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Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

Posted by prairiemoon2 zone 6a/MA (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 10:08

I only have a few hardy no spray roses that I try to grow in my garden. Every year, I repeat the same confusion about when to prune them. They start growing so early. I saw growth on some 3 weeks ago and I didn't check before then, so it could have been earlier. But all of March was like winter and April has already had over night lows in the high 20s. Snow in April is not unheard of and I know we've had a couple of snow storms in May. The weather in the spring has become so unpredictable that I often worry that I will prune them back too soon and that will stimulate new growth and then we will get a freeze. BUT....if I don't prune them early enough, then I have a lot of new growth that I'm cutting off by the time I get to it.

So, what say all of you? (g) Is it better to cut them back as early as possible and not worry about it? And if I do that, do I then have to cover them on cold nights? Or should I be leaving them alone until danger of frost is over?

Thanks


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

You shouldn't worry so much.

Truly hardy roses can handle pretty much anything you want to do to them. They aren't stupid plants that are going to grow too soon. They probably know more about the weather, and how to react to it than you do.

Start with why you want to prune them. Size? Renewal? Because you feel it is necessary? The usual time is when the forsythia blooms. The last frost date has nothing to do with rose growing.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

Hi, thanks for the quick response.

Well, good I don't have to worry so much. :-)

But I do want to understand the reasons for doing something one way over another.

Yes, why do I want to prune them? I thought I had read that I was supposed to prune them every year? I do grow them in a perennial bed and do want to keep them a certain height. I thought I was supposed to try to keep the middle of the plant open for air circulation. I thought pruning them would trigger more branching and new shoots from the ground. Because I don't want them to be leggy and have no leaves on the bottom of the plant. Because the framework of branches in the spring always have some die back on the ends of most branches and I want to cut it back to healthy growth.

The reason I guess I wonder about cutting it back when the Forsythia bloom, is that there is new growth that is over an inch long at that point and sometimes even leaves have unfurled. I'm used to the idea with other shrubs, that you try to prune before new growth appears except on spring bloomers. And if the plant has used a lot of energy to push out new growth and you cut a lot of it off, then it has to do it all over again and are you stressing the plant?

And don't a lot of gardeners experience having new growth in the early spring and then losing the plant in a late frost or cold snap? That doesn't happen to roses?


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

Here in PA I start pruning in February any time the weather is decent and I need an excuse to get outside. A little at a time. I just finished up yesterday. I have never had a circumstance where a pruned rose accelerated into growth and then suffered damage from a late frost. I think you should be safe now.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

The entire 'must prune, and prune THIS way' is an HT mindset. If you aren't growing HTs, it can be anything from a mental block, to a major cause for the rose underperforming.

Generally, shrub roses are shrubs. You can treat them the same way as any other shrub and get reasonable results. Older shrub roses will need some sort of renewal pruning, which can be done exactly the same as would be done on a forsythia or anything else - remove a certain number of canes at the base. Pruning them higher up will produce the same sort of bushy growth from the pruning point that any shrub would produce. Then you end up with a vicious cycle of controlling that growth.

There are parts of the country where late, hard freezes happen fairly often. This isn't one of them. Some roses will be hit by frost the years the apple orchards lose their crops. There isn't much you can do about it besides plant smarter roses.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

  • Posted by seil z6b MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 15:06

I agree with Mad, people worry about pruning way too much. For the most part we prune for us not the roses. They don't HAVE to be pruned at all. If you want an example drive out to the country and see all the beautiful roses growing untended by anyone in fields and farmsteads.

If you like them at a certain height cut them shorter than that now so they'll grow to that height. When you dead head the spent blooms cut them a little deeper so they'll stay the shape and size you want. Otherwise just cut out dead or damaged wood when necessary and leave them alone.

You can start pruning now. If there is a late snow or frost that could kill them, whether you pruned or not won't matter. They're already actively growing so it's just the chance we take.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

Ok, that sounds great and it gives me a more relaxed way of working with roses. I appreciate all your experiences shared. Thanks!


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

I agree! You would faint if you lived here...lol
Most people around here whack there shrub roses in
Nov-Dec and they do not touch them until the following
Nov-Dec and they come back year after year...
I've seen HT's whacked down in Nov-Dec that survive...

NOW I do not agree with these pratices but I just wanted to share it with you to show roses are tough!...


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

Thanks Jim. It is good to know. I have a couple of David Austins and one is definitely a shrub rose. Harlow Carr and the other is Golden Celebration. I also have Julia Child and a shrub rose called Rhapsody in Blue. The one that seems the most finicky is the Golden Celebration and the rest are pretty easy and hardy. Julia Child seems to be the one that is the most easy going and vigorous.

Oh and I have one Madame Plantier and a New Dawn on a fence. That's all I have.

