February is the “magic month” to prune roses in Texas, and most gardeners prune around Valentine’s Day. That gets rid of dead wood and weak stems and opens up the interior of the rose to air circulation, readying it for the spring growing season. If you can’t make a Valentine’s Day date with your roses, don’t despair... but do try to prune them no later than the end of the month. Remember, though, that old roses are forgiving, so you can push it into March if you must.
Here are the tools you’ll need to prune
• Good bypass, or scissor-type,
• Heavy gloves, preferably leather.
You can even buy special elbow-length rose pruning gloves. In a pinch, any gloves that offer sufficient protection from sharp thorns will do.
• “Loppers” or long pruning shears to
deal with long rose canes if your bushes
• A long-sleeved shirt, blouse, or jacket heavy enough to protect your arms.
• Plastic bags to store your clippings, in case you want to take cuttings to multiply your roses, or share them, and something to label them with.
Because we have quite a few roses in the Museum garden we prune in two steps, rough pruning and fine pruning.
• Rough pruning gets the bush down to a manageable size, pruning off approximately one-third of the bush. You may need to use loppers for this step if your rose bush
• Fine pruning is where you go back in with hand pruners to “tell the rose where you want it to go.”
Steps in fine pruning:
• Remove any dead, damaged,
or broken canes.
• Remove canes that grow toward the middle of the bush, to open it up.
• Remove those that cross other canes, to avoid rubbing.
• Remove thin, twiggy canes that are smaller around than a pencil, which
• Remove foliage on remaining canes, which should all be left about the
• Last, prune to an outward facing “eye,”
or bud that hasn’t broken yet, making an angled cut.
Rose Pruning Tutorial
What's in Grandmother's Flower Garden?
Texas Mountain Laurel
Althea/Rose of Sharon
Cherry Sage (pink, white, red)
Eastern Red Columbine
Mother of Thyme/Creeping
Roses in the Quadrants
Marie Van Houtte
Souvenir de la Malmaison
White Lady Banksia
Yellow Lady Banksia
Mme. Alfred Carrière
Swamp Lily/Crinum (Ellen
Bosanquet, Milk & Wine)
St. Joseph’s Lily/Amaryllis
Evergreen Honeysuckle (native)
Warm Season Annuals
Old-fashioned Hybrid Petunia
Cool Season Annuals
Future Potted Plants
Fall Blooming/Sun Camellia
1. Rough prune your old rose bush to a
manageable size, removing about 1/3.
2. Fine prune dead, diseased, and
3. Shape the rose bush, opening up the
center for circulation.
4. Prune above a bud, cutting at an angle.
Welcome to Grandmother's Flower Garden
Our period garden is located in the historic district of La Grange, immediately adjacent to the Museum.
The area where the garden is now was once the Cozy Theatre, a popular spot to take in the latest motion picture until March 2000, when a fire destroyed it. Seeded over with grass, the property lay vacant until the two buildings next door were acquired and restored to become the home of the Museum in 2011. To have access to the outer wall of the Museum building to strengthen it, this property was also acquired.
Many quiltmakers and lovers are also gardeners, and many quilt patterns were inspired by flowers, plants, trees, and nature in general. So we decided to create a period garden adjacent to the Museum that would be typical of “city gardens” in Fayette County and Central Texas around the time of our buildings, about 1890, through the 1930s. We named the garden for a beloved Depression-era quilt pattern, “Grandmother’s Flower Garden.”
Our garden is set out in a simple parterre style of four central beds with perimeter beds on three sides. There are three major components of the garden: the mural, the sundial, and the pergola. Educational signs in the garden give lots of information about the mural and sundial and our pergola will shade you as you enjoy garden views.
In the adjoining column, you’ll find a list of our garden plants by their common name, and in the garden itself you’ll find plant markers with both the common and botanical name. We hope you’ll enjoy your time walking the garden pathways or sitting awhile and enjoying the flowers. . .and that you return to see what’s blooming next season!
Roses in the Museum Garden
In the Museum garden, we feature “vintage” roses, mostly antique, but some just “seniors.” And most of them are “own root” roses, which means they grow on their own roots, rather than being a rose grafted onto another’s rootstock. Old, own root roses are more appropriate for our Texas heritage garden than modern hybrid teas and other modern rose types because they are likely what gardeners around the turn of the 20th century would have been growing.
You may have a mix of old roses and newer varieties. Keep in mind that pruning methods are different for old roses and modern roses.
Pruning old roses takes a lighter touch than pruning modern hybrids.
And while your old roses will benefit from a light pruning, even if you miss a year for one reason or another, your bushes will be very forgiving, especially if you feed them well, mulch them, and guard against problems.
Why Prune Roses at all?
We’ve all seen roses that get no care whatsoever, yet still grow and bloom. While it’s true that old roses can often take care of themselves, pruning will encourage healthy growth, promote air circulation (which cuts down on incidence of mildew), and stimulate more flowers.
Two notes of caution:
• Know your rose’s blooming habits. If you prune just before a once-blooming variety, you will get no blooms that year.
• If your rose bushes are three years old or younger, you may want to postpone pruning this year to allow them to establish themselves well.
How to Prune Old Roses
The most important rule is: don’t be afraid! We’ll give you some basic advice, but keep this in mind:
Pruning a rose bush is not unlike giving a home haircut to a small child: you do the best you can, secure in the knowledge that if it turns out odd-looking, new growth will quickly hide your mistakes.
--Liz Druitt, The Organic Rose Garden
How to Prune Other Types of Roses
Climbers—we have vigorous climbing roses growing over our Museum’s pergola. We will prune them after spring flowering, unless canes are sprawling into pathways so much they cannot be tied down, in which case we will trim them. We tie our climbers loosely to their supports with fishing monofilament, which becomes virtually invisible among the rose leaves.
Modern Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas--These types can be pruned more severely, but the same general rules apply: remove dead, damaged, diseased, weak, or crossing canes, and prune to an outward facing “eye,” making an angled cut.
Caring for Your Roses
Here are the basic needs of every rose type:
• 6 or more hours of sunshine daily. 6 is the minimum, and all roses benefit from lots of sunlight, rewarding you with more flowers and healthy foliage.
• Regular, deep watering.
• Somewhat acid soil, or amendments to achieve it.
• Frequent feeding during the growing season.
• Prompt action to deal with problems, such as insect infestations, blackspot, mildew, and the like. (FYI, old roses are generally not as susceptible to problems, and if they occur, are likely to survive, although not at their best.)
• Mulching to a depth of at least 2 inches, keeping the mulch away from the base of the bush, and refreshing mulch when needed.
• Annual pruning, with possibly a light pruning in late summer for some varieties.
Good to Know
• Water in the morning so leaves dry quickly, as wet leaves can encourage
• Watering deeply less often is better than watering lightly more frequently.
• If you want roses that pretty much take care of themselves, grow old roses.
• Unless you have only a few plants, label your roses so you remember which ones grow best for you.
HAPPY GARDENING... AND COME SEE OUR ROSES IN FULL BLOOM THIS SPRING IN GRANDMOTHER’S FLOWER GARDEN AT THE MUSEUM!
Information by Museum co-founder Nancy O’Bryant Puentes, with thanks to Mitzi Van Sant of The Fragrant Garden, our garden designer, and Dr. Bill Welch, Professor of Horticultural Sciences and Texas AgriLife Extension Service Landscape Horticulturist, Texas A&M University. Illustrations courtesy of “The Easy Way to Grow Gorgeous Roses” from Jackson & Perkins.
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