Friday, March 12, 2010

How low should you go?

There seems to be a competition among some rose folks as to how short they prune their roses.

"I pruned mine to 12 inches this year" is usually quickly raised by, "Oh yeah, I cut mine down to 6" - "That's nothing, I pruned mine to the below the soil level!".  I would be remiss in not mentioning these talks also usually involve the wearing of some form of rose print clothing.

Hey, if someone wants to cut their roses down to nothing and then wait all year for them to get large only to do it again then that's their business.

Me?  I like a full, shrubby, plant right from the get go so I don't prune that way.  In fact I leave my shrub roses tall - like three to four feet.  I also leave lots of canes because that also gives me a full shrubby plant.  And more importantly lots and lots of flowers.  So many you can smell them from across the yard.

If a picture is worth a thousand words than I figure a video might really do the trick.  Here are two videos on pruning.  The first introduces you to my thoughts on pruning - with a shout out to Jeri Jennings who suggested the two basic growth habits and methods.  The second is about pruning a shrub rose to give you that full look as taught to me by David Stone at Mottisfont Abbey.

Introduction to rose pruning.

Pruning a Rose That Grows From the Base

See, I told you it wasn't that hard!


  1. I love the easiness these movies give me in pruning. I am gratefull for them .
    I still have a question, I live in Romania and this winter we had lots of snow, and the temperatures went down to -25C
    I have 440 roses in my garden. Some of the bushy ones, like westerland, have an off white middle of the stem when I make the cut. The poor ones were affected by the cold. The branches have small buds but the middle is not white. If I cut until I find white stem, the Westerland rose will be so short! Do I have to do that? How I am going to do the pruning if the stem is brownish almost all way down?

  2. Glad you like the videos.

    What I would advise you do with a winter like that is prune as you normally would. For now ignore the center being white or tan. Let the roses have their first bloom flush in spring and then afterward you can go in and cut out anything that is obviously dead.

    I find many times after a severe winter canes don't look so good but they recover on their own in spring if left alone. So I always use a light hand during the first pruning.