Butchering the roses

Yes, I know, I’m late again.  The roses should have been attacked well before now.

Year after year, it’s always the same and I find myself going out to the garden with secateurs and a dollop of guilt at my tardiness. The fire, and cat, are to blame.

However, for the roses, their time is up and it’s time to sharpen the shears.

Pruning roses is possibly my least favourite garden task.  I know all the rules, or used to.  Remove all dead or diseased wood, all thin or weak stems and hack off all those that cross or rub.

Prune just half a centimetre above an outward facing bud and on a slight angle so moisture drains away.  The result, one is told, is a bush that has a well balanced arrangement of canes, a centre open to light and flowering branches growing ever upwards with their burden of beautiful flowers.

It’s all poppycock in Gordonton.  My roses refuse to follow the textbook and present themselves in a myriad of complex configurations guaranteed to perplex the gentle gardener.

Take, for example, this ‘outward facing bud’ advice.  There is seldom one there when you need one, no matter how hard one glowers at the rose bush.  I lop off what I think approximates proximity to a bud, and move on, with an impending feeling of failure.

I used to have a cunning plan.  Spend a day baking and invite Megan down from Auckland.  Megan understands the way of roses, and takes no cheek from them.  She knows her old wood from her new and her lateral from her axillary buds.  Within an hour or two it’s all over and the teapot awaits.  But in recent years, selfishly, she has busied herself in study and work and to be honest, it’s more fun to go straight to the teapot when she visits.

I have been assured by those that know that it is hard to kill a rose by bad pruning; mistakes made one year can be rectified the next.  In my case, it’s possibly a case of decades of abuse piling up.

Mind you, peering outside through the fog this morning, the roses seem to be very much alive and, yes, in need of a trim.   But there is the small matter of this small cat in my lap…

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2 thoughts on “Butchering the roses

  • August 1, 2011 at 9:18 am

    You could always collect the rose hips and use them in baking or skincare. Or you could at least say you are saving the hips for that if anyone comments on unpruned roses! I was thinking of using that line.

    • August 1, 2011 at 11:12 am

      Excellent idea, Stephanie, which reminds me of two old recipes I have, featuring rosehips and that wonder ingredient, honey!
      I’ve just posted these recipes on the site – check it out!


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