Jun 26, 2010

Rose pruning 101

Question: "When is the best time to prune a rugosa rose?"

Answer:  "Anytime the pruners or loppers are in your hands." (Just don't prune immediately before first frost, or you'll risk new growth being instantly killed.)

This was my poor overgrown 'Sarah Van Fleet' before:

And this was her after: 

I quickly discovered that bees (yay) Japanese beetles (yuck) and yellow jackets (yikes!) all like her, so as I lopped and pulled off each branch, I had to contend with her extremely sharp thorns, and also with the swarm of flying things that came out with the branch.  Fortunately I suffered no stings and only one gash on the thigh for my efforts.

There's also a lesson in there about heeding the available horticultural information before planting.  She's a big girl and most references say she gets at least 4-8 feet tall and a good 4-5 feet wide.  I put her in a position where she can only get about 3 feet wide (We were easing around her to get into the garden.)  And for aesthetics, I'd rather keep her at a 3-4 height.

Fortunately, rugosas have two things going for them:
1) they can be severely pruned just about any time of year; and
2) they are disease resistant, so her crowded quarters had not led to a nasty outbreak of blackspot.

Lesson learned:  From now on, I will prune her each spring on to avoid  having to do that again.

The worst part of the exercise was the extreme humidity.  My clothes were DRENCHED in minutes, even though the work was not exactly strenuous.  After I got the rose trimmings hauled off to the burn pile, I worked on my daylily bed for a bit, where at least it was shady.  That bed is now in a little better shape (I am not a fastidious gardener, sad to say), and some Crocosmia bulbs have been planted among the daylilies.  I don't know if they'll bloom yet this year, since they were planted so late - but we'll see.

A late afternoon storm blew in and knocked out power to almost all of the 'boro.  There are 25 stoplights between here and Oakland High School, where the daughter was swimming before the storm.  My fellow 'boro residents have no idea how to proceed through an intersection without a functioning traffic light, so it was a lesson in frustration.  At least it was temporary - by the time we headed for home the lights were back on.