I am always in awe of the resilience of plants. Roses have rebounded nicely after struggling with the weather boomerang that happened back in November. We heard from many customers who lost roses, or thought they had. I saw some spectacular plants this past Sunday that had to be pruned down to only a few inches tall to find live wood in early spring. And yet, there they are; five feet tall and covered with gorgeous blooms.
Unlike the past two years when powdery mildew was running rampant the foliage seems to be clean (so far). Soon this first flush of bloom will begin to fade and it will be time to clean them up and get them ready for the next wave of colour.
Pruning always holds such mystery for gardeners, and more so for those with roses, as it has taken on such an aura of importance. Now that the first flush of blooms is ending, what to do? We want the rose bushes to come into bloom again, and pruning is the quickest way to achieve this; removing spent flowers and promoting new growth which will generate new blooms.
The mantra goes something like this “Prune to a set of five leaves, not three.” The reason? Going down the stem and cutting above a set of five results in stronger growth than simply tipping back growth near the end of the stem, where there are usually only three leaves. This stronger growth will more quickly regenerate blooms.
How much should be pruned off? It depends on what the rose bush is giving you. If you can’t find an outward-facing bud as you travel down the stem, keep going until you see one. Are there blind shoots that didn’t produce any blooms during the initial flush? Depending on how much foliage the rose is producing you might want to remove them entirely, but if the bush is small and there aren’t a lot of leaves to begin with it might be better to just prune the shoots back.
Remember that shrubs need foliage to produce chlorophyll, and a drastic haircut in late June, with loads of leaves and shoots going into the compost is going to slow down growth in July and August. So, don’t be too hard on them.
Roses are heavy feeders, so it’s a good time to apply another dose of fertilizer to the roses. A good quality rose fertilizer, which contains Magnesium and all of the other trace elements important to healthy foliage and vibrant blooms, is worth paying the price for. Having been trimmed and fed, your roses will be ready to reward a few minutes of maintenance with another great show of blooms in a few weeks.
The ‘Sevillana’ roses in front of our garden centre dazzle me every morning when I arrive at work. We’ve never had to spray them for mildew or black spot. They don’t need a mound of soil over their roots in late fall because they’re grown on their own roots and they quickly re-bloom after pruning the spent flowers. That’s my kind of rose!

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