Roses forum: Some new pruning rules and some pleasant reminders

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Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Jan 23, 2011 5:30 PM CST

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Yesterday I went to Garden Valley Ranch to watch my pal Fallon teach a pruning class. I was there ostensibly for moral support, but I was reminded of something wonderful and heard some new things.

Fallon started her class with an account of an experiment that was conducted some years ago in England. The experiment was conducted on three big rose beds. For 10 years or so, the first bed received no pruning at all; the second was pruned according to the rules I learned when I planted my first rose: cut everything down to 12-18 inches (or at least by one-third) and cut out any cane that's not the diameter of at least a pencil; the third bed was pruned with electric shears.

To the surprise of many people, the results showed that the roses in the first bed, where no pruning whatsoever was done, were the healthiest and produced the most blooms and the biggest blooms. The roses in the other two beds were virtually the same in terms of health and bloom size and quantity, so meticulous pruning is really no better than whacking away at things with an electric hedge clipper.

This was something I already knew, but it was nice to be reminded of it at a time when I'm still about a month behind in my winter pruning.

Obviously, you still have to remove all dead wood in all three cases, but the upshot is this: If you have room for your roses to grow as much as they want to grow, relax and let them do their thing. Pruning is for people who have to keep their roses within certain bounds, as I do (for lack of space). In addition, pruning hybrid teas down to 12-18 inches is important if you want long-stemmed roses.

I have to prune my roses because I have way too many of them. I use the careful pruning method because I don't have an electric hedge clipper. Besides, that tends to leave little bits of dieback on every stem, which are visible until the foliage grows up around them, and I'd rather have a cleaner look after pruning.

I learned a couple of new things, which I'll report in the next post. This one's getting too long.
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Jan 23, 2011 5:40 PM CST

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Here's something that surprised me. We've all learned to make those diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch above the node when we prune. This usually takes a little more acrobatic skill than a flat cut (at least it does for me). Fallon said those diagonal cuts not only are unnecessary, but also can have a detrimental impact on the rose. They leave more open surface exposed to disease and pests than a flat cut.

We used to hear that flat cuts were bad because those points on the rose were then exposed to the falling rain, but rain rarely falls absolutely vertically. Around here, it comes in from all directions, as does the fog, not to mention the water from my hose or sprinkler, so a diagonal cut doesn't really protect anything from moisture.

The other new thing I heard was about those leaves we're supposed to pick up at the base of each rose bush if we want to avoid black spot and mildew. Fallon said that only the green leaves have to be picked up. If they're already yellow or brown, no disease spores will grow on them, so they can be left as mulch or cleared away for aesthetic reasons, but it makes no difference whether you pick them up or leave them on the ground.
Name: Toni
Denver Metro (Zone 5a)
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Skiekitty
Jan 23, 2011 11:53 PM CST
Good to know about pruning! Last year, I got a little .. uh.. crazy with my weedwacker & got a wee bit too close to Perfect Moment.

BBZZZZTT!!! oops

Eeyup, wacked it all the way down to about 6" from the ground.. no leaves left, just some tattered canes. I was about to cry. Few days later, new leaves. About 2 weeks later, it was about 18" tall.

Hoping that it'll survive the winter. :)
Roses are one of my passions! Just opened, my Etsy shop (to fund my rose hobby)! http://www.etsy.com/shop/TweetsnTreats
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Jan 24, 2011 12:41 AM CST

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Fallon now cuts down all of the rose bushes in the cutting gardens at Garden Valley Ranch to 6-12" several times a year. As soon as one flush of blooms ends, she chops them down to nothing and they produce roses for bouquets with incredibly long stems soon afterward.

She discovered the method in much the same way as your Weedwhacker experience. The deer came onto the property and chewed the roses down to nothing. She cried and cried and cursed the deer, but subsequently discovered it was the very best thing for a cutting garden.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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porkpal
Jan 24, 2011 10:36 AM CST
Woohoo! My slovenly rose maintenance has been vindicated!
Porkpal
Name: Suzanne
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
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Calif_Sue
Jan 24, 2011 12:53 PM CST

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Thanks for this great reminder Zuzu and it was nice to hear about the cutting methods.
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Name: Toni
Denver Metro (Zone 5a)
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Skiekitty
Jan 24, 2011 1:05 PM CST
Sue - Just don't use a weedwacker like I did. LOL!!!!
Roses are one of my passions! Just opened, my Etsy shop (to fund my rose hobby)! http://www.etsy.com/shop/TweetsnTreats
Name: Angie
Concord, NC (zone 7)
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Hemophobic
Feb 20, 2011 4:04 PM CST
Zu, as always, you come through for me and my roses just when we need you! I'd heard about the no-pruning method as well and tend to do less and less pruning these days, but what I didn't know was about leaving the dead and yellow leaves. Those are the very ones I've been meticulously trying to pick up and dispose of! When I was outside yesterday, I was barely taking off some of the winterburned tips and dead stems, more for aethetics than anything else. I'll end up making a round about the yard and just nipping here and there, but with Geschwind's Orden I'll have to be ruthless. It's infringing way out of the space I've assigned it and I should probably give some thought to moving it soon, along with New Dawn and another NOID heritage rose my mother rooted for me, but it's a rampant rambler and the thorns are merciless.

