTSIDE of the plant. I don't make a big deal about this because the growth is going to seek out the sun and move to the outside. If you want to get picky, then go further down the cane until you get to a leaflet that's facing outside and made your cut above it, by using the same methods in the pruning graphic above.
Keep your blooms lasting longer by adding a splash of Sprite to the water in the vase. Really! It's the sugar that keeps the blooms going. (So, you could use 7-Up, too.) Every couple of days, pull the stems out of the vase and cut an inch off the stem, at an angle, and change the water. You can get some roses to last for up to three weeks doing this! My yellow roses have gone for 19 days inside. Sweet.
In conclusion, I ordered this rose today and it will be trained along the front of the garage to pretty up that brick space. (Austin rose, 'Graham Thomas') YAY.
In other news, I'm going to have a much needed day of fun with a friend in a bit. Happy Friday everyone!!