Time To Prune Your Roses

If you look at the calendar, Spring begins on March 20 but for lovers of roses, spring comes when that yellow-flowered shrub called Forsythia starts to bloom.  Pruning roses is a rite of spring for rosarians. In the South, I was told to prune on the last week in February. Then our season begins.  Some rosarians start early which is not such a bad idea especially if you have plenty of roses to prune.   You can always cut more later but you have a head start.

We prune our roses for several reasons – to keep our roses healthy, to control its excessive growth and to shape the bush for a better display.

Before we rush out there in the garden, make sure you have all the right equipment.  A good pair of bypass pruner preferably Felco. No 2 is recommended. Keep your pruner very sharp.  A sharp pruner is less taxing to your hand and creates less bruising on your roses.  For cutting larger canes, a lopper is a better choice.  Their longer handles make it easier to cut through thicker canes.  You should also have a pruning saw for those extra thick canes.

Also, of utmost importance is to wear gloves.  A good leather glove is a must to protect yourself from too many scratches.  Long sleeved shirts or jackets will protect your arms and wrists.  Hat is also important to protect your face from the sun and to protect your head if you are balding.  Make sure your tetanus booster shot is up to date.

Your first agenda is to cut the dead, diseased and damaged canes. Cut until you see the white or cream colored pith.  If necessary, you can go down to almost near the bud union.  Roses will bloom on a dark colored pith but once the weather warms, the canes die back or become unproductive. Don’t go crazy looking for white pith on “Peace” rose.  It does not have white pith.  After getting rid of the dead and diseased canes, begin cutting the longer canes first and get them out of your way.  Pay close attention to what you are doing.  Work from the outside in.  Remember that you are surrounded with thorns so be very careful.

Cut above the leaf with five leaflets to about ¼ inch from the bud.  If longer, the cane can die back and if shorter, new growth might break off in the wind.  Cut to an outward facing bud so a new growth will face outward too.  With few exception, like roses that tend to grow sideways, cut in the direction you want the branch to grow.  Roses like The McCartney Rose, First Prize and Just Joey tend to sprawl so prune them to an inside facing bud.    Always remember to aim at an open space in the bush.  Make the cut on a slant so water drains off.  Seal with Elmer’s glue to prevent the cane borer from burrowing into the newly cut canes.

You also want to open the center of the bush for good air circulation to ward off diseases.  Cut long and straggly canes and canes that are crossing or touching each other leaving the stronger canes.  Leave three or four good healthy canes.  If only one cane is available, cut it lower to encourage new growth from the bud union.

On Hybrid Teas, Grandiflora, and some Floribundas, remove stems smaller than a pencil because they will not produce good blooms for cutting.  For exhibitors, cutting back to 6 to 12 inches length will produce stronger canes and good quality blooms.  Miniature roses are pruned the same way as Hybrid Teas.  If you find this too tedious, you can go drastic and use a hedge pruner and prune to 5” high.  Mother Nature is very forgiving and usually corrects our mistakes so don’t worry too much.

Remove all blind shoots.  These are branches that taper down to almost nothing.  Remove spurs.  These are short growths only a few inches long that have hardened off and taper down to a point.  They will not flower.

Prune to desired height you want for your rose.  Some rosarians want their roses tall.  I want my roses short and compact looking so I can look down on them instead of stretching my neck to appreciate their beauty. I usually cut to about a foot high except for the shrub types which can go from 18 inches to 24 inches tall.

After you are done pruning, remove every leaf.  These old leaves are the reservoir for black spot and mildew.  You might also want to start your spraying program with dormant oil to take care of the overwintering insects.  Also, spread a cupful of Epsom salt around each bush for better growth.  Then you can relax a little bit while waiting for the new growth to arrive.

Before and After Pruning

Rose Bush Before and After Puning.


Until next time. Stop and Smell the Roses.

Rosalinda, The Rose Lady


Rosalinda R Morgan

Author and Garden Writer







‘Playboy’ x ‘Peppermint Twist’

Hybridizer – Carruth, 1997


This spicy scented floribunda was the first striped rose to win the AARS award. With burgundy and creamy white stripes on a vigorous plant with shiny, dark green foliage, Scentimental hardly needs its wonderful fragrance to attract attention, but that’s what made it an award winner in 1997. If you like the old fashioned type roses with its cup-shaped bloom, Scentimental is for you. The coloration is unique. It is disease resistant, hardy and has a strong fragrance. Bloom size is 4”-6” and is generous with its blooms. I had two in front of my old house and I planted two at my new home also.


