Chopping for roses

Summer pruning for climbing and shrub roses: The least photogenic process

We've been trying for years to illustrate rose pruning with photos of real roses. Although rose flowers are very photogenic, a whole rose shrub or vine tends to come across as a jumble in a photo. Here are some exceptions to that rule, images that help you do what must be done: See and choose between canes.ClimberRoseCanesS.jpg

And you may also want to take a look at*
What's Coming Up 86 pruning guide,
• The illustrations of a trellised climbing rose in What's Coming Up 157, and
What's Coming Up 88 photos.

*(Sponsor us, name this topic as your chosen topic, and you will grant us the time to blend and compile them!)


Summer is time to deadhead, cut back and train roses, all at once

The goals:

  1. Cut back wood that's bloomed, in time to encourage the shrub to develop lots of new shoots from the main framework.
  2. And to fine tune that framework by cutting back any weak wood.
  3. Then to train in or remove new canes.


Sometimes it's a light cut, but more often heavy

If a rose grew and bloomed especially heavily, it will lose a lot now. Not to worry -- if it's a vigorous, healthy rose it will take it in stride.

Below: This miniature climber 'Red Cascade' lost very little to our pruners this week... but that's because it started growing and blooming so early this spring that we had already given it its first cut about three weeks ago.
(You might notice, if you've been looking at the other deadheading and cutting back articles for this week, that we also clipped back the Dianthus at its feet, as we do for potted annuals about now. All plants look better when their companions are fresh.)

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Below: This very big 'Climbing New Dawn' loses a lot more.

It's quite the good grower and at its peak as we do this main clipping, post-bloom. We also prune a bit in fall if it has any long straggler canes that might whip in the winter wind. In the spring we cut the tips of the main canes, remove and deadwood and even up the side shoots that are in place to bloom.

NewDawnB4_4045.jpg  NewDawnCutg4053.jpg


Below: These carpet-type roses lost more than usual because they went wild this spring after a very mild winter and very early warm-up. We missed being able to prune them before they started to grow so we opted to put up with their sprawl through the first bloom. But now, the jig's up and we must rein them in.

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How-to of cutting back

First, identify the side branches -- the offshoots of the main canes. They bore the flowers.

Right: The left-hand cane in this photo is a branch that matured last summer and this spring produced four side shoots. We'll cut each side shoot now to remove its bloomed-out tip.CutbkRosBlGrN6147s.jpg

The right-hand cane is new, every inch of it grown since spring -- such is the energy of youth. We'll deadhead it and cut its tip to encourage side shoots for the next round of bloom. Or we'll let it bloom and remove the entire shoot, as there are so many this year.


Below: We work along each main cane, clipping back bloomed-out side shoots. We keep just the base of the spur, one or two leaves per shoot.

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Below, left: Sometimes we run across particularly vigorous side branches, such as this one in the middle of the cane.

Below, right: We've clipped all the other side shoots along the cane, leaving the unsual branch (arrow) as we contemplate its future.

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RoseNewSpurN6377s.jpgRight: It's alrady developing an equally sturdy shoot from its base. Can we use more main branches? If not, we cut.


The real catch to training is being tough enough to say "no" to perfectly healthy canes that emerge in the wrong places, or that are simply not needed.

Below, left: This Explorer series climber* gave up a bit more green this year than in other years because...

Below, center: ...a sturdy new cane (a) presented itself and we decided to train it in place of older cane (b). Cane (b) has some damage on it (not visible in these photos) but what's more important is that we didn't position it well when we first trained it, and can't reposition it now that it's thick and woody. We left its lower section quite vertical, without bows or bends, so along that section it was not encouraged to break -- develop blooming side shoots.
Thus it's bare-ankles ugly along its first four feet. By comparison, bowed cane (c) has lots of breaks.

Below, right: There we go. The old cane's sawed out. The new cane's bowed and tied in.

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*(Which Explorer... hmm.)