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The Lazy So. California Pruner

That would be me. For various reasons my energy is on the wimpy side, to say the least. I imagine there are others here who don't have the time and/or energy to spend huge amounts of time pruning every winter. My experience in rose growing is confined to the dry areas of Southern California, and this is what I've learned works for me.

1. Concentrate on teas, chinas and noisettes for the most part. For the first few years they don't need to be pruned at all and after that it's pretty much a matter of choice, assuming you've allowed enough space for them to grow to their expected size. (Alas, I haven't always given them quite as much space as I should have. There's always that desire to squeeze in as many roses as possible.) The smaller polyanthas (such as Mr. Bluebird or Marie Pavie) and short Bourbons (the SdlM clan, Appoline, Romaggi Plot Bourbon) are also a good bet for continued bloom and shorter stature. Perle d'Or gets much too large for me and I no longer grow it.

2. If you must have Austins (I must), pick those that are described as being 3 1/2 feet or less (up to 4 feet at the most), and buy them own-root. They won't grow as large, while blooming as well if not better than the grafted ones. Good choices are Chaucer, Wife of Bath, Queen Nefertiti, Sophie's Rose and Miss Alice. You'll save yourself the tons of pruning and arranging and tying up that go with the larger octopus-armed members of the Austin clan.

3. Confine yourself to just a few modern roses that you simply must have. Most of mine have fallen by the wayside but I cherish Yves Piaget, Lavender Simplicity, Betty Prior, Burgundy Iceberg, Julio Iglesias and Belinda's Dream.

4. Admire ramblers in someone else's garden. They get to be huge and wayward, with eventually dead growth in their middles, and you'll be hacking away at them until the cows come home.

5. Be wary of hybrid musks because they can also grow to be huge. I grow only Lavender Dream since it blooms almost continuously and doesn't mind the heat. The older hybrid musks didn't do well here and hardly bloomed at all.

5. When you're pruning the few roses in your garden that really need it, keep a large garbage can by your side. I cut off the leaves of the pruned branches and drop them on the soil around the rose (great mulch) and also cut the parts of the branches that don't have thorns into small pieces and these too go around the pruned roses. The rest I cut into fairly short pieces and put in the garbage can. You can fit a lot of short pieces in the can compared to leaving the branches long. I have 87 roses (quite a few of which are admittedly still young) and I was left with half a trash can of pruned branches.

I know everyone has his/her own idea of what works in regard to pruning, and this is just my personal experience. I'd enjoy hearing about others' time- and labor-saving tips.


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