Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Rose by Any Other Name is Still a Chore

I love roses. They take very little work...just an occasional deadheading and some fertilizer...and provide a rich bounty of beauty.

Still, there is one big chore I must do each year for the roses. That's pruning.


I'm an early pruner, even here in Southern California, but January is when I have time to do it, and it's just late enough that it doesn't seem to have any impact on the plants.

Above is my front yard rose garden which has been sitting pretty much untouched since September. That is when I deadhead and feed them for the last time of the year. Then, I just let them sit and develop their own inner food to get them through the winter.

Now, it's time to get to work. I usually break this up into two days. One for the front yard, the other for the backyard. Today, I start on the front.

You'll need some loppers, hand shears, and...since roses have some really nasty thorns...a good pair of leather gloves. That last one is the most necessary of the tools.

I practice what I call the "bare root plus" style of pruning. That is my roses will look like I just planted a bare root rose that I bought at the nursery when I'm done, plus a few leaves that I leave on for some basic photosynthesis.  I cut the big canes down to the first set of leaves...just above that leaf.

Next, I want to remove the dead stems from the center and the spindly stems from the entire plant.

When I'm done, a plant that starts out looking like this...

...ends up looking like this. Notice how the center is cleared out. I kind of shape it like a bowl and that it looks a lot like a newly planted bare-root rose.

Once I've got all the plants pruned and cleaned up, it's time to prep the soil. I pour a layer of mulch over the entire garden.

Then, I sprinkle on some bone meal to help feed. Last year, I also had a mildew problem in this garden, so I'm sprinkling in a layer of sulfur dust, a natural fungicide, to help combat that problem. After that, I put another layer of mulch on top, 4 cubic feet of mulch altogether.

When done, I water in.

The rose garden is done and already to grow spectacularly for another year. It won't be long before I'm posting the pictures of the first blooms of the year.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved


  1. Wonderful post, it's a shame they don't make thorn proof clothes.