Rose Pruning Course

I was fortunate enough to attend a course on Roses at the weekend.  I have been pruning roses for over 10 years now, with reasonable success, but I believe it is never too late to hone those skills…  It was a one day course run at The Garden House in Brighton by a guy from Peter Beales Roses.

We spent the morning learning tips, techniques and tools involved with container planting, planting in a border and pruning a Gallica Shrub rose. We also learnt how to prune an overgrown  rambling rose, that has one flush of flowers,  over an arch.

This is the Gallica Rose (Charles de Mille) before pruning
This is the Gallica Rose (Charles de Mille) before pruning
Midway through pruning
Midway through pruning

Wow what a difference…

The stems of old wood were brown compared to the young green growth of this year.  As this rose will flower next year on the growth from this year, it is the green shoots we want to keep.  The green growth comes from the base of the plant and also near the top of the existing brown wood. We pruned out lots of old brown wood by cutting it off at the base of the plant. This really thinned out the plant.  Of the remaining brown stems that had new green growth at the top, we cut back the green growth to about 20cms from where it had broken out of the main brown stem.  This is enough green wood for the flowering stems to grow from next year… thus a healthier plant with less congestion for disease to harbour and a height reduction that will be filled again by flowering stems.

I can’t wait to see it flowering next year now.

This Rambling Rose is called Dorothy Perkins. This is it before pruning
This Rambling Rose is called Dorothy Perkins. This is it before pruning

It has one flush of flowers and next years flowers will grow from ‘old wood’ which means that any of the new young growth this year can be cut off back to the framework. However for future years of flowering, the new growth can be wound around the arch or tied onto supporting wires to increase the framework for future years flowering. So, for example, take a great long stem of new growth from this year, cut off all the little branches along it’s length, to about 4cms from the stem and wind in this great long stem attempting to keep it as horizontal as possible -it flowers better the more horizontal it is tied in:

Young stem wound in close to the support.
Young stem wound in close to the support.

Keep doing this with all the unruly new growth – either cut off and discard or keep to train in but cut back the side shoots along the entire length and then wind it in.

This is the end result
This is the end result

Tidy, clear and ready to flower next year.

It is important to remember to cut out any dead wood in rose pruning.  Quite often it is easy to tell if it is dead but where you are not sure just scrape away the surface of the stem with your secateurs and if it is green below the surface, it is still alive and if it is brown it is dead.

There is still plenty to learn about roses and rose pruning but this is a start!

A single flush rambling rose can be pruned after flowering (generally from July onwards.  Most other roses are pruned in the winter during the dormant months up to the end of March (roughly)

Late September foliage

Whilst the weather is still warm down in the South the England, the weeds still keep growing and the ephemeral weeds (those that flower/ set seed/ grow/ flower/ set seed grow- several times during a year) are continuing to flower so our jobs this week have included more weeding.

We are still in the process of cutting back perennial foliage that is dying back and flower stems that have gone over e.g. Day lilies, Iris, Crocosmia, Phlox, Inula, some Clematis, Geraniums and Alchemilla to name but a few. This certainly gives more clarification to well planted areas and we are beginning to see bare earth again around the remaining plants.

I always enjoy the borders as much at this time of year and contemplate removing some more plants for good or reducing the size of clumps for next year.  Within this new found space, our eyes are drawn more easily and with greater focus to individual plants – some still flowering away and some where the beauty and subtlety  of the leaf shapes stand out against each other and the deep brown newly groomed and weedless soil.

Foliage of Galega, Oregano and Nasturtiums
Foliage of Galega, Oregano and Nasturtiums
Liriope muscari
Liriope muscari
Gadiolus murielae with grasses – Stipa tenuissima


Polyganum orientale

Delphiniums, Kniphofia rooperi and Physallis

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Tidying an Autumnal border – Condensed!

This week’s selection of Dahlias from the garden

White cactus
White cactus




Petals of Dahlia Hillcrest Royal
Petals of Dahlia Hillcrest Royal



More simple tasks in a late summer garden

I love this time of year when our weekly jobs move on from weeding and dead-heading to thinking how we can increase our stock of plants by division and propagation.

We also continue to nurture recently planted specimens to grow where we want them rather than purely letting nature take its course.

Here are two videos to watch of jobs we are doing this week:

Propagation by division:

Potting on Foxglove seedlings and training-in the Passion Flower:

Late summer bounty

I couldn’t resist showing off todays colourful ‘haul’ from the garden at Dyke Farm House, Poynings:





Late season Box clipping

Today Alix and I attended a lovely new garden to us, in the Mid-Sussex countryside.  The owner has lived there for 22 years and more or less planted and maintained the garden all that time on her own.  It is fabulous because she has many unusual varieties of plants shrubs and trees.  Every other summer she opens her garden to the public in aid of charity and you can wander around the beautiful space early evening with a glass of wine in hand.

Not us, we were on a mission to get chopping

In some areas it may be too late in the year to give the topiary a second trim, as the new growth after clipping could be susceptible  to frost damage.  However we have looked at the forecast and reckon it will be fine.

Generally I forget to take ‘before’ photos until it is too late and yet again that happened  today – as always we just want to dive in.. so here we are at the end of the day…

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After clipping, the box should be well watered and given a good nitrogen feed to encourage more green growth.


And to cap it off today we saw the amazing caterpillar of the wackily named Elephant-hawk Moth:

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and I’ve never seen anything like it.  Hugely impressive with its fake eyes to  hopefully intimidate potential foes and they are surprisingly not un-common. Wonderful shape size and colouration. Rumour has it that the Elephant-Hawk moth ain’t too bad either with it’s big 70mm wing span in pretty pink and grey



An early morning walk in the South Downs National Park

We were rewarded with the sight of plenty of wild flowers still livening up the landscape of these beautiful chalky hills this morning…




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