Les’s Patch: Highs and lows of pruning roses

Silver Medal winner Les Foden of Morecambe, with some of his blooms at the Kirkham and District Horticultural Society Summer Flower Show on Saturday.
Silver Medal winner Les Foden of Morecambe, with some of his blooms at the Kirkham and District Horticultural Society Summer Flower Show on Saturday.

After the pruning of fruit trees many of you, I am sure, will turn with relief to the comparatively simple task of pruning ramblers and climbing roses.

But it must be realised that the two types of roses are dealt with in quite different ways.

Ramblers are very simple. If there is a good amount of green shoots rising from the ground all the old wood can be cut off at ground level and new shoots tied in the place of the old.

The only exception to this is if there are some really strong new shoots that you would like to retain coming out of the old growth. In this case cut off the remainder of the old growth just above the new branch.

Climbing roses are not quite so simple. The problem is that they tend to make all their growth high up, leaving lots of bare wood below.

Pruning the high growth won’t help to any extent as the plant just usually makes more.

The best method is to take the new long shoots and bring them down as far as possible, into a horizontal position if you can, and tie them into position.

This is not only useful in covering bare wood lower down but in the spring these branches will produce new shoots at intervals all along their length, growing in an upward direction.

There in turn can be trained horizontally and so the process continues.

The result of the horizontal training is that climbers produce more and better flowers in response.

This system can also be used for ramblers, the new shoots being pegged down to within a foot of the ground to make a sort of horizontal rose bed.

I have seen this done between bush roses so that ramblers and hybrid teas bloom together on different levels in the same bed.

This is the right time for this pruning.

If you are planning to plant shrubs in the autumn now is the time to prepare the site.

Dig each hold two foot deep and at least as much across. Break up the sub soil to improve drainage, but don’t bring it to the surface.

Cover with a good dressing of garden compost, peat or well-rotted compost to enrich it because once the shrub is planted it is not possible to introduce any enriching except by surface mulching.

Each site will be nicely settled by planting time in the autumn. Preparation is the key to success whatever you are doing.

Moving to shallots, the essential thing is to make sure they ripen thoroughly. To help this scrape soil away from the base so that the bulbs are fully exposed to the sun without actually disturbing the roots below.

When gloxinias finish flowering take off the faded bulbs and gradually withhold water until the leaves wither. Then stand the pots in a dry position where the bulbs will rest until started into growth next spring.

As the year goes on mistakes can be made when watering houseplants. Most people have a system for watering indoor plants but at this time of year it is easy to over water.

Just give each plant enough water to dampen the soil. Don’t use cold water but tepid (just warm). If at all possible use rainwater which has been brought indoors to warm up.

Use an old dinner fork to loosen the compost in the top of the pots around the plants to enable the air to get in and also to stop the compost from going mouldy.

If you want freesias to flower in pots now is the time to get them started.

Plant fairly close together in a five inch (125mm) pot and stand outside in a cool, shady spot to allow root development.

Baskets and tubs should carry on for quite a while yet provided you keep up with watering and feeding as well as dead heading.

Once a week use a high potash feed and there is none better than phostrogen.

With a rose on the watering can filled with the phostrogen mixed to the maker’s instructions, water over the tops of plants and it will be absorbed quickly as a foliar feed through the leaves.

You can now sow maincrop turnips for lifting in October. If the soil is dry water the seed drill before sowing.

Japanese onions can be planted now.

The resulting seedlings should be robust enough to stand the winter. They can be thinned to a couple of inches in March and thinnings won’t be suitable for transplanting.