Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beware: Woman with pruning shears....or hedge trimmer

Pruning has always been a bit of a mystery to me.  I know I'm supposed to do it and that it's good for my plants, but in my confusion, I've opted to just randomly whack off branches here and there and hope for the best.

Over the summer, it was clear that our Autumn Sunset climbing rose was overgrowing its bounds.  I consider it the focal point of our front garden and since the flowering last summer was only so-so compared to previous years, I decided to cut out the oldest cane.....

.......this bad boy, which seriously could be used as a weapon.
What I didn't realize was that this bad boy pretty much held up the whole top of the rose.  

I stepped back from the massacre and went, "oops".  Charlie has a look on his face like, "I had nothing to do with this.  I'm completely innocent."

I did find a vacant nest, a testament to some very brave birds.

Lyle came home that day, looked at our lopsided entry, and asked a very good question, "Why NOW?"  Massive pruning during the summer is not a good idea and not recommended by anyone who knows an iota about gardening.  It was just a bad spur-of-the-moment decision O.K.?   And I should mention that at the time, Bruder was refusing to get a haircut.

But I've learned my lesson (and mercifully Bruder has decided he looks better with short hair).  Last week I bought a big fat pruning book and religiously studied the section on climbing roses.  It suggested pruning in winter, when you can actually see the structure and know what you're doing.  What a novel idea!  I meticulously followed the instructions and after several hours of work, here is one side pruned and ready for a glorious summer:

I untied the whole rose and tied it all back on, spacing things out to evenly cover the trellis.

The other side obviously still needs some work and I'm debating on my method.  As I said, I followed the instructions for the first side: I angled my cuts, counting 2-5 buds from the beginning of each lateral. I cut out diseased or crossing branches and I thinned out the spindly growth.  But my favorite part of the pruning book, after literally pages of instruction, came in one little paragraph that left me laughing out loud (a rare thing in a pruning book).  It said:

"In recent years, the question has arisen as to whether using the traditional pruning method is worthwhile. Since 1990, a British program of pruning trials has been comparing traditional with quite revolutionary rose-pruning methods.  The most spectacular of the findings is that rose bushes that are simply cut down with a hedge trimmer flower as well, if not better, than those that are painstakingly pruned on traditional lines.  Hedge-trimmer pruning, with no attempt to remove dead wood, is, therefore now being recommended by some writers, though not by the body that hosted the trials, England's Royal National Rose Society."

So, you can spend literally hours measuring and angling each cut or you could just fire up the hedge trimmer and with a quick "NNNnnnRRRRrrrr" be done with it?  My past technique wasn't necessarily wrong, it was revolutionary!  Who knew?!  So, on the other side of my Autumn Sunsent I may just whack away with reckless abandon and see which side does better.  When I've finished my study, I'll present my findings at the next meeting of England's Royal National Rose Society.

I'm sure they'd like to know.


Jen Bay said...


Julie said...

Eileen..you crack me up. I love that you just walked out and "pruned" it in the middle of the summer!! I love that you got a big fat book on pruning roses. I need you in my yard!

julia @say you will love me forever said...

totally off topic here but,
i'm here from no hands but ours and have a question for you. could you email me @ ajkanschmidt{at}yahoo.com? thanks ahead of time! julia/mom to 4 and waiting on one in china

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Larissa said...

Curious to know how it is looking this year after last years trimmings?

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