Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
April, 2008
Regional Report

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'Midas Touch' and 'Fragrant Cloud' are wonderfully fragrant, prolific bloomers even in our cool summer climate.

Spring Rose Pruning

Growing hybrid tea and floribunda roses in the Pacific Northwest can be a challenge. Despite all the coddling we give them, our cool, wet summers are not at all to their liking. I've found that the best approach is planting the most disease-resistant varieties I can find and providing them with full sunshine and lots of elbow room. Proper pruning is another key to success.

Time to Prune
The purpose of pruning roses is to stimulate blooming and to promote good health. By thinning out the bush, you allow better air circulation so the foliage can dry quickly to discourage foliar diseases such as black spot and rust. Late winter or early spring, just when the buds begin to swell, is the best time to prune. Think about how you want your plant to look before you begin. The easiest method is rathe like giving your plant a haircut: simply remove canes that are sticking out in unattractive ways.

The Right Pruners
You'll need hand pruners, long-handled loppers, and a good pair of leather gloves to prune properly. Wear long sleeves to protect your arms from scratches, and make sure your tools are sharp. Dull blades leave ragged edges -- an open invitation to disease and insect pests.

Which Canes to Remove
What you're aiming for is an outward-growing shrub with an open center. Identify and save the newest canes -- usually the greenest and most productive. Remove the really old woody stems and any that are crossing or crowding others. Cut those canes down to the bud union (the place where the rose variety is grafted onto the rootstock) whenever possible. Remove any growth that's smaller than a pencil. When you've done all that, you should have three to five canes extending from the bud union. Visually divide the remaining canes into three equal parts and remove the top third.

The Right Cut
Making pruning cuts may seem tricky, but it's really quite simple. Make the cut 1/4 inch above a bud that's facing to the outside of the shrub, cutting downward at a 45-degree angle so water runs off the cane.

When you've finished pruning, your bush should have a well-balanced appearance with healthy young canes. It's a good idea to seal the cut wounds with petroleum jelly or a white glue to keep out any cane borers looking for a place to lay eggs.

Clean Up
Be sure to gather and dispose of all the pruned canes. Remove any mulch, dead leaves, and weeds under your roses as well. Lay down some new mulch to make things look neat, then stand back and admire your handiwork.

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