By Angela Quayle
My goal this year is to share my gardening projects with you so you can see in a kind of real time what I really do instead of just writing about what gardeners are supposed to be doing. I thought it would make it more real and anyone could feel comfortable getting out in the garden and doing some constructive work in relatively small increments of time. My time in the garden has been altered since having three kids in three years — a four year old and one-year-old twins — and I don’t spend nearly as much time as I’d like working in the garden. A lot more laundry, meal preparation, dishes, and of course playing take up most of my time. So I hope you find my gardening projects achievable and not too boring.
This week, my gardening project was winter pruning my hybrid tea roses. For St. George and most of Washington County, winter is most definitely December and January, and these are the ideal months in which to winter prune roses. However, February is okay, too, provided you do it as early in the month as possible. That being said, elevations higher than St. George definitely have more winter to get this work done, and it’s during these winter months that roses are surely dormant and pruning them won’t encourage tender new growth that will be damaged by late or early frosts.
Hybrid tea roses originate from a cross between two types of roses to create a rose bush with large blooms on single stems. There are many resulting varieties. I have only two, Mr. Lincoln and Henry Fonda. Mr. Lincoln is a rich red that smells heavenly. Henry Fonda is yellow and smells wonderful as well, though not a strongly as Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln is definitely my favorite, and it’s this rose bush I chose to prune and document for this article.
First, I gathered the equipment I’d need for the project: hand pruners, loppers, a shrub rake, and gloves. Leather gloves, or gauntlet gloves specifically for pruning roses, will do the best job of keeping your hands and arms free of thorn wounds. My gloves are neither of these, and though I was very careful, I did suffer a few minor pokes and snags, but no blood was drawn … this time.
Next, I evaluated my rose bush noting green and woody canes — the vertical branches of the rose bush — as well as any dead canes. My goal was to end up with a somewhat symmetrical arrangement of healthy, green canes about 12–18 inches high with all dead and unhealthy canes removed.
To begin, I just picked the cane closest to me and used my loppers to cut it just above a bud. It’s at this small swelling where the new growth will occur. I made my cut as close to the bud as possible without cutting into or below the bud. Any stem left above the bud will die and will be unsightly as well as a conduit for disease and pests. I also removed some dead canes as close as I could to the base of the bush. Additionally, I used my hand pruners to remove any small and spindly canes and branches for a tidy appearance. Try not to overthink this pruning part. Stop and look at the overall effect after each cut, and do your best. Roses are pretty darn resilient and perform extremely well in our area.
I finished up by using my shrub rake to clean up under the rose bush. Then I had to resist the urge to fertilize as it’s only January and a bit early. When I see more buds swelling with the prospect of spring, mid to late February or so, I will apply some granular fertilizer. If I can remember, since gardening takes a backseat to the momming I do around here, I will apply it every four to six weeks through September, watering before and after applying it (I will reiterate this every time I write about fertilizer, so forgive me if I sound redundant).
Roses do require for pruning and care throughout the growing season; that’s why I only have two, but I’ll save that info for a later article. As for now, you have some seasonally appropriate rose pruning to do. So, get outside and enjoy your garden and the amazing weather February brings to St. George and surrounding Washington County!