Andy's Adventures in Gardening; Escape to the Garden ..............

By Andy McIndoe

Happy New Year – Hope it’s a good one and that you will keep following my Blog, and My Garden School throughout 2013. We have got lots of gardening treats in store for you. Please feel free to comment, and leave your suggestions at the end of this Blog anytime. Whether you have comments, questions or suggestions for future blog posts I would love to hear from you!

On a visit to David Austin Roses I can always remember Michael Marriott saying that the best time to prune your shrub roses is on Boxing Day – not only because it’s the right time to do it, but because it’s a great way to escape from the relatives! This has stuck in my mind, partly because I am always being asked when to prune roses, but mainly because it emphasises what a wonderful place of escape a garden is. Although it may not look that appealing out there for those of us in the midst of the winter months it’s amazing how much better it feels to be out there amongst the plants, even if for some of you they are under a blanket of snow!

For those that can get out there to do some winter pruning, I’m sure Michael won’t mind if I say a few words about pruning roses. Michael is one of the tutors here at My Garden School, and he has a great Rose Growing Course that all rose enthusiasts should consider. Personally I think there’s lots of mystique around growing our favourite flowers, mostly the result of failure due to growing poor plants of the wrong varieties. I know Michael will share his secrets and he’s promised to join me on this blog soon, so watch this space.

Rosa 'jbilee Celebration 09Anyway I said I would say something about rose pruning, so that we don’t miss the moment. As long as the weather isn’t actually freezing English gardeners, and those in temperate regions, can get on with it. Shrub roses and English roses are best pruned in midwinter, before new growth starts. In the southern half of the UK and the USA I would tackle floribunda (cluster flowering) and hybrid tea roses now too. If you leave it until later they will have started to produce new growth, which you will cut off, then the plant has to produce that growth again, which potentially weakens it.

Rosa 'Grace' 10Traditionally floribunda roses and hybrid tea roses are cut back hard to three or four buds above ground level. This is to encourage strong, vigorous growth which will produce this year’s flowers. Shrub roses and English roses are pruned more lightly. Generally cutting back the shrub by one third is a good guide. What you are trying to achieve is bushy, well-branched growth because it is these side branches that produce the flowers. If you cut back hard you will encourage strong, upright growth, which is why these varieties so often produce those long shoots, with a few flowers way up in the air where you can’t see them.

Traditional gardening books will always tell you to cut just above an outward facing bud, with a sloping cut, sloping away from the bud. This is sound advice; pruning is a logical process and we want to promote outward growth to keep the centre of the shrub open to allow good air circulation. This helps to reduce the risk of disease. However you really don’t have to be too fussy as long as you do a nice job and leave the shrub tidy afterwards. I know some of you will have read various articles telling you that you can prune your roses with a hedge trimmer and they still flower just as well. That may be the case but I’m afraid us real gardeners just don’t do that!

Rosa Ferdinand Pichard 2

I never meant this blog to turn into an article about pruning roses so I am going to leave the real advice to Michael, for those of you that are lucky enough to join him on line on his Growing Roses Course. Two final tips from me which you might want to turn into your New Year’s Resolutions:

Rosa 'Jude the Obscure' 2

1. If you have miserable roses in the garden which always get disease and never really perform dig them up, throw them away, and plant some good new varieties. People will tell you that maybe your soil isn’t right. Some gardens just can’t grow roses and so on. This is all untrue: it’s all about selecting the right roses for your plot. We garden on slightly acid sand, low in nutrients and organic matter. We have some of the newer English Roses here and they thrive. I’ve got some good ones in pots too!

Rosa - apricot da2. Feed your roses generously with a quality rose fertiliser twice a year- once in spring and again in midsummer. Roses are greedy feeders and a well fed rose is a healthy one. Garden compost or whatever other fertilisers you have won’t do – you need a rose fertiliser. This is the best bit of disease control advice you will get this year!

Happy New Year and Happy Gardening. Don’t forget our next online gardening courses start on 5th January so why not enrol now?

Andy McIndoe

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