April is such a thorny month. Just as we’re getting through our taxes it’s time to prune the roses. Between the two, I’ll take the rose; if something’s going to stick it to me I’d rather it be a plant, instead of the tax man.
When you need a break from the write-offs and deductions, head out to the garden. Cutting back the large, thorn-filled excess of last year is the perfect way to de-stress from filling out those forms.
Winter takes its toll on roses in our area, and because we don’t cap them as they do in eastern areas, the canes die back, leaving us to clip off the dead parts in the spring. Timing of pruning is crucial to success, because every snip stimulates new growth, leaving it vulnerable to killing frosts. Waiting until two weeks before the last average hard frost helps cheat the weather.
The tools you need are few: hand pruners, loppers for the big canes, heavy gloves, and for really thorny roses, a first aid kit with a tourniquet. Pruning varies with different rose types, but plan on cutting back hybrid teas and grandifloras every year.
Once you’ve gathered your tools, approach your rose, looking it over for dead or diseased canes first. Remove these, then focus on shape. When pruning roses, always make your cut at a 30 to 45-degree angle, clipping it one-quarter-inch above a live bud.
Most canes will have a blush of green where there’s live wood; prune the cane back one-half-inch into the green. Don’t be alarmed if there are only a few inches of green on the canes, this is normal in years when winter is harsh.
Be aware that some older canes or roses with bronze stems may look brown instead of green. Clip these from the top down, cutting off a smaller portion of the cane each time you snip to check the interior of signs of life (a white center and green inner bark).
Your goal is to prune back the canes to shape the plant, making sure that the center is open to allow light and air to your rose. Where possible, make your pruning cut above an outward facing bud, so the plant grows out, not in on itself.
Miniatures, floribundas, and polyanthas are hardier plants that don’t always suffer damage from winter kill. Check them yearly, pruning off dead and damaged wood, then shape them if needed.
Climbing roses are more of a challenge; they are often left to grow without training, and canes intertwine. Shaping them is usually not necessary, but as canes get older they may become unproductive or die. Alert your family that you’ll be attempting to remove these large canes that are enmeshed with the rest of the plant; they’ll have the bandages ready after your work is done.
Once this task is complete, you can return to bonding with the IRS. Just tell your friends you got all of those scratches from the tax man.
This post previously appreared in the Longmont Ledger.