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Gardening: Top of the lops; Roses need those secateurs now.

Byline: By Steve Riches

THERE'S nothing that brings on a feeling of spring quite like marching up the garden clutching a pair of secateurs.

The target: roses. Big 'uns and little 'uns, climbers and ramblers. Every one of them in need of a serious trim.

There are those old timers who still insist that rose pruning is an Easter activity, right up there with egg rolling, sticky buns and soppy bonnets.

I beg to differ. As long as plants are not in flower or the weather extreme in any way, you can actually prune at any time of year.

I always prune before March. If you delay it, you'll end up hacking off new growth that will already have taken its toll of the plant's energy resources and thereby risk less vigorous progress and fewer blooms.

How to prune is another issue.

In fact, there are those - the Royal National Rose Society among them - who say you don't really need those secateurs.

Trials have shown that carefully-pruned varieties perform no better than those that have been savaged by a hedge trimmer.


But then I'm a bit of a traditionalist and don't have masses of them to bother about, just some old favourites dotted around that get my personal attention.

They need to be cut back by a third, though go easier on newish plants.

The slanted cut should be just above a new bud. As you go through the bush, completely remove any weedylooking branches that clearly won't be productive, along with dead or diseased wood and any shiny suckers.

Climbers and ramblers can later be pointed in the direction you want them to take, but bush roses need shaping now.

They're very undemanding plants, but they do ask for plenty of light and space and that's down to you.

Just imagine a wine glass and prune to that outline, "emptying" the middle of the theoretical glass so they can breathe more easily.

All they need after that is a little nourishment. A fertiliser rich in potassium will do nicely, but dig it in lightly round the base and avoid the leaves.

You will then have earned the right to put a real wine glass to the test.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Feb 24, 2008
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