This is one of my favorite early signs of Spring in Seattle! If you haven’t already this month, take advantage of the good weather this weekend and do your spring rose pruning now. In general, you want to cut out all the dead and damaged canes. Then remove the spindly canes, those thinner than a pencil diameter. Now to the healthy canes; these are the ones which will produce those beautiful, scented roses we all hope for. Begin with removing the canes that are crossing the middle. You want the structure of your rose to look like an open hand (or you can also call it vase-like) You want to take the canes down to about 18″ high. You are looking for an outward facing bud and cut about a quarter inch above that. This cut needs to be at an angle so the raindrops slip off the cane and not into it. This helps prevent later disease without spraying. If you haven’t already, be sure to remove all the dead leaves that are on the ground. The splash up of rain from any diseased foliage can cause the spread of rust, black spot or fungal diseases so it’s good to be diligent.
This is also the time of year to fertilize your roses as the canes grow and produce new buds, branches, canes and foliage. I strongly recommend using an organic fertilizer for roses, which allows the rose to use the fertilizer as it needs it, rather than overwhelming the rose with an instant feed. This “instant feed” usually causes too much foliage growth, which encourages aphids even more to feed on the soft new leaves, which leads to black spot.
Please comment if you have any additional questions about roses. I’d like to help you get them ready for 2013! I am available to meet with you in person to either prune them or coach you how to do it yourself. Contact me directly here. The Rose Garden at Woodland Park Zoo is also having a pruning demonstration this Saturday. I used to volunteer here and know first hand about its quality and organic practices.