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It's almost Valentine's Day which in the south means time to prune your roses. (This refers to people in the Lower South - think of the states that hug the Gulf. For those in the upper south to the Kansas/Ohio sextion, wait a month. Northern regions can use this info in April - May.)

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!!



( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 9th, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC)
Your gardening posts make me happy. I have the blackest of black thumbs from the black-hearted center of Blackonia, but they make me so, so happy. Somebody ought to grow pretty things :)
Feb. 9th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
Well clearly you need to marry for money and hire a full-time gardener to give you the sight of pretty things. :D

Maybe you can grow man bushes!! :D
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Feb. 9th, 2007 04:19 pm (UTC)
You're up north, right? I just don't know how y'all deal with all that snow. I'm fascinated every time I see Martha Stewart creating elaborate cages/mulch barriers for her plants. That's a LOT of work, whew!

And if your roses are adapted for your region, they should be fine. They are a lot tougher than people think.
Feb. 9th, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
Alas, right now I can only look at catalog photos of roses and decide what climber to add to my collection.
But a very interesting post nontheless.
Feb. 9th, 2007 04:20 pm (UTC)
Man, catalogs of roses are pornographic in my house. Such a beautiful icon you have!

One benefit of living in Texas - a 10 month growing season. :D
... - petzipellepingo - Feb. 9th, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 9th, 2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the tutorial. I do not have roses and I live in AZ. I think rose keeping is too much work so this is why YOU are the gardener of the family. I love to smell roses and look at them but I will not grow them. So, tho in an extra bush for me will ya???

I am jealous that you are getting out of the house with a friend today. I'm on day 3 couped up with 2 flu children. I AM HAPPY!!! AND.

PMSing. That is a treat for ALL!!!!
Feb. 9th, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC)
Dude, you can grow roses like GANGBUSTERS in Az!! In fact, a lot of commercial growers are by your house - same with where most of the US gets its Bermuda, but you knew that already.

I will grow roses for you! (And sersly - you could dump a bush by your fence and ignore it - it would grow, honest.)

I am sorry you are going stir crazy. Yesterday was my freak out day. I am leaving everyone behind today. I highly recommend going out witcho grrlz and drinking heavily.
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Feb. 9th, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I should start a cutting of my JFK rose for you - it's a white, double blossom and SEW PRETTY. You do nothing but cut the flowers you want to sniff, which = YAY.

If we get down to Dallas, we'll TOTALLY come see you! Otherwise, Mr. S and I might be there tomorrow.
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Feb. 9th, 2007 08:45 pm (UTC)
Hi!!! I did have a good lunch, but it ended up being with my husband, instead of my friend. Which is just fine! Mmm, red curry shrimp vermicelli. DE. LISH.

I don't know about Mountain Dew, honestly. I say Sprite because of the few chemicals in it (no, really!) but a crushed asprin can work as well. It doesn't last quite as long, but it certainly prolongs the life of the flowers. Key is the changing of the water every few days and trimming off the ends of the stem.

I can NOT stand Mountain Dew, either. Mr. S loves Squirt and... Huh. I think I'm not a big soda person, really.
Feb. 9th, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
Great job of getting the basics down, Ma'am, but of course I have to pop up and make a few additions, extensions, and, dare I say, minor corrections.

Pruning climbers is a complicated and dangerous issue, but your advice not to prune until after they bloom holds true only:

1. With once-blooming climbers and ramblers. Reblooming HT climbers can often be pruned with the other HTs, although it delays first bloom and is otherwise a waste of time.

2. If you are dealing with plants which are not so big that they are dangerous to passers by, other plants, or your house (not to mention in danger of wind damage to their own canes) or so overgrown and twiggy that they have air circulation problems.

Since sane people don't choose roses that have to be pruned three times a year, I'll leave Long John Silver out of this. Let me take as an example instead The Rose That Ate Madison Valley, a Cl. Tiffany (HT) which is now in decline, and a good thing, that. It was planted on an arch-trellis over a Seattle friend's front gate, and the combination of high native soil fertility (Madison Valley used to be the bottom of Lake Washington, before the Montlake Cut lowered the late level in the early days of the twentieth century) and good situation, combined with genetics which make it merely big in poor conditions combined to make it a hazard to navigation. It was dead-headed and tidied up all summer, but then, to do well, needed cut down to a third its height in October, by a crew of three (its owner, my son, and I); usually the cut canes filled two big yard waste containers and a tied pile of structural wood. In late spring we came back and cut the new growth back to twelve to fifteen feet, removed excessive side canes, and tied everything in nice and tidy; that was another two yard waste bags. Every year for nine years, we attended upon its demands.

The last time we were at her house, we looked upon the lovely shade tree which has cut light to the rose, and sighed in relief; she and I are both getting too old to fight the thing, and Sam has a life.

What it comes down to, with roses, is this: any time an average gardener comes to desire something other than the ones that everyone grows, especially if it's because she's fallen in love with a picture of the White Garden at Sissinghurst, or the Tombstone Rose, it would behoove her to talk to the person in charge of the great big horse of a rose and find out what it takes to keep it tidy. Because otherwise it may become the equivalent of Adventure Racing to keep the thing in check.

