Bright and beautiful in the summer, a row of rose bushes stands bare against the grey skies in the winter. Dormant for the season, crowded branches and dead leaves littering the garden create a sad sight. In the spring, the rose bushes vigorously sprout new growth, but controlling and shaping that growth begins with pruning when the roses are still dormant. Before pruning rose bushes, gardeners should consider the season, the roses' blooming patterns, the likelihood of a late frost, and the size of the shrubs.
The right time of year
Gardeners get the best results when they prune roses during the dormant season between July and early August. However, if late frosts are common in an area, it is better to wait until late August to prune the shrubs to avoid damaging any new growth.
Exceptions to the rule
Gardeners should prune roses that flower in late winter and early spring after they finish blooming. Pruning the shrubs too early removes the developing flower buds and reduces the number of flowers. The banksias, ramblers, and old-fashioned varieties are in this group of roses.
Although a variety of pruning tools are available, gardeners use three main tools when pruning roses. Secateurs, or hand pruners, are appropriate for branches less than 20 mm thick. Larger branches from 20 mm to 38 mm thick require loppers. Large overgrown roses may require a pruning saw to remove stout stems in the centres of the shrubs.
Rose thorns pierce tender skin and thin gloves easily. Gardeners should wear heavy leather gloves, long sleeves, long pants, shoes, and safety goggles to protect their skin and eyes from puncture wounds when pruning and working around rose bushes.
Disinfecting the tools
To prevent the spread of fungi and diseases, it is important to disinfect the pruning tools regularly. A simple solution of equal parts alcohol and water does the job, and the blades should dry before continuing with the pruning.
How to cut a branch
Gardeners should prune branches back to outward facing buds and then cut the branches at a 45-degree angle approximately 6 mm above the buds. When removing an entire branch, it is necessary to cut it all the way back to the stem without cutting into the stem or tearing the tender bark. Gardeners should cut dormant branches back to a few buds from the previous year's growth and prune desirable actively growing branches by no more than one third.
Where to start
Gardeners begin by evaluating the height, width, and branches of shrubs. For overgrown roses, they first cut them to reduce the height and then prune the crowded centres of the shrubs. The goal is to remove extra growth to allow air to circulate through the shrubs to reduce the risk of fungal infections. Roses are vigorous, and as long as gardeners do not accidently cut the main stems off below the graft, the pruned shrubs sprout new growth quickly.
Dead and crowded branches
It is important to remove dead branches completely with loppers or secateurs by cutting the branches back to the stems or to live wood. Gardeners need to remove crowded and crossing branches, especially in the interiors of the shrubs. It is appropriate to leave 8 to 10 branches in a vase-shaped configuration as scaffolding for the new growth.
Suckers appear below the graft and are branches from the rootstock. It is best to cut off all suckers at the stem as soon as they appear. They grow rapidly, and waiting until dormancy allows them to steal essential water and nutrients from the plant. Unchecked, suckers can overwhelm the desired rose variety, leaving gardeners with thorny rose bushes and less desirable blossoms.
Final clean up
Gardeners should rake old leaves, twigs, and debris away from the roses and dispose of trimmings in waste bins, or by shredding them and adding them to compost piles. The soil cover should include about 75 mm to 100 mm of mulch to help maintain a consistent moisture level in the soil and discourage weed seeds from sprouting. Before new growth appears, spraying with a lime sulphur product helps prevent fungal infections when applied according to the manufacturer's directions.
How to buy pruning and gardening tools on eBay
Find pruning and other gardening tools by using the search bar found on any eBay page. Simply type in keywords such as "secateurs", "leather gloves", or "lime sulphur" and click on the search button. After verifying the item description, you are ready to finalise the sale. When the tools and supplies arrive, a few hours of pruning in the garden prepares your prize roses for a season of glorious blossoms destined to make you the envy of your neighbourhood garden club.