Until next time, stop and smell the roses.


Rosalinda Morgan


Author and Garden Writer







Now that the summer is gone but not forgotten, we are still enjoying the roses in the garden. As long as the weather stays mild, the roses will keep on blooming. I walked around the garden this morning and there were some lovely roses still in bloom. It’s smaller than the spring bloom but more intense in color. Here is a lovely poem written by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) that carries my sentiment for the season.




‘Tis the last rose of summer

Left blooming alone;

All her lovely companions

Are faded and gone;

No flower of her kindred

No rosebud, is nigh,

To reflect back her blushes

To give sigh for sigh.


I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one,

To pine on the stem;

Since the lovely are sleeping

Go sleep thou with them.

Thus kindly I scatter

Thy leaves o’er the bed,

Where thy mates of the garden

Lie scentless and dead.

Romantica Roses

Rouge Royale Regan Nursery

Rouge Royale – Photo courtesy of Regan Nursery

For rose lovers who want the charm and fragrance of the Old Garden Roses with their large variety of flower forms but longer blooming period, there are large selections now available. First, there was David Austin’s English Roses, then other growers started producing roses with the Old Garden Rose characteristics. One of them is the Meilland Company of France (developer of the famous Meidiland family of Landscape Roses. Alain Meilland of the legendary French rose company, the Meilland Company that boasts six generations of family ownership and hybridizer of the Romantica Roses received the Great Rosarians of the World award for 2012.

After David Austin’s success with the English Roses, the House of Meilland followed suit with a series of garden roses blending the best qualities of Heirlooms with modern Floribundas and Hybrid Teas. They call this group of rose Romantica Roses. Many of these varieties were bred in the South of France by Meilland International. These new French Roses represent an important expansion of the English Rose style, with astonishing new varieties and versatility that take the concept pioneered by David Austin to an entirely new level from romantic antique to modern Hybrid Teas, from climbers to shrubs with extensive color ranges, nostalgic pastels to vivid hues, wide selection of attractive plant forms, excellent disease resistance, outstanding foliage typical of the Meilland breeding line, old-fashioned fragrance and dependable repeat flowering habit for all seasons color. These characteristics appeal to both the novice as well as the advanced gardener. Their improved disease resistance and garden performance make them a wonderful addition to the modern landscape.

Here is a list of Romantica Roses that you can incorporate in your garden:

  1. Guy de Maupassant – F – Medium Pink – 1996
  2. Polka – LCl – Apricot Blend – 1996
  3. Michelangelo – HT – Medium Yellow – 1997
  4. Jean Giono – HT – Yellow Blend – 1998
  5. Francois Rabelais – F – Medium Red – 1998
  6. Traviata – HT – Dark Red – 1998
  7. Rouge Royal – HT – Red Blend – 2001
  8. Peter Mayle – HT – Deep Pink – 2003
  9. Bolero – F – White – 2004
  10. White Eden – LCl – White – 2004


Do roses need companion plants? Absolutely. More and more gardeners are utilizing companion plants with roses. It is proven that monoculture of roses invites more harmful insects into a rose garden. The results is spraying more and more chemicals to drive the harmful insects away. On the other hand, we are killing the beneficial insects in the process.

Only die-hard exhibitors are having a garden exclusively planted with roses. Spraying insecticides seems the norm for them to have that perfect bloom. With the devastating effect on our environment and possibly our health, isn’t it about time we find an alternative to combat the harmful insects. Companion plantings have proven to be the answer.

One of the reasons why some gardeners are not inclined to growing roses is the perception that to grow roses, you have to spray. We have created that perception that roses need a lot of care by our constant use of pesticides. These same gardeners like other plants because it gives them diversity in the garden. But why are they not planting roses?

I like companion plants. I grow them with my roses. If you look at the picture of my previous garden, even the formal beds had companion plants. Spring bulbs heralded the start of the season.

NY Garden

Planting spring bulbs in the rose garden? Certainly. Other plants? Why not? If you have not done it, you should at least try. I love all kinds of plants and I want to have them all. Some of them I use as a compliment to my roses when I do arrangements.

