Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Pruning Climbing Roses

So we find ourselves in September, the first month of Autumn and a fantastic month for many reasons. The leaves begin to turn, the Michaelmas Daisies and grasses give the garden that last flush of textural colour and let’s not forget the ‘Second or Indian Summer’- which gives plants that final burst of energy before they go into winter slumber. As Rose G. Kingsley says in ‘The Autumn Garden’, 1905 : "In the garden, Autumn is, indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November."

September is also the month for pruning climbing roses - a task I shall find myself repeating for the coming month before leaf duty is under way.
Like shrub roses, certain rules have to be followed.


  1. Wear good gloves. (I thoroughly recommend the Town and Country Ultimax. Excellent gloves with huge versatility and finger protection.)
  2. Make sure your secateurs are sharp. Blunt blades will damage and tear the plant.
  3. Put up the training wire first. This must be at least 2mm wire to be of adequate strength. Try to use vine eyes or ‘screw-in’ eyes, rather than any old nail - when those winter storms come, you will be happy to follow this advice. Tension the wire as best as you can.
  4. Always tie the rose to the wire. Never use the tensioned wire as the tie.
  5. Always work out how you want the rose to grow before beginning to prune.
  6. First cut out the 3 Ds: The dead, diseased and damaged.
  7. Always prune just above a bud. Not too close or too far, about 1cm is adequate.
  8. Try to prune to a bud that is facing the way you want future growth remembering to cut out any stems growing in the direction of the wall.
  9. Do not worry if you think you have pruned too hard. The rose will come back if well fed.
  10. If your rose suffers from Black Spot, sweep up all the old leaves and burn. This is a genetic problem so do not be disheartened by any apparent resilience to treatments in future. It just means your rose has the ‘Persian Yellow’ rose as part of its pedigree.
  11. Feed the rose with a good root feed and mulch with well-rotted manure.

One more tip, if you are worried about cuts to your arms, a wise old head gardener I served under gave me this tip. Find an old pair of wellington boots and cut off the feet, then use the ‘ankles’ as arm guards.

-- Guy Deakins

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