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January 4, 2011 > Pat Kite's Garden: Rose pruning time again

Pat Kite's Garden: Rose pruning time again

"Off with their heads!" decrees the Queen of Hearts in Alice's adventures in Wonderland. The Queen settles all difficulties via execution. That's the way I feel about rose pruning. So, unlike the Queen of Hearts, I apologize before I start with the loppers. Yes, it is time to bring out assorted clippers, long-sleeved protective shirts, and thick gloves.

People often ask me what to do. There are detailed techniques used by accomplished Rosarians, and local garden centers often have free seminars. Call and ask. Me, I just go out and fill up my greenery waste can.

Major procedure? On all roses, remove old, weak, dead and diseased stems. Once you get past that and don't feel too guilty, check out your Hybrid Teas and Floribundas. Thin some of the older main stems and cut the plant to about one-half size. With climbers, shoots that flowered last year can be cut to about six inches. This is the time to tie up any branches that seem to be getting too ambitious (be careful, climbers fight back).

Shrub roses that repeatedly flower can be cut about one-third, but don't thin those too much. When you finish this, perhaps it is time to get another rose or three. There are roses that do well enough in semi-shaded areas, such as Abraham Darby, Cecile Brunner, New Dawn, Gertrude Jekyll, Golden Celebration, and others. Just make sure there isn't too much root competition from nearby trees.

As an entree to year 2011, I have tried to find a rose tale somewhat different. In Hindu mythology, the god Vishnu was floating on cooling waters as a nearby lotus unfolded its petals. Within was Brahma. Brahma, rising, stated the lotus flower was the supreme form of natural beauty. Vishnu disagreed. "In my paradise there is a blossom a thousand times lovelier and sweeter. It excels all flowers in perfume and it is as white as the moon." To settle this, the two gods traveled on the back of the serpent of infinity until reaching Vishnu's palace. They walked through pearl hallways until they came to a tree with a single enormous rose. It was white as Himalayan snow. Its perfume was like incense. "This is the fairest thing in heaven or earth," Vishnu stated.

But more was yet to come, for the rose opened its petals widely. Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of Prosperity, stepped out. "I am sent to be your wife," she stated. "Because you are faithful to the rose, the rose is faithful to you." Brahma bowed toward the ground. "It is as you have said," he acknowledged. For in your paradise is the rose and that is supreme above all flowers." In this way, according to the myth, Vishnu became the chief god over Brahma.

With the best for the Newest Year; may it bring you many flowers.

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