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February 7, 2012 > Pat Kite's Garden: Rose chopping time again

Pat Kite's Garden: Rose chopping time again

By Pat Kite

This is just about your last chance to officially trim your roses.

Of course they will probably do just fine if you don't hack away at them, but they won't be as neat or do as well. Those red and orange seedpods remaining from last year do take away from the plant's vim and vigor. When the rose is nurturing its potential offspring, it isn't growing as tall, bushy, fully disease/disorder resistant or rosy.

Now what to do? Use a sharp hand pruning shears or a longer lopping shears. Protective gloves prevent thorn attacks. Cut about 1/4-inch above a bud eye. What's that? If you look at a rose cane you will see tiny bumps, each with a little black "eye" in the middle. Underneath will be a horizontal crease, equally small. This bump or bud is where new green shoots will soon appear. Trimming encourages growth.

Why just 1/4-inch above? Any longer than that and the intervening cut wood turns brown and dies. This leaves an inviting door for pests and diseases.

There are many buds on a cane. Create your cut above a bud that faces the exterior of the plant rather than toward the center. This promotes outward growth and gives each rose branch its fair share of sunshine. Since I don't always do enough of this, several of my roses have a sort of bramble bush in the plant center. If you can, trim so your plant is vase shaped, rather than thicket. This requires trimming back the center part, which often requires easy access to bandages.

As a note, if you see non-relation shoots springing up from the plant base or rootstock, you might want to cut them as far back as possible. If you don't eliminate, these sucker shoots will take over the entire plant. For example, if you have lovely yellow roses, and sucker shoots from the original rootstock are left on, eventually you will have a bush of scraggly, probably red, small roses.

On a less didactic note... time to buy. I just got a yellow climber and another Double Delight, my favorite rose. Bare-root roses are out now. They are easiest to establish during our cool and hopefully rainy season. Plant in sun. And read the label for disease resistance. Avoid Blackspot, a fungus disease and leaf-disfiguring rust.

Actually, I find roses the easiest plants to grow in our clay soil, especially if you get them started now. For Valentine's Day, you may get sweetie a rose bush, or a rose batch. More than 400 million flowers are imported to satisfy this February heart-to-heart.

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