The kindest cut
Sabrina Hahn on the art of pruning

Do we really need to prune roses? If you want healthy plants that give lots of flowers, yes you do.

The flowers are formed on the new growth that's less than one year old. Novice gardeners are usually terrified of pruning their rosebushes but it's better to hack away than not prune at all. Thankfully, roses are pretty tough customers and are forgiving of the bad short back and sides.

Courage and practice are all that's needed, as well as a bit of information to help you get through the first pruning sessions.

The one important exception to pruning a rose at this time of the year is the non-repeat flowering roses that flower only in spring - do not prune them in winter as you are pruning off all the flowering stems.

You will need some protective armour, long sleeves, good strong gloves, secateurs, long-handled loppers, a curved pruning saw, something to mop up the blood and some disinfectant in the cupboard. Use sharp secateurs; it is far less frustrating than having to grind a stem off.

So where to begin?

For the majority of roses you can take off 50 per cent of the growth. This may seem a lot when you look at the few remaining stems left but, believe me, they love it. Take out any branches in the centre, crossing branches or diseased wood.

After pruning, remove any leaves still on the bush and spray with lime sulphur to kill mites and fungal spores. The bush should look clean and have outward-facing stems that are pruned off just above an outward-facing bud.

HYBRID TEA ROSES

For hybrid tea roses, prune every branch back by 50 per cent. Now you can actually see the bush. Prune off all the older stems at ground level and take out any stems in the middle of the bush.

With the secateurs prune back all but five stems to an outward-facing bud, leaving only one branch coming off that, again to an outward-facing bud.

Spray with a copper or lime sulphur spray to reduce overwintering fungal spores.

SHRUB ROSES - DAVID AUSTIN AND ENGLISH ROSES
Prune back the whole bush by one-third and the stems that are growing in the middle of the bush.

Remove any dead wood at the base of the plant or any branches that are more than three years old. Cut back remaining stems at ground level until there are no more than nine stems emerging from the ground.

Prune back remaining branches to an outward-facing bud. Spray with a copper or lime sulphur spray to reduce overwintering fungal spores.

FLORIBUNDA ROSES
These are pruned much the same as hybrid tea roses but take a third off rather than one half, and you can leave more stems coming from the base.

STANDARD ROSES
These are just hybrid teas or floribunda roses that are grafted on a long stem. It is very important to prune these each year to decrease the weight of the head. Many a standard has been lost in a storm where the top part has simply snapped off, leaving you with rootstock.

You prune it as for hybrid tea roses and remove any growth that sprouts below the graft. Make sure it is equally balanced with even branching on all sides.

WEEPING STANDARD ROSES
I think I have seen the worst massacred roses in this category. Please don't prune your weeping standard into a mini-skirt or a trimmed grass tree; they look ridiculous.

Remove at least 50 per cent of the oldest canes from the very base of the standard.

Prune off all the side shoots from remaining canes but do not shorten them.

Stand back and check if you need to remove any more canes.

The remaining canes should have all the side shoots pruned off and only prune the canes just above ground level.

Spray with a copper or lime sulphur spray to reduce overwintering fungal spores.

CLIMBING ROSES
Climbing roses are a bit different to prune. They have several main branches and secondary stems coming from these which produce the flowers.

The good thing for novice gardeners is that you don't need to prune climbing roses for the first few years, just train the canes where you want them to grow.

Remove one-third of the oldest canes at the base of the plant, you can remove the oldest canes once they are a few years old to encourage new shoots.

Prune back the side shoots coming off these canes to two buds, remove any twiggy or thin growth.

Tie remaining canes in a curved horizontal position to encourage more flowering stems.

Spray with a copper or lime sulphur to reduce the overwintering fungal spores.

TOP TIP
It is important to sterilise your pruning tools after each rosebush. This will prevent any fungal diseases being transferred from one rosebush to another. You can spray the tools with methylated spirits, diluted bleach or tea-tree oil.

The West Australian

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