Out in the garden… Pruning Roses

It’s been a while since I managed to do anything garden related, but finally this weekend the weather cooperated and I found a ‘little’ job to do in our soon-to-be tackled garden.  I pruned the roses.

I’ve discovered that if you have a period house in Ballarat (and there are plenty of them!) then it is mandatory to have a selection of roses.  It probably wouldn’t be my first choice if I was to start from scratch, but as it is I have a series of seven rose bushes along the front fence.  There is another very sad rose in the centre of the grass which will be pulled out for the pear tree a very good friend gave us as a house warming present, and another three roses out the back which are all in where the future veggie garden will go.  So to save my sanity and hands I’m not doing those one and will dig them out asap.  But I’ve decided the ones along the fence will maintain their position for now – they better flower well this spring/summer or I might change my mind.

As I know absolutely nothing about pruning roses – despite doing a horticulture class in high school which did involve a double lesson in rose pruning – naturally I turned to You Tube.  There are countless videos on just this topic and I’m sure they would all tell you a slightly different way, however this is the one I liked most.  She had nice simple rules like cut off any crossing branches and get rid of anything smaller than a pencil.  I liked the rules, I could follow them and it gave me a system to go by.  I also read a newletter item of gardening in Ballarat which suggested much the same thing so I thought I must it on the right track.

At the same time another friend sent me a link to the Burke’s Backyard Facebook page with a tutorial on how to prune roses.  The best tip from there was that pruning (anything) is like getting a haircut, in a couple of months (or weeks if it’s hair) it’s all grown out anyway so don’t be scared of making a mistake…. though I’m not sure I’d be happy if my hairdresser took the same attitude!

Before I started my roses looked like this.


They’re old, neglected and so, so prickly!  The one closest was where I started and got lulled into a false sense of security.  It was not as twiggy, had very few thorns and it was relatively straight forward to decide where to prune – you know nice looking buds just where you wanted them.  The rest were absolute bastards!  Some had tiny needle like thorns absolutely covering every branch.  It took me HOURS to do them all and in the end I’m not sure if I committed a rose bush massacre or if I’ve done an okay job.

The same friend who gave us the pear tree and who knows a bit more than I do said they looked fine and that you really couldn’t go too hard especially with old ones that hadn’t been pruned for a while, so I hope she’s right.  She did point out though that one bush had a couple of suckers growing from below the graft, so I’ll have to get the saw out and take them off at ground level (a job for later in the week).

And here’s what they look like now.

IMG_0017 IMG_0018 IMG_0019


I must admit, even though I’m not a huge rose person, I am looking forward to them flowering and hopefully being able to pick some and bring them inside.  I’ve also realised that my current (hole-y and very worn) gardening gloves just DON’T cut it when it comes to roses, ouch!  I had to pull several tiny thorns out of my hands with tweezers and I’ve got some pretty nice scratches on my hands and wrists.

The next job will be to give them some fertilizer and a good mulch and then think about what else I can plant in the garden bed.  Remembering the front garden is going to have a combination of ornamental and edibles, what would you plant?


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5 Responses to Out in the garden… Pruning Roses

  1. Renae smith says:

    Good job! The thing I love about roses is that they are one of very few flowers that don’t make me sneeze! That said, i don’t have any. Remember I said once that it is apparently good luck to have a rosemary bush by the front gate to repel “evil?” Maybe you could plant some of the more hardy herbs in there, rosemary, thyme, oregano?

    • Barbara Good says:

      Well I think you definitely need some Renae, perhaps in among your veggies out the front – keep the aphids off the veg vineyard -style. I’ve taken some rosemary cuttings from the plant I had in Melbourne with thoughts to put it out the front along with lavender, thyme, chamomile and lemon/lime verbena. I hadn’t thought of oregano simply becuase I hardly use it fresh, but I think that would be a good one too. I’m also wanting to get some long narrow-ish pots to go along the front of the veranda with some blueberry plants.

      • Renae says:

        That sounds like a good plan! Yeah, I probably should plant some roses. Having never been into gardening before I started with the veggies I have only really just started thinking more about prettying things up. Am already loving the bulbs and their colours. Hmm you’ve got me thinking now. Roses… Stay tuned.

  2. A says:

    My mum requests gardening gloves with rubber on the back specifically for her rose pruning – the back of the hands is where the thorns get her most and the scratches show up quite clearly, scarring for ages. Highly recommend it myself, as when I have a go at our rental roses I end up doing everything with a very specific princessy pincer grip, like a praying mantis. It’s quite pathetic really… (I hack them right back, with no training whatsoever, not even YouTube, (maybe a book from the 70s) because our landlord usually hires someone to do the garden annually – everything except the roses!! What the?!)

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