In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2003
Regional Report

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1214

Snip rose hips for attractive holiday decorations.

Putting Roses to Rest

About half of my rose plants are still blooming nicely, so I'll continue to enjoy them as long as their color lasts. The others, with remnants of their faded flowers hanging on to vigorous foliage, I'll tidy up and put to bed for the winter. With the benign chill we call winter, I could give them another feeding to encourage another round of bloom for the end-of-the-year holidays. But I prefer to be more thorough in forcing them to go dormant and really rest up. This reprieve ultimately strengthens the plants for many more years. Why grumble about three months of rose sleepytime, relative to nine months of continuous color?

Steps to Fall Pruning
The first step is an easy one — wholeheartedly hacking off all growth taller than waist-height. No need to really pay attention here, just chop away all that excess foliage.

The next step is to start looking into the plant and removing all scrawny branchlets. Then remove stronger branches that cross or head into the center of the plant. Since my plants also send out vigorous branches into my walkway, I remove them as well.

The third step is to take a hard look at the overall plant to determine which are the strongest branches and where they go. This is your most discerning examination. Your main criteria is to create the bowl-shaped structure of five or more strong branches heading outward. The taller and broader the bush, the more main branches you can leave. This will enable the best air flow between branches to assure a healthy plant not prone to diseases.

The fourth step is to shorten remaining branches to the final height you desire. You want the branches to be approximately the same height, with no more than about 4 inches difference between tallest and shortest, so new growth will appear to be evenly balanced.

Tidy Up Around Plants
The last step is to remove all leaflets from the branches and fallen leaves under each plant. This gets rid of pathogens that can overwinter and bounce back up onto new foliage with rain and watering next spring.

Later in the winter, in January or February, lay down new compost, manure, and mulch to feed the plant through the next year.


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