A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Pruning Rosebushes

I love heirloom roses. They are lovely, smell great and are easy to care for. They thrive on neglect. All I have to do is prune away all the dead wood once each spring before they bloom. I call it the "Annual Pruning of the Rosebushes". It is an all-day event for two reasons. One, of course, because I have so many of them and two, because some of them have become so large, I literally have to climb inside them to get at all of the dead branches. Thankfully this year we are having cooler than normal weather so I was not dressed in my usual t-shirt and shorts and suffering Death From a Thousand Cuts from all the thorns.

I had no idea there were any other kinds of roses than hybrid tea roses before I moved into this house. It took me a few years to even be able to identify the rosebushes that were already growing in the backyard. They are original Blaze roses. There is the large one at the back of the house, the two along the back fence and a fourth that was climbing the neighbors' holly bush. I found a fifth one, very tiny, amongst some azalea bushes that I was removing.

All five did well after I cleared away the weeds and brush surrounding them and began pruning them in the spring. Ignorant as I was, I purchased a rosebush, neon pink, at K-mart, figuring it would do just as well. I planted it in the shadiest corner of the yard "to brighten it up". I don't know what kind of rose it is, but it has managed somehow to stay alive under incredibly adverse conditions.

Then I saw a tremendous value in a catalog. Five "old fashioned roses" for $29.95. I got rid of the last of the azaleas along the back of the house and planted all five there. The largest Blaze was also growing there so I thought it was a good place for roses. It's not. It only gets the morning sun. Two of the five died. Reine Des Violettes is hanging on by the skin of its teeth. Barrone Prevost is doing marginally better.

Mme. Plantier is the only one of the five that can tolerate shade. It is doing tremendously well. So well in fact, that it has completely overgrown the outdoor faucet. It is an interesting rose. The buds are a dark pink, but the blossoms are white.

I finally began to do some research about roses and discovered heirlooms. My next purchase was an Apothecary rose. They were grown by monks in medieval monasteries. It is the most amazing pink. It also has fantastic hips. Instead of making rosehip jelly or tea, I leave them for the birds.

My final purchase before this year was Harrison's Yellow. It was bred in Philadelphia in the 18th century. Women carried them with them as they spread out across the continent and they can be found at homestead sites all the way to California. It has become known as the Yellow Rose of Texas. It is a messy flower, not handsome at all and the bush is extremely thorny. I like it more for its history than its looks.

Heirloom roses only bloom once a year, in the spring. For those few brief weeks each year, my backyard is filled with incredible color and scent.

Program Note: For some reason, Blogger is not allowing me to post a spectacular picture of Mme. Plantier and the hidden faucet.


At 8:53 AM, Blogger crazygramma said...

Oh wow I sure hope those are photos from last year, if not we sure are behind here on our gardens. Beautiful roses I hope mine do as well. Don't you just love that sense of accomplishment when the roses and other flowers bloom.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger OldRoses said...

The photos are from prior years. It is still early spring here, only leaves on the roses, not even buds yet.

At 12:30 AM, Blogger crazygramma said...

Glad to here that I was getting pretty jealous thinking you already had roses and I only have leaves. Do you have any suggestions on how to get my climging rose to grow toward my arch. All the branches seem to be growing away to the other side.

At 12:57 AM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Yikes!! I was hoping you could tell me. I planted my first climbing rose this year. I'm planning on having it climb the shepherd's crook that holds one of my birdfeeders. I was going to use twine to "encourage" it to grow in the direction I wanted it to grow in. I have used that strategy successfully with one of the Blaze rosebushes to get it to grow along the chainlink fence.

At 9:20 AM, Blogger crazygramma said...

I was thinking of using twine as well but thought maybe I was missing something. Last year I planted the climbing rose so it has not had a chance to grow much until this spring.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger crazygramma said...

We are on the right track for training the climbing roses. I did a quick google search and most of the sites suggest using a strecthy material such as pantyhose for tying the roses. I just typed in Climbing Roses to google.

At 11:47 PM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Great! Thanks so much for checking. I've always used twine to tie roses and hollyhocks to fences for support because it's what I have handy. And it's biodegradable. My rule of thumb is if I can't compost it, it doesn't belong in my garden.


Post a Comment

<< Home