Thursday, 3 January 2019

Pruning season

Although different pruning jobs can appropriately take place all year round, we are now in peak pruning season when most trees and shrubs are dormant. There is some grounds maintenance pruning to be commenced soon, mainly trimming the boundary hedges and one or two internal hedges. A key pruning task is pruning the fruit trees to maximise fruit production as well as the health of the trees. The  soft fruit has already been done. A fair amount of ornamental shrub pruning has to be done too, and I usually tackle this in small episodes throughout the winter when time allows.

Today I spent time on some climbing and bush roses which grow up against a sunny garage wall. These have been somewhat neglected in the last couple of years with only a quick annual tidy up. The time had come to prune them properly and clean up the narrow border from which they emanate. 

There are three climbing roses and one shrub rose here. In front is a run of sarcoccoca bushes (Christmas Box), their tiny flowers soon to open and give off a delicious scent. To one side is a honeysuckle which has infiltrated the climbing roses and if ignored will take them over. 

There is no real mystique about pruning roses. Bear in mind also that they are tough plants and will re-grow with vigour. You won’t kill them by hard pruning.  Nevertheless, it pays to do a good job. Here are the steps to take:-
  1. Prune out any dead stems.
  2. Prune out weak stems. A judicious decision can also be made as to cutting out the odd old framework stem where a strong new stem is available to replace it.
  3. Prune out over-crowded stems to provide space and to allow air and light in.
  4. Prune out stems growing in the ‘wrong’ position: stems that cross; stems growing into the wall or support structure in the case of climbers; stems growing where you don’t want them. 
  5. Be mindful of the overall space available for the plant and general structure, and also how you can influence how next season’s new growth will develop.
  6. With climbers, ideally the mains stem should be tied in horizontally or in an arch-like fashion. This stimulates new flowering shoots to grow vertically from the horizontal stems. 
  7. When pruning, cut back to an outward facing bud. A sloping cut is usually recommended. It helps to use sharp secateurs. Loppers might be needed for thicker stems.
If you go about it systematically pruning is not that complicated. The end result might seem a bit severe but it will undoubtedly have a re-invigorating effect on the rose and produce many more flowers. 

Having carried out what I’ve just preached, the base of the plants was weeded. This also included clearing away a lot of rooted stems of the neighbouring honeysuckle and confining it to it’s allotted area. I also took out altogether one of the three climbing roses because they had been planted too close together in the distant past and were now too congested. All that remains is to apply a thick mulch of compost. Another winter job completed.

I use these Felco secateurs. They are excellent for pruning but a
 little pricey and so 
are a risk given the club hammer phenomenon.


  1. Did I prune the summer fruiting raspberry canes..........or was that last year?

    I shall tackle the roses...........sometime.

    The art of procrastination for fare-weather gardeners!

  2. I’m sure you have done your fair share of outdoor work in inclement weather over the years Sue.

  3. Do you put the rose prunings through the shredder? I often shred Brambles and put the residue on the compost heap or mulch with it.

  4. Yes Dave. I use shreddings in the chicken run.