Monday, January 13, 2020

Pruning time on California's Central Coast

Most hybrid teas and floribundas will produce better quality, more disease resistant bushes if they get a good pruning in January in Coastal and Southern California.
Escapade, 1967, Floribunda

Pruning Fundamentals

Here are the basic steps to effective rose pruning of hybrid tea and floribunda roses:

Prune away all dead and dying canes, all canes which are growing across the center of the bush, any growth that’s thinner than a pencil, and any broken or damaged canes. Your goal is to open up the center of the bush. Each cut should be about ½ inch above an outward facing bud eye.

Remove canes which cross through the center of the bush.
Pay no attention to any new growth, including flowers and buds, which may appear on the ends of canes. Pretend they don’t exist and prune accordingly. (The flowers they produce at this time of the year are substandard and are likely to drop their petals soon if put in a vase.)

Escapade thinned out and ready to be weeded

Look for incidents of cane on cane on cane on cane. Most established plants will have several. With each successive cane, you’ll notice that they are increasingly thinner and stubbier. Prune down to either the first or second growth.

Time to remove cane on cane on cane branches. The base is old and everything growing out of it is much smaller.

Pull off all the leaves from last season. Push off any new sprouting growth. That seems counter-intuitive but this new growth is likely to be weak and also a haven for fungal spores and perhaps insect eggs. Pretend it’s not there and prune.

Dublin Bay, 1975, large flowered climber, ready to be pruned

Then, rake up all of the old leaves and mulch and discard it. This is particularly important if your roses have been suffering from insect attack. Their eggs and/or larvae often winter over in the old leaves and mulch.

The height of your bushes is a personal preference and dependent on the specific variety. However, aim for a height which is 1/3 shorter than what you see at the moment and with far fewer canes.

The general rule is prune hard and you will get larger better formed flowers, prune lightly and you will get smaller flowers but more of them. Hybrid teas are better with a hard pruning. Floribundas are better with a lighter pruning. 

Many rosarians have noticed that yellow-flowered roses take more time to respond to a hard pruning.

Put all your pruning trash in the waste bin not in your compost pile. You aren’t likely to have hot enough temperatures in it to kill the fungal spores.

Dublin Bay pruned and ready for weeding and cleaning.

 Climbers need a special type of pruning with the aim of creating slanting and horizontal canes. The flowers on climbers will come from short flowering stalks. The more horizontal the cane, the more stalks will emerge. It's vital to encourage climbers to grow where you want them. Canes growing from the bud union out into open space have been removed in the photo above so that the remaining canes will grow up and along the fence.

Lavender Lassie, 1960, hybrid musk is stretched horizontally. Each bud eye on the short stubs will produce flowering canes

Additional pruning tips

Pruning is much easier if you continually resharpen your bypass pruners.

If you are like me and have to prune over the course of several days, prune the roses growing in the darkest areas of your garden first and those in the sunniest areas last. This way, as the sun rises higher in the sky, the darker areas will eventually get more sunlight and begin to grow. Those in the sunniest and warmest areas will easily catch up, putting your entire garden on the same bloom cycle.

As a final note, a little bit of pruning even into the first week of March is better than no pruning at all. Even if you merely cut the tops like you would a boxwood edge.

Remember that one of the best reasons to prune is sanitation and disease control.  The more air that is allowed to circulate around the rose bushes the better they'll be able to fight fungal diseases such as black spot, powdery mildew, rust, and botrytis.

May your roses in 2020 be the best ever.

Escapade in full flower.