Nancy Brachey

Just a little rose pruning is good about now

Some of you are very keen to get to work on pruning your roses. I hear that many grew robustly since spring and are way bigger than you would like them to be through the winter.

While this is not true rose-pruning season, it will not hurt to work a bit – but not too much – on landscape roses such as Knock Outs and hybrid teas.

Bringing them down to about 3 to 4 feet now will create a neat look that could make you happier this winter.

Knock Outs, as we have seen over the past decade, grow robustly and can form very dense, tall shrubs. That is part of their value, because they form a nice boundary hedge or centerpiece through the year.

Some may still have buds and blooms, but the drop in temperatures and shortening days tend to end that in December. It may be tough to cut off these buds and blooms; if so, just wait a week or two.

Even if the Knock Outs are not too tall to suit you, they may have wayward stems that distract from the overall shape and beauty of the plant.

Trim back those stems.

Other stems may have intruded into the driveway or sidewalk and should be cut back as well.

While you are doing this, look for any dead wood and cut it out. This will save time in late winter when more serious pruning is done to landscape and garden roses such as hybrid teas and floribundas to prepare them for spring growth.

While Knock Outs are not as susceptible to diseases as garden roses, you should look over the plants for any leaves marred by spots that signal disease. Pick them off or cut off branches that are affected seriously.

Do not let the leaves just fall on the ground, because the disease organisms will spend the winter there and wake up in spring to reinfect the plant.

Two types of roses should not be pruned now or in late winter – old-fashioned garden roses and the climbers that bloom in spring or early summer on the prior year’s growth. Cutting off this growth seriously restricts the amount of bloom you will get next year.

These kinds of roses are not as popular as they once were, since gardeners have opted for the new generation of landscape roses, such as Knock Outs, that have a very long bloom season and demand far less maintenance. These still require applications of fertilizer during the growing season but far less spraying and fuss to combat problems.

As you prune, even now, it helps to dip your pruning shears into a disinfecting solution of water with 10 percent household bleach.

None of this should take much time and then you can get back to the more seasonal business of shopping, cooking and football.