I once had a dog named Ken who loved rose bushes. Every time I planted one, he’d dig it up and chew on the stems. Undeterred I kept replanting them and lo and behold they flowered beautifully, albeit a bit later than normal. This started me questioning the traditional advice on rose pruning.
Working for Which? at the time, I commissioned the Royal National Rose Society in St Albans to carry out a proper trial to compare the careful method (making a slanting cut just above a bud) with just cutting all the stems back roughly to about a third of their height. We used a hedge trimmer to simulate dog’s teeth. The roughly pruned and hedge trimmer cut roses flowered as well or better than those treated with care.
Roses in general are pretty tough plants so don’t be frightened to cut them back. The textbooks usually say March, but April, May or even June is OK. In our recent mild winters, roses can carry on blooming until after Christmas and the later pruned ones should be especially good in the autumn. If you use a rough method, be prepared for brown bits at the ends of some of the cut stems. This is not worry – just trim of anything that looks ugly as and when.
Unfortunately Ken is no more, but I hope his contribution to gardening may be remembered.
Written By Alistair Ayres
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