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Pinellas Rose Society

What you should be doing In The Rose Garden

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by Russ Bowermaster

This month finds the rosarian very busy in the rose garden.  About the time you receive this newsletter, you should be doing your heavy pruning on the established roses.  The purpose in pruning any plant is to promote plant health, repair damage, restore and rejuvenate, control growth, achieve special effect, and encourage flower production. All of these apply in the maintenance of our roses.

 Before beginning the pruning process, it is necessary to have the proper tools.  A good, sharp secateur (pruning shears) is the primary tool.  A secateur is a tool with one sharp blade which passes closely against a broad blade and makes a clean cut.  The sharp blade is curved with a flat back and the broad blade is hooked.  An anvil pruner is one with a sharp blade that comes down in the center of a broader blade to make the cut.  The anvil pruner is not recommended for pruning roses.  (An exception to this may be when someone has injured their hand or has painful arthritis.  Anvil pruners that work in a ratchet process are available in many garden centers.)  A lopper is simply a larger version of a secateur with handles approximately 24 inches long.  A pruning saw differs from carpentry and other type saws in that it cuts on the pull rather than the push and provides better control when removing larger branches and dead wood, thus, preventing inadvertent injury to live canes that are to be left on the bush.  Thorn resistant, supple leather gloves, gauntlets to cover the arms to the elbow, and a kneeling pad are also good items for the pruning job.

 Late January and early February is the normal time to do the heavy pruning on our roses and prepare them for a new season of growth.  If the bush is well established (at least one years growth) you should cut all the canes back to about one third of their growth.  Try to select the canes that you will leave on the bush and trim all others back to their originating point.  Leave at least 4 good canes for the new years growth.  Remove crossing canes that will rub one another, then strip all the foliage from the remaining canes.  At this time, an application of a horticultural oil spray to the bush and surrounding area will aid in prevention of disease and harmful insects.  DO NOT use oil sprays once new growth has started.

 When the pruning is complete, it is time to apply some fertilizer.  Before beginning to fertilize, take a spading fork (made like a shovel, but with four tines) and push it into the soil all around the bush, rocking it slightly with each plunge. The process will promote the fertilizer entering the soil and help in aeration and moisture.  My first selection of fertilizer for the year is primarily organics.  They take a little longer to break down but they are good for the soil and provide many elements that are needed for healthy roses.  I suggest purchasing the organics from an established garden center as they are well blended and do not attract unwanted guests to your garden the way many natural products will.  (One year I applied fish meal, only to go out the next morning and find that some critter had located every spot that I had applied it around the bushes.  There were very neat holes remaining, but no fish meal.)  Make sure the roses have had water about one day before applying the fertilizer.  If you use dry fertilizer, water it in well.  Maintain a good watering schedule according to the needs of your garden.  Springtime here in Florida is quite different from northern climes in that we can be very dry during this time. 

 Now sit back and wait for that first flush of blooms and admire your work.

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