In the Green Room | Time for a trim

Though it's hard work, pruning and correct treatment helps to rid roses of disease and gives them the best start for heavy blooms in spring. Photo: iStock.
Though it's hard work, pruning and correct treatment helps to rid roses of disease and gives them the best start for heavy blooms in spring. Photo: iStock.

We always wait until winter to prune or cut plants, because that is when they are dormant.

That means they lose less sap and recover in time for the growing season.

Roses should be pruned in July to early August, just in time to stimulate growth during that spring weather and bring in a flush of thick blooms.

Some guides for rose pruning can get very complicated and detailed, so I’ll try to keep it simple: it’s better that you do it and make small mistakes than put it off entirely.

Firstly, make sure you have heavy-duty gloves and all your skin covered.

When making any incision on a plant, keep in mind it is a living organism and can get infections just like we do.

Sterilize your secateurs by dipping the blades in bleach.

You should repeat this every time you begin on a new rosebush, to prevent the spread of disease.

When pruning you have my permission to remove a whole two-thirds of the bush.

Be ruthless, and make your incisions on a slight angle.

Start by removing the top half of the plant’s height.

You should make the cut about 1cm above the nearest “bud swell”, the spot where a new shoot would emerge.

You also want to cut back any spindly branches that are crossing each other or pointing into the centre of the bush.

Imagine that you’re bringing a vase-shaped framework out of the bush, maintaining about 3-5 major branches.

You want to create space in the centre for light to get in and air to circulate.

Also remove any suckers growing from below the graft of the rose bush.

Then you want to remove any very old branches, using a (sterilized) saw if needed.

If there are any leaves or dead heads left on the plant, strip those off too.

Remove all green waste from the area.

At the end of pruning, liberally spray the entire bush with a lime sulfur solution mixed at a winter strength, which will further prevent fungal infections (especially important with all the rain we’ve been having).

You can fertilize your roses about three weeks after pruning with an all-purpose fertilizer or cow manure.

As leaves start to shoot, keep white oil and fungicide at hand, to pair with a keen eye for any sign of scale, aphids or black spot.

Then all that’s left for you to do is stop and smell the roses!