Just a Little Off the Top

The Queen is not pleased with her Royal subject.

Ah yes, the rose, the Queen, the Belle of the ball is not pleased with being left to her own devices. This is a tree rose that has not had her proper pruning yet. She has black spot, rust, powdery white mold and yellow leaves. This poor girl has it all. The one saving grace that can be bestowed upon her Royal Majesty is a good pruning. Prune away the ills of Winter and embrace the renewal of Spring.

Time of the year to prune is usually after the last frost for roses. I of course have pruned before winter sets in, during winter and after the anticipated final frost. A lot of gardeners like to wait until Winter is over and let the rose set the rose hips and hibernate over winter. Letting the rose set the rose hips sends a signal to the rose that growing season is coming to a close and to pull the energy back the roots. Pruning before the first frost could signal to the rose that we aren’t done growing yet and to channel the rose the continue to produce foliage and flowers. When the rose is in this growing mode it could shock the rose and weaken her when the first frost comes since she has energy in the tender stem tips.

Rose hips. This is considered to be the seed of the rose. No planting this will not grow a new rose. I tried as a child. LOL.

Pruning during the winter, if done to soon in the winter could weaken the plant by freezing and shocking the fresh cuts and causing a slow grow season if unless it involves the root and kills the rose altogether. Now if you live in an area that does not experience a freeze then you are golden and it is best to check with your local nursery and see when is the best time to prune.

Pruning during the winter, my favorite, is done after the freeze season is over typically for my area the last quarter of Winter. Sometimes where I live we still get a freeze but not usually under 35F. So I look at the weather and will prune when it looks like we will get a rain within 48 hours to give my ladies a drink with the roots and cuttings. Even though the cuttings seal with in 12 hours, I still think the rain saturating the cut areas do penetrate and ease the shock value.

So when I prune I am a hard prune kinda gal. I will go down the stem to the 2 knuckle from the stem coming off one of the main fingers from the stock, sometimes the first to make my cutting. A knuckle looks almost like a joint in the stem.

If looking at the above photo were you see the fresh buds coming out right below is a line that circles the stem, this is a knuckle. Im sure there is an official name for it, but I like to keep it in simple terms and that is what grandma called it. I count 2 of these from the large stem and make my cut above the knuckle not right next to the knuckle. pull all leaves off that are old and toss all that into a bucket. I do this over the entire rose and she is a happy camper. This is also the time to go after sucklers, the stems that grow from below the root ball. If it is growing from the bottom of the root ball and up cut this back the root ball, it is a hitchhiker and will drain away a lot of nourishment from the rest of the rose and hamper her ability to grow. I have a couple of progression photos below.

Here you see the old leaves that are being removed and the pruning to the left that leaves the stems with the pretty new buds.

This is looking straight down from the top, looking for any stems that are in the center of the rose and removing those as well. Roses like to feel the breeze in the center and helps decrease the chance of black spot and powdery mildew.

Looking down after it has been pruned. It looks sparse but trust me your rose will thank you, and grown like gangbusters. When she starts to throw her buds she will fill the center but starting her like this helps in the long run.

Pretty girl in her pruning stage, all the icky leaves are gone and you can clearly see what goes and stays. Listen to the plant and the rose will almost tell you what stays and what goes. Don’t forget the soil on top, scoop up off fallen leaves, but do not work the soil, that causes the soil to loose the heat keeping her warm.

Now that she has a fresh cut, this a good time to add a pesticide to help squash any rust, black mold, powdery mildew, white fly eggs that are on the stem and could effect the tender stems as they progress. My pesticide is a natural home made that dose not harm other insects that are beneficial. Pets can be around it and birds can as well. I tend not to use chemicals, they have unpredictable grades of killing everything that comes in its path. So I use the Green Gardener’s recipe. I have been using this since 1988 or close to that and have great success. So the recipe is as follows;

Large Spray bottle

Warm water

Baking Soda- 2 TBSP-disolve in warm water before putting in bottle

Listerine 1/2 Cup

Dish Washing Soap (NOT DAWN)-couple drops

Mix in a gallon jug, shake really good. Dispense to the squirt bottle and after placing on the top give it a good shake again.

Now just squirt the roses all the stems and the stock and the dirt. The leaves fall on the dirt so I like to do it just as a precaution, since insects will walk on the dirt and then on the rose. I like my ladies to have a nice fresh start in the growing season. I will spray this a couple times in the remaining winter season to make sure I get everything. Now if you have black spot or white powdery mildew during the growing season, after removing all the infested leaves spray this on the top and bottom of the leaves in the early morning to help fight off this naughty bacteria.

If the rose gets really bad with rust, black spot, or white mold I will do a hard prune during growing season. A hard prune is like the one we just did and do the scary again, this tends to stop the bacteria for me and the rose comes back green and healthy. Aphids, I tend to just shush them between my fingers killing them, use gloves and it won’t be as gross in your hands, or buy some lady bugs and release at dusk to eat those naughty little pests.

Dont hesistate to use your resources! Take a clipping to the local nursery and ask them what is happening and what you can do, either organic or chemically, depending on the avenue you have chosen. Or to your local Co-op of Horticulture Engineers. They are provided by State and have a wealth of information including classes for very small fees.

Check with your local nurseries, Co-Op of Engineers, Cemeteries, and Rose Clubs for classes to go over care for your roses. I know Cemeteries have gotten your attention, but my area offers classes with the gardeners on caring for lawns, roses, trees, etc. After all most of the cemeteries I notice have gorgeous grounds.

So don’t be afraid of the rose, she is not as high maintenance as she portrays herself to be. Water, water and water, give her some food, prune her dead flowers, and let her do her thing. With these few things to do during the hibernation and growing season she will thank you with gorgeous flowers.


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