With the worst of the cold behind us now, it should be safe to begin pruning roses. Most will bloom without an annual trim but we do it to keep them healthy and well shaped rather than to reduce their size.
Various roses need to be treated in different ways. Old-fashioned varieties, which only flower once in July, bloom on short shoots on the previous year’s growth and are pruned after flowering rather than in March. If you treat them like modern roses and prune hard now you won’t get any flowers this summer. Ramblers are pruned then, too, but climbing roses, which bloom on new growth, are pruned now. The old classes of large-flowered (HT) and cluster-flowered (floribunda) are rather blurred, and we also have patio roses and ground cover types. In general, if you prune the healthy growth hard, it results in strong, upright shoots – this is used on large-flowered roses. Less severe pruning results in more but less vigorous shoots and used on cluster-flowered and bedding roses.
Use sharp secateurs and loppers or a pruning saw for the thick, old stems. A healthy bush is full of young stems so there’s no need for old, grey, gnarled stems. Roses are responsive to renewal pruning, cutting away old wood. Then prune to open up the centre and get rid of thin, damaged and dead stems.
1. Dead ends of shoots will die back into healthy growth so remove them back to a healthy bud. 2. Cut out any thin shoots, which won’t produce flowers, back to the base, especially in the centre of the bush. 3. Cut back the main shoots with a sloping cut, just above a bud. These should face away from the centre of the bush. 4. Cut back strong shoots to three or four buds. Reduce weak shoots to one or two buds to ensure strong regrowth.