Brian Kidd says: prune now for a riot of summer roses

Cut back rose bushes hard, now.
Cut back rose bushes hard, now.
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This is a good time to prune bush roses but like many jobs in the garden we need to choose a pleasant day and with a bit of luck, a sunny, dry day without that blasted wind.

If there are flower buds on your roses, pick them off with secateurs and pop them into vases before you start pruning.

I know there are roses with loads of flower buds at the moment and I have never suggested picking them at this time of year before, but one of the joys of gardening is that it is always full of surprises.

Make the job easier by lining an empty dustbin with a polythene liner or old compost bag so all the prunings can be put straight into the bin. This saves a lot of time when clearing up.

The first job is to clip the edge of the lawn and put the clippings on the compost heap.

Prune each bush really hard, every branch right down to three or four buds making sure the cut is just above an outward-facing bud. If the buds have already started to shoot, cut each branch back to three or four shoots.

These shoots are very hardy despite anything you read and will grow well, even if we have frosts, snow or continued winds. Roses are resilient.

Wood which is dead is pruned out and long-handled secateurs are useful for this job.

Suckers are a nuisance. When cut off at soil surface level they grow again. The best idea is to use a border digging fork to find where they are attached, then carve them out with a pruning knife. Make sure you are wearing gloves in case of a slip. It’s not an easy job.

Applying rooting hormone liquid or powder to the wound will prevent another sucker appearing.

Once pruning is done, the bed is weeded, forked lightly and a four-inch layer of well-rotted manure applied over the soil’s surface. This will give your roses a good start for the summer. If you have never done this before you will find your roses will be the best ever.

It’s good that well-rotted manure is available at garden centres in bags. It’s weed-free and a simple cut along the top of the bag will make it easy to use as a top dressing. Do not fork it ino the soil.

If you grow roses in containers, prune them the same way. They should be repotted every year in November or February. Of course, you won’t remember, but if you do, your pots of roses will again provide the best show ever.

If you’re wondering about pruning old-fashioned shrub roses, these are NOT pruned now. Do it as soon as they finish flowering in the summer.

Bear in mind all roses are best pruned harder than you think: the harder they are pruned the more they grow. The more they grow, the more flowers you will get. As long as they are fed.

I will write about feeding, disease and pest control in the summer.