I assume that all of those will tolerate treating them like shrubs, except for the climber. Thanks for sharing your experiences. :-)


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

When you are pruning don't be fooled by leaves on a stem.
I had some ht's that the canes were green. I thought that I didn't have to do anything, WRONG! I cut into the stem and there was a big brown hole in the middle of the pith. So cut until you find good creamy white pith. You may cut down quite a bit but the plant will be better for it.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

The climber is the one you *have* to treat like a shrub. Eventually, it will get old, dying canes. It will take several years, but it will happen. If you don't remove them, then the rose will be slower to grow replacements.

One of my jobs this spring is to clear out some old New Dawns that haven't been touched for almost ten years. Most of the canes are very old, very thick, and not producing.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

Thanks for that tip Dan. I hadn't heard that one before.

MG, I've only had mine two years, and have cut it back to the base both years. Hoping to have a good amount of branches to stretch horizontally along my fence this year. At some later point, I hope to move it to an arbor over the front door.

So did you train your ND to a trellis or arbor before you left it alone for 10 years?


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

Frosted new growth may harm the bud but it will not kill the rose. The energy expenditure may weaken it a bit but it will recover


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

They aren't really mine. I'm simply one of the few people who has any business on their hill.

There used to be a good picture of the whole row on the web, but this is the best I could find.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

Susan, I guess since I've never had it happen to me personally, I didn't really know what to expect would be the result of a late cold snap. That makes sense. Thanks.

Wow, isn't that photo a beauty?! So far I've only had a few branches with a smattering of blooms. I can't eve say that they are as double as those blooms appear. I bought mine at Pickering, thanks to suggestions I was given on this forum. Luscious! Thanks for the photo. Fingers crossed i get a fraction of that growth this year.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

Don't cut it back, but let it grow a bit. It is a monster, though (all hardy climbers are) so ignore advice about how it 'should' be trained. Training New Dawn is a lot like herding cats. It works much better if the rose is already growing in the right direction.

Because of the ocean heat sink, the deadly late freezes really aren't a part of our experience. It's one of the prices the midwesterners pay for a much earlier official last frost date.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

Well, I've already cut it back to the base for this year. So we'll see what it does, but I will try your suggestion and just adapt to what it seems to want to do. But I can take the long branches and bend them to a horizontal position on a four foot fence and tie them to it, right?

As for the late freezes, last year we were three weeks earlier with everything and then we got high twenty temps for a few nights in a row and it drove me crazy running out to try to cover everything up. There were buds all over a Viburnum carlesii that I didn't have enough material to cover it so I just left it. Everything else had something over it. Everything survived pretty well. Some things looked a little beaten up, including the new growth on the roses, but nothing died. The Viburnum didn't miss a beat.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

You can tie them to anywhere they will bend that far. Wichurana climbers have a tendency to produce very stiff, fat canes that will break if pushed too far. They also tend to throw a lot of laterals out at right angles, which poke out from where they are supposed to be. They are very three-dimensional roses, which don't necessarily work on 2-dimensional supports.

I'm way past the point of just sleeping through those freezes, and try to get others to follow my good example. The only time we've had damage was the year a hot spell in April was followed by lows in the low 20s-high teens. My HTs didn't really survive that, and there were other plants in the neighborhood that looked rough. The apple crop was totally gone, which around here was a big deal. All the perennials were unscathed, which was what convinced me people tend to overreact.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

Thanks for all those tips for New Dawn. I'll have to keep you updated as the season moves along. I'm sure I will have another question or two.

Well I guess in the end, if it's going to kill plants, throwing a sheet over it is not going to do much anyway I suppose. You are right I am sure. It will be what it will be and you might as well sleep in.


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

"I'm way past the point of just sleeping through those freezes, and try to get others to follow my good example. The only time we've had damage was the year a hot spell in April was followed by lows in the low 20s-high teens. My HTs didn't really survive that, and there were other plants in the neighborhood that looked rough. The apple crop was totally gone, which around here was a big deal. All the perennials were unscathed, which was what convinced me people tend to overreact"

Exactly. But isn't it better to delay pruning (of HTs) until after these weather fluctuations?


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

ND should be fine. I also worry about the cold. Chicago is expecting snow showers this weekend and I planted bands already. I am going to throw some bark nuggets on the tender new growth. The mature ones have been 90 % pruned, including a monster ND. I figure it is out of my hands.
Wanted for FRAUD - Punsxutawney Phil!


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RE: Pruning roses in New England in the spring.

I grow lots of HTs in New England--made it through yet another winter with zero losses.

Sometimes I'll do an early pruning in March--taking out all the woody canes all the way to the bud union with a sharp pruning saw. But, I won't do any other pruning--even though the canes are over 4 ft tall. By leaving the canes long, any early leafing out will still leave undamaged bud eyes lower on the canes.

I pruned 200 roses this past weekend as the forsythia turned yellow.


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