January is pruning time!

Phyllis Bide climber rose badly needs its annual pruning

January is the best time to prune your rosebushes and other large shrubs such as lavatera and salvia bushes. The plants are mostly dormant and winter and spring rains (let's keep our fingers crossed that we'll get some more substantial rain here in California!) will hydrate and encourage new growth for healthy plants.

In the photo above is our Phyllis Bide climber rose. It sprouted long climber branches, some about 9 feet long that were arching through the walnut tree growing on the other side of the fence. I use my long-handled loppers, making sure they are nicely sharpened for the job. I also use short-handled pruners for thinner twigs that are close enough for me to trim without getting torn up by thorns.

I always wear my rose pruning gloves. These are long, going up to my elbows, and are extra-thick. Some rose bushes have some devilish thorns that easily stick and hold on to your clothes, pierce through regular garden gloves, as well as your clothes! So you need to be well protected!

If you want to look at the tools I use, I discussed them, with images, in one of my September posts.

You need to prune established rosebushes (those with at least 6 thick canes, are robust and have grown about 3 times their size during the growing season) fairly severely, back to their height before the growing season, which you will see in the Phyllis Bide example here. If you don't prune your rosebushes, they will look rangy, tall, with a lot of leaves, but they won't produce many blossoms because their growing efforts have to be spread over a large area of plant.

I always start out pruning carefully, because I can always cut more, but can't undo over zealous cutting. Also, I'm always keeping a lookout for bird nests, so that I won't disturb them.

pruning a stem of the Phyllis Bide climbing rose

The healthy canes and branches need to pruned.

Make a diagonal cut to prune the stems with "buds". The buds are the little pink bumps you see on the stem. Be sure to make a swift, clean cut, about 1/4 inch above an outward facing bud, in the same angle as the bud is growing.

pruned stem of Phylis Bide climber rose

Stems less than the thickness of a pencil should be cut off the rose stems and canes. These stems will only suck out energy from the plan, but won't develop much.

cutting off thin offshoots from Phyllis Bide stem

Phyllis Bide climber rose is now pruned

Yes, I did say that it would be a severe pruning job. And starting off carefully is the way I work. Eventually all the small stems were cut off.

Now the rose bush has a lot of light and air to get through it, which will keep the plant healthy and all of the pruning cuts heal very quickly. Soon the buds will sprout leaves and new branches.

The garden will look a little barer once all of the rosebushes and shrubs are pruned, but fortunately the nasturtiums and lambs' ears are thriving, and not all plants need to be pruned.

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