Good info, Zu! Thank you so much.

I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day. ~F. Frankfort Moore, A Garden of Peace

Name: Steve
Prescott, AZ (Zone 7b)
Region: Southwest Gardening Roses
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Steve812
Mar 14, 2011 6:35 PM CST
Thanks for the update. I, too, feel that my rather lazy pruning style has been vindicated.

I long ago settled into the "Never prune more than once every three years*" mode. It saves a lot of time. And I always believed the roses approved. I've never lived where a rose could fully recover from a harsh pruning: by the end of the second year there are never any green canes the size of a pencil or larger. That's right. Never. Not on any rose in either my garden in NJ or AZ. So standard pruning advice would never have been the best for my situation.

*Except for removing dead wood.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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porkpal
Apr 28, 2011 10:47 PM CST
I know that many old garden roses dislike being pruned - which suits me perfectly as I don't like to prune either - but I read somewhere, and I don't remember where, that some of them don't even appreciate being dead headed. Does anyone know which ones? Or is this not a fact at all?
Porkpal
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Apr 28, 2011 11:07 PM CST

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I know that some roses don't have to be dead-headed, but I don't remember hearing that any of them resent it.
Name: Stormy
Valley Forge Pa
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stormyla
Apr 28, 2011 11:17 PM CST
ZuZu, I just saw this thread come across the recent new thread list. I'm a bit rushed but want to post here so that it pops up again for me to study it thoroughly. Thanks for starting it! Big Grin
Name: Toni
Denver Metro (Zone 5a)
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Skiekitty
Apr 29, 2011 8:03 AM CST
Haven't started to prune yet.. this weekend we're supposed to get snow, so waiting at least 1 more weekend. Lows on Sun night supposed to be 29 degs... maybe next weekend. And then I'll have to go after everybody harshly to get rid of the winterkill. Bleh.
Roses are one of my passions! Just opened, my Etsy shop (to fund my rose hobby)! http://www.etsy.com/shop/TweetsnTreats
Name: Steve
Prescott, AZ (Zone 7b)
Region: Southwest Gardening Roses
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Steve812
Apr 30, 2011 3:09 PM CST
I feel sooooo lucky this year. Although I lost a handful of plants, there really wasn't much dead wood in my roses. Just a little nip here or there was pretty much all that was required. We're getting cool nights right now, also 29F . The light frost is taking nips out of the tops of some potato plants, but the roses all seem perfectly happy. The ones from Palatine and Edmunds are almost all leafed out.
Name: Phyllis Hackman
Tyler,TX area (Zone 8a)
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mibus2
Aug 7, 2011 9:19 AM CST
I'm glad I stumbled in to have a look now i know I am ok with not pruning anything out other then the dead canes. Thanks for sharing the info.
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Aug 7, 2011 12:16 PM CST

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I have to add a little note about those dead leaves. After they turn brown or yellow, you don't have to remove them from the ground between the roses, but please do remove them when they land in the crook between canes and branches. Whenever I find a little branch that has died back, I invariably see a leaf caught in the crook where the node branched out. It's hard to believe that roses can have such a highly toxic effect on themselves, but they do.
Name: Betty
Bakersfield, CA
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Betja
Aug 7, 2011 2:38 PM CST
Great information!
Betty
Name: Melissa E. Keyes
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Zone 11+
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coconut
Aug 9, 2011 12:19 PM CST
I once read about some folks who wanted to study lawn grass, bear with me! They got a backhoe, dug a trench, and lined it with plate glass. They planted the different kinds of lawn grass seed, and watched it grow, roots and all. They got a BIG surprise the first time they mowed the grass, the roots died backto match how much the green part was cut. A balance. The scientists had thought the roots wouldn't die.

Perhaps roses lose roots when you prune the tops.

I have only a Chicago Peace and a Tropicana. Want a Fragrant Cloud badly, but the nurseries stay sold out.
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
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zuzu
Aug 9, 2011 12:31 PM CST

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That's so interesting. I suppose it's possible that pruned roses wouldn't grow roots as vigorously because they wouldn't need a huge root mass to support the top.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Farmer Roses Raises cows Garden Ideas: Level 2
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porkpal
Aug 9, 2011 2:49 PM CST
Makes sense to me.
Porkpal

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