Hedgerow Roses: Pruning For Blossoms

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Hedgerow roses have been used for centuries to ornament walkways, and as a natural fencing method for livestock.  If you are pruning roses for livestock, a taller, and more “woody” rose is what you need to contain your animals.  If your hedgerow roses are simply for aesthetics, then you should prune them in a way that will maximize your blossoms. Here is my prescription for yearly pruning.

Timing: Early spring is the best time to complete heavy pruning to your hedgerows, choose a day for this project after the danger of severe frost has past. By pruning at the same time that the plant is coming out of dormancy, and before the majority of insect pests are prolific enough to damage it, the bush can maximize it’s growth, produce more leaves and flowers, and heal before it is vulnerable to pests, or the stress of summer heat.

Pruning: Prune the bushes back down to the bud union where the root stock has been grafted on.  This will mean cutting off a large amount of the previous years growth to rejuvenate each rose. Cutting the roses back down to the lowest point and leaving only a few canes prepares the plant to send out lush new foliage, which will produce more blooms than older wood would have (in most varieties). Most roses only bloom on new wood.

Prune out all the dead branches that may not have made it through the winter, and select areas to cut which are showing outward facing buds.  Encouraging outward growth on the plant will not only open up the bush and prevent the new canes from tangling, it will also help prevent leaf spot, and fungal growth on the plant later in the season with better air circulation.

Goal: True rejuvenation pruning will leave your plant with the appearance of a new bare root rose above the soil line. The goal is to create the rather stark look of the plant below.  For the novice gardener, if your newly pruned rose resembles the bare canes sold in garden centers, then you’ve succeeded.

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