My garden starts its blooming cycle in early spring when spring bulbs herald the arrival of spring. Daffodils and tulips of all kinds fight for attention. There are spaces between your roses that can accommodate these spring beauties without competing with your roses. By the time the roses come into bloom the spring flowers will be gone.

As you can see from the picture above which was my garden in New York, the center beds are formal parterres with only roses but in spring, you would see red and yellow tulips in between the roses. The side beds are informal English gardens planted with roses, perennials, shrubs and more spring bulbs. In early spring, the gardens were ablaze with spring flowers. They cannot hurt your rose garden. It will only enhance its beauty. Spring bulbs make your rose garden come alive even before the roses start leafing out.

NY Perennial Bed

To make a colorful display in spring, you have to plant in the fall. Catalogs are the best sources because they offer more selections than local nurseries. When you browse through the garden catalogs, look for fabulous colors of spring bulbs to add to your rose garden. To orchestrate the spring bulbs to bloom continuously before the roses take over, stagger the planting of the bulbs.

In NY, I must have thousands of spring bulbs planted over the years. Here in Charleston where I live in a townhouse, I started adding tulips a couple of years ago. A big box of spring bulbs arrived a few days ago and will be planted soon. Since winter  has been very cold lately, more tulips come up in spring. Pictured below is my front yard in Johns Island.

SC Garden

I like Red Impression tulips and Tahiti daffodils which have huge flowers, good for garden display and for cuttings. Squirrels love tulips but not daffodils and stash them away in the fall. To prevent squirrels from digging up your tulips, spread cayenne pepper over the tulip bulbs before you cover them with soil. Squirrels hate cayenne pepper and run for their lives when they smell it.

Tulip leaves wither faster than daffodils. The leaves start to turn yellow as the roses are leafing out so then I cut them all off. The daffodils stay in the perennial border where I have some shrub roses, Old Garden Roses and perennials and that way, they don’t look so bedraggled while they are drying out.

So be bold and experiment. Plant spring bulbs around your roses and you’ll double your gardening pleasure. Plant companion plants to reduce the use of pesticides and save the Earth.

Your rose garden will look magnificent even before the roses reign supreme.

October Garden by Christina Rossetti

October Garden

By Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)


In my Autumn garden I was fain

To mourn among my scattered roses,

Alas for that last rosebud that uncloses

To Autumn’s languid sun and rain

When all the world is on the wane!

Which has not felt the sweet constraint of June,

Nor heard the nightingale in tune.


Broad-faced asters by my garden walk,

You are but coarse compared with roses:

More choice, more dear that rosebud which uncloses,

Faint-scented, pinched, upon its stalk,

That least and last which cold winds balk;

A rose it is though least and last of all,

A rose to me though at the fall.

Winners of the 3rd Annual Biltmore International Rose Trials

Winners of the 3rd Annual Biltmore International Rose Trials


Biltmore’s trials are a sustainable trial using natural fertilizers and no spray. They are judged for growth habit and vigor, buds and flowers, recurrent bloom, resistance to disease and fragrance.

The 2015 winners are:

 Queen of Elizabeth Rose from Help Me Find

Photo from HelpMeFind

‘Queen Elizabeth’ a grandiflora rose bred by Dr. Walter E. Lammerts in 1954

The Award of Excellence for Best Established Rose


 ‘Savannah’ (KORviros) bred by Kordes Rosen in Germany

George & Edith Vanderbilt Award for Most Outstanding Rose of the Trials (Best in Show)

The Pauline Merrell Award for Best Hybrid Tea

The Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil Award for Most Fragrant Rose

‘Tequila Gold’ (MEIpojona) bred by Meilland International in France

The Edith Wharton Award for Best Floribunda

‘Flying Kiss’ (P1144PCL) bred by Ping Lim. Based at Altman Plants, Vista, CA

The Gilded Age Award for Best Climber

‘Peachy Keen’ (RADgor) bred by Bill Radler of Milwaukee, WI

The Chauncey Beadle Award for Best Shrub Rose

The Lord Burleigh Award for Most Disease Resistant

‘Popcorn Drift’ (NOVarospop) bred by NovaFlora, LLC in West Grove, PA

The Honorable John Cecil for Open Group

‘Phloxy Baby’ (RADcleome) bred by Bill Radler of Wilwaukee, WI

The William Cecil Award for Best Growth Habit