Julia, who has four roses which take, on average, three eight hour days a piece every year to maintain.

Feb. 9th, 2007 08:41 pm (UTC)

I think it's pretty obvious that I'm giving rudimentary information for the people on my flist that have brown to black thumbs. Often, as a Master Gardener, I hear back from the public that roses are daunting, or that they don't know what to do with them.

This post serves as a basic guide for people in my area to know how to make cuts on their roses, how to make cut blooms last, and that's it.

If you want to go crazy nuts with your experiences with roses, species names, etc. you should make a post in your journal! I'm sure you have a few gardening gurus that won't be daunted by your approach and experience. I've got some newbies here, though, and I stick by the information I gave as factual and accurate. (And you contradict yourself with your #1.)

I simply don't have the same experience with roses adapted to the Southern US that you have up in Wash. state.

I think you are trying to share your experiences with me, but frankly, the way you approach this is awkward and mildly offensive. I want to stress that I don't think you are TRYING to be. But the "dare I say" and chiming in with your corrections? And you contradict yourself? Come on.

Talk TO me, don't talk DOWN to me, please. *bear hugs*
Feb. 9th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
Man, I miss my roses. I only had a couple of balconies (watering was a part-time job!), but oh, my old roses and Austens made me so happy. I swear I have, Comte de Chambord, Jude the Obscure and my gardenia to thank for getting me through my master's thesis.

No idea how I'm going to make it through a dissertation without roses. At least I can read about them, thanks to you. ;>
Feb. 9th, 2007 08:42 pm (UTC)
OOoooOOoooooh, the roses you listed... Mmmm, the smell and the BLOSSOMS! I'm such a fan of gardenias... They can be tricksy here in Texas - we need shade in my neck of the woods to keep them from croaking. But there's nothing like the smell, is there?

And clearly you'll need friends to send you bouquets while you work on your dissertation!! :D
Feb. 10th, 2007 12:26 am (UTC)
So if you *do* live in North Texas - well West Texas - um, Panhandle of Texas, what do you use for Rose food? We have notoriously bad soil up here, but the roses seem to love it most years.

I knew about the pruning. I actually have to prune a couple of my bushes more than once because they really do go nuts, and they aren't even supposed to be climbers!
Feb. 10th, 2007 01:10 am (UTC)
Any kind of "rose food" should be fine. I'm a big fan of compost, as it improves the soil, too. Hit up your Big Box store like Home Depot or Lowes and grab a bag of composted manure and use that as a mulch/top dressing in your flower bed, and that's a good feeder right there.

I prune my shrubs throughout the growing season if I'm not pulling blooms off for inside, too. We really are lucky here in Texas with all that warmth and sun - we get blooms multiple times a growing season!
Feb. 11th, 2007 04:40 am (UTC)
This is so great!!!!! Thank you!

Dare I hope there will be posts on flowering trees and daffodils, two things that stump me year after year as I always seem to look up what to do when it is too late to do anything. Like can one prune a flowering tree like a cherry blossom one in the spring before it gets buds, or do you do it after it flowers, or when?
And if one buys Daffodils in pots in February and then they flower and die...can you do anything with all those bulbs?


Perplexed Arwen in NJ, where it is finally cold, (and some of the flowers were tricked into coming up too soon...poor flowers)

PS When people are rude to me after I post nice things, I want to say, bite me to my computer...come on, tell little old Arwen, do you do it too? And rant to your hubby? Or do you really stay so chillingly polite? I am all admiration. For your gardening skill and your chill.
Feb. 11th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
I'm glad this can help! As for daffodils, I'm not a fan, but that's because I live in Texas, so they only stick around for a week or two. HOWEVER. If you have a pot of daffodil bulbs, let all of the foliage turn yellow and die back once the flowers are spent (watering it on the same schedule) and you can transplant those bulbs to your garden.

Cut off most of the leaves, leaving an inch or two, and plant them twice as deep as the bulb is high. If you have some "bulb booster" fertilizer or the like, add a small amount to the planting hole. They should come back next year. :)

As for flowering trees, I'm assuming you want to cut off a few branches to force the flowers inside in an arrangement? As soon as you see the buds forming, you can prune a branch and put it in a vase of water in your house. The warmer temperatures will trick the buds into blooming. If you're wanting to just prune a flowering tree, wait until the flowers form so you can enjoy the blossoms.

Hope this helps!
... - arwensong - Feb. 11th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
... - midnightsjane - Feb. 11th, 2007 10:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )


Are You Actually

Reading this? I'm just curious. Because that's really detail-oriented of you. Feel free to stop reading. But you can see that there's more here, so are you going to keep reading? Really? That's pretty dedicated. I'm impressed. No, really. I'm not being sarcastic, why do you get like that? See, this is the problem I have with your mother - yes. YES. I'm going there. It's time we put all of our cards on the table.

I love you, why are you doing this? After all we've been through? You don't have to be like this. You know, still reading. You could be baking a pie. And then sharing it with me.

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