Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Rose By Any Other Name...

...would still need pruning.

Allow me to say, before I go any further, that I don't know how to prune.  Really, I don't.  I know that it needs to be done.  I've seen how a good pruning can make plants healthier and more lovely.  Every time I try to prune, I read as much as I can find in the library about pruning that particular plant in an effort to do better.  I feel like, when I have to prune, I end up hacking off branches at random.  Fortunately, most plants seem more than capable of surviving a bad haircut.

A few years ago, home from college on spring break, I noticed that rose bushes in my girlfriend's parent's backyard.  They had, apparently, been planted by the house's previous tenants several years ago and had since lacked the attention they needed.  They were massively overgrown, sprawling up onto the roof of the house, a dense mess of  bramblous branches.  How I wish I had a photo of that wild mass of twisted branches.

Wanting to impress my future in-laws, and having just assisted my aunt with her masterful pruning the week before, I offered to do what I could to tame these rose-beasts.  Despite it being rather late in the year, I armed myself with welding gloves and my trusty bypass pruners and lopped off branch after branch.  I was terrified that the severity of my attack, combined with it's less than surgical nature, would send the plants into shock and kill them all.

It did not.  The roses sprung back, stronger than ever, in a profusion of blooms.

Last week marked the third year that I have picked a fight with those prickly plants.  Each year they seem more like rose bushes and less like a horticultural horror.  This year I filled three trash cans with the waste cuttings and the roses are already sending out new growth, preparing for the coming season.

The moral of the story: prune with enthusiasm!  Don't be afraid of butchering your plant.  Odds are good that it will survive your ineptitude, as the plants in my care continue to survive mine, and you can attempt to fix any mistakes next year.


  1. Pruning always seems so easy when you read about it, and then when you're faced with an actual plant, it gets all tricky--the branches are angled so you can't get the "perfect" cut, or the saw/pruners graze another branch that's close to the one you're trimming, etc. But you're right--you do it, and somehow everything survives and is happier for the pruning. Your pruning doesn't seem to have gotten you kicked out of your in-laws, at any rate. :) I'm no rose expert, but they look good!

  2. I suspect they'll look even better once they bloom. I'll make an update post with more pictures then!

  3. Hi Mud,

    there was an experiment done by the Royal Horticultural Society (here in England), where roses were pruned "by the book" i.e. to an outward facing bud; crossing, rubbing and diseased stems removed; centre pruned out to create a bowl so as to allow plenty of air circulation and inhibit fungus, etc, etc, etc, whilst some other roses were pruned with a hedge trimmer. Bam - vague round shaped, rose-y thing.

    Result? No discernible difference in flowering!!!! I love that. So much proscriptive text about how to prune roses and yet? Do you know what? The rose will do whatever.

    I love that.


  4. Ha! That's pretty good. A true reminder that in gardening we don't make the plants do what we want, we just kind of encourage them in that direction.