BRIAN KIDD: How to prune bush roses

Prune your roses now.
Prune your roses now.

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This is a good time to prune bush roses. Do it on a pleasant day without having to do something else – you know how easy it is to be diverted to other jobs.

Picking up all the prunings and weeds takes more time than the pruning, so if the dustbin is empty put a disposable liner inside and use pincher pegs to hold it in place. If you don't, any breeze will ensure it flaps around. Annoying.

Having done this it is now possible to cut off each branch and holding the branch cut it into lengths so all the bits and pieces fall into the bin.

I know you can’t put these prunings in the bin for collection by our wonderful binmen but at the end of the job simply remove the liner, take it to the recycling centre and plonk it into the green bin making sure you take the liner home or put it in the correct bin.

So, back to the job in hand. How much wood shall we remove from these bush roses?

The harder the pruning the more the bushes grow, as long as they are given a good feed of fish blood and bone fertiliser in mid-April using four ounces per square yard which is then  forked into the top two or three inches of soil.

Try to cut every branch down to three or four buds. The top cut should be straight across each stem where a bud can be seen pointing outwards. This top bud will be the strongest grower and produce the first blooms in late May here in the south.

Once pruning has been completed it’s essential to weed the bed and cut the edge of the grass to ensure a professional finish.

If you grow roses in pots, and hundreds of people do, you will know the bushes like to be in a container with holes in the base in containers which will hold about a gallon of John Innes (JI) compost. Most successful gardeners add 10 per cent sharp sand when potting.

Potted roses are pruned in exactly the same way as bedding roses, the harder the better.

However, after pruning knock the plants out of the pots and remove all the old compost. Clean the pot, place crocks in the base of the containers and pot up again with new JI No3 compost but add that 10 per cent extra sharp sand and just watch them grow. They will be the best ever.

Old-fashioned and shrub roses are not pruned at this time of year. They are pruned hard back as soon as they finish flowering in the summer. They are pruned hard  because they flower on all the wood which grew after they were pruned.

Thank you for your letters about when to prune roses, there are too many of you lovely readers to mention by name.

I will write an article on how to prevent pests and diseases in mid-April because when I wrote about this subject a couple of years ago I had more than a dozen thank-you letters!