Snip, Snip, Snip ... Rose Pruning Time

In the garden centre we have a saying 'Pruning in June is too soon' .... we are now in the first week of July, so its time to get pruning.  Whilst roses will continue to flower for many years without pruning, the bushes will be more vigorous and the flowers larger and more abundant with pruning.  

There are lots of theories on pruning, and plenty of advice.  At  B&B we like to keep it simple, and we always say to customers that roses are very forgiving .... if you make a mistake they will still bloom .... you really can't go wrong.    

Our general advice on rose pruning is:

  • cut back the bush by about half to two thirds
  • aim to open the bush up (think vase shape) so that you allow good air movement which will help prevent disease over the summer months
  • remove any old and dead wood and any thin canes (anything about the size of a pencil can be considered thin)
  • remove any branches that are damaged or broken
  • After pruning apply a winter spray such as Pest Oil to assist in preventing fungal disease
  • After pruning apply a handful of Seamungus to each bush.  Seamungus is a fabulous product.  Whilst it is not a fertiliser as such, it promotes soil and plant health, improves growth; and assists with the water holding capacity of your soil .... it's a goodie, and is often overlooked by gardeners.

STANDARD ROSES:  if you have standards follow the above guidelines, however when opening up the plant for air flow aim to keep the bush in a ball shape on the standard rather than a vase shape.

CLIMBERS:  Tie down any new seasons long growth to your structure.  Remove any damaged and thin canes.  Only remove old canes if you can replace them with a young new cane.  By securing your canes in a horizontal rather than vertical fashion you will increase your blooms.  Keep pruning to an absolute minimum for the first 3-4 years as the bush matures.

GLOVES:  A decent pair of gloves is super important when pruning roses.  Particularly as our skin ages and becomes more fragile.  I use and recommend Gold Leaf Tough Touch Gloves. These fabulous gloves have the endorsement of the Royal Horticultural Society of the UK.   I first came across these gloves during treatment for leukemia .... I was not supposed to garden!  I needed to find a glove that would let me garden without getting any cuts or scratches.   My gloves are now 10 years old, have pruned many a rose bush and pulled up blackberries, and not once have let a thorn through the leather.   Chat to our friendly garden staff if you would like to try a pair - you will find them in store at B&B.

SNIPS:  A decent pair of snips is also essential when pruning.  Be sure to keep your snips sharp, and clean.  A good rule of thumb is to sharpen your secateurs at the end of each day and as needed during the day, and then wipe them over with eucalyptus oil or bleach to prevent the transfer of disease from bush to bush (if you use bleach be sure to wipe them over with some oil after applying the bleach so that they don't go rusty).   

Roses are the most forgiving of flowers.  I have seen them pruned with a chainsaw and even mowed with a slasher - whilst the bushes were ugly and torn, they continued to flower.  

The Rose Society of South Australia provides advice and support to gardeners, and runs several rose pruning demonstrations in June and July.    See their website for further details