Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's 2012 and time to prune the roses! {How to Prune a Climbing Rose}

 Here in sunny SoCal, early January is THE time to prune the roses. 
If you do it right and in the right timing your roses will be more prolific, 
your bushes will be healthier and more disease resistant, 
and you will establish shapely plants with a brighter future!
{How's that for a little pruning promo?}

This is what my two climbing roses looked like earlier this week ~ lots of long runaway shoots, 
a  few faded blooms clinging on here and there, some rust, mildew, spot (diseases) encroaching. 
These roses needed to be given some direction. 
They needed a plan.

Here's how the two plants looked after being pruned ~ completely de-leafed, shorn of all encumbrances, spindly hangers-on, and blemishes. They are ready for a new year.

I start the process trying to see the bare bones of what I want to keep. 
Notice the twiggy branches shooting off the main canes. 
Those babies need to go.  

I cut off all the cross-branches and chose a few strong, well-spaced vertical canes to keep. 
They are secured to the fence and then trained horizontally at about shoulder-height. 
Most of the best rose production will come from the horizontal portions of the canes. 
Remember, roses bloom on new growth, so it doesn't help much to keep the old stuff around. 
Get rid of as much as your gardener's conscience will let you. 
Snip. Snip.

So that's the overall shape of my two climbers. Cutting off (all) the cross-branches is the easy part. 
You don't have much decision making there. Just cut at the base of the branch.

I also cut back the strong structural canes that I've decided to keep. 
It's best to be very deliberate about where to make that cut. Choose a spot just above a bud eye
where a new branch and ultimately blooms will appear as the plant pushes new growth. 
Once you can identify these bud eyes and "see" (no pun intended!) where they will lead, 
you can choose which ones to encourage. The last (highest) bud eye on each cane 
will receive an energetic push from the plant as it responds to the pruning. 
Make your cut just above a bud eye that is pointing in the direction you want 
strong new growth to go ~ away from other canes, away from the center of the plant, 
generally out and up. Notice how varied the bud eyes can look (below).

 The bud eyes are the (usually) lighter green or pinkish, slightly swollen areas, often just above a leaf or above a brownish lateral scar on the cane. Once you've chosen the spot where you want to encourage strong new growth, cut just above (maybe a 1/4 inch to a 1/2 inch or so), 
leaving enough room so you don't damage the bud eye.

The immediate results of hard pruning are satisfying but not pretty.

But the final results are stunning.

Happy New Year!
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