A Neglected, Overgrown, Nameless Rose….

rose bush
rose bush

This gardening story is all about one particular rose bush which is located at our small family farm, affectionately called ‘Double S Farms‘. 

I first posted this story about an overgrown, nameless rose 2 years ago.

Since it is time in areas with warm winter climates, to prune back your roses, I thought you would enjoy this story as much as I do ๐Ÿ™‚

This poor rose had not been fertilized, deadheaded or pruned for a few years.  Personally, I think it looks fantastic considering the lack of care it has received. The residents of Double S Farms, (my mother, sister and her family), had only recently moved to the farm, so this rose had been neglected by the previous owners.

I decided to focus on this rose because I wanted to show how to prune a rose and I don’t have any roses that need pruning right now. So, my mother and sister (residents of Double S Farms) graciously granted me permission to prune their rose bush.  Actually, they were more then happy to have me do it so they would not have to ๐Ÿ˜‰

I had no idea what variety this rose was. I was pretty sure that it was a shrub rose and it had a lot of old, unproductive growth that needed to be removed.  When finished, it would be rejuvenated and ready for the beginning of it’s new life with it’s new homeowners.

So I got started….

My tools

My tools – hand pruners, pruning saw and loppers. Oh, I almost forgot – gloves! I also recommend wearing a long-sleeved shirt as well to protect your arms from being scratched from the thorns. 

rose bush

First, because there is so much thick growth, I just started to cut branches in order to make a ‘hole’ like this, which made it easier for me to reach inside with my pruners to remove the interior wood. It is much easier for me to remove the larger branches at the beginning of the process instead of making multiple cuts of the smaller branches and working my way down.

Normally, I remove about 1/2 of the height of the rose bush. But, in this case, I decided to remove quite a few of the large, old branches (canes) at the base of the rose as they no longer produced as many newer branches and roses as the newer canes do. This neglected rose bush has a lot of old growth that had to be removed, so I would be pruning it back by 2/3.

First, I removed the old and dead canes. Then I selected the green, healthy canes that I wanted to keep and pruned back to an outward facing bud and cut at a 45 degree angle.

A Neglected, Overgrown, Nameless Rose....

Okay, you may be wondering why I am included this gross picture of a borer cut in half. Well, borers burrow into the center of the rose canes, causing damage as you can see in the cane to the right.

My son thought it was so cool….he likes anything that is gross.

*To help prevent borers in the future, simply apply some wood glue to the top of the newly pruned canes, which helps seal them out.

two rose bushes

Surprise!  As I continued pruning, I discovered that there were actually two rose bushes which had grown together.

beautiful blooms

Every January, it just kills me to prune back roses and watching all the beautiful blooms fall to the ground. But, beauty hurts and pruning will ensure that there will be more beautiful blooms for these rose bushes in the spring.

pruned incorrectly

Here is an example of a cane that has been pruned incorrectly long ago, (I told you this rose bush had been neglected and mistreated).  You can see where it turned brown and died. When pruning the canes, be sure to prune back to a bud or back to the base of the larger cane.


I really did the pruning myself and am not just taking credit for someone else’s work ๐Ÿ˜‰

I was almost done. I continued cutting away all the remaining small canes and dead growth with my hand pruners. I used my loppers for the large canes that need to be removed.

A Neglected, Overgrown, Nameless Rose....

I enjoy pruning very much, but I hate this part….

roses and clean up any leaves

But, I was lucky.  I was able to bribe my son and daughter to help me clean up.

Now all I had left to do was to remove all leaves remaining on the roses and clean up any leaves lying around the area surrounding the roses. I do this because the leaves can harbor fungal diseases that will reinfect the new rose leaves.

Glamis Castle

Guess what? I found the old tag from when the rose bushes were planted. It is a ‘Glamis Castle’, which is a David Austin English Rose. I put the tag back on one of the rose bushes.

rose bush

I finally finished.  The roses were no longer “Nameless, Overgrown or Neglected”. Pastor Farmer (my mother) came outside to see what I had done to her roses. She was a bit dismayed to see so little left of her rose bushes. But I assured her that they would be happy and healthy and covered with blooms in spring.

Fast forward a few months, and these formerly neglected rose bushes were thriving again!

beautiful and fragrant

And the flowers were so beautiful and fragrantโ€ฆ

rose bush

It never ceases to amaze me how pruning, done the right way, can bring new life to an old, neglected rose bush.

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
31 replies
  1. Rebecca @ In The Garden
    Rebecca @ In The Garden says:

    I agree that it looked pretty good for being neglected & overgrown. What a lot of work! I look forward to the spring update pictures, I wouldn't have the guts to do such a drastic job, for fear of doing more harm than good (because I don't know what I'm doing lol).

    Since I'll be planting roses for the first time this year, could you tell me what a normal pruning regime should look like? I'd really appreciate it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Skeeter
    Skeeter says:

    I have never had any luck with Rose bushes. I like the look on moms face, as if to say, โ€œwhere is my rose bushโ€ That is what I would be thinking as well as I would think you have killed it! lol I have never done anything correct with roses. I thought the bush looked fine before all the chopping, ha, what do I know, absolutely nothing about roses. I cant wait to see this rose in the summer months….

  3. Carol
    Carol says:

    Noelle pruning is so rewarding … instant gratification … but a bit shocking to the owner I imagine. Your mom must trust that you know what is best for the rose… I imagine you had a lovely bouquet at the end of the day. Sweet helpers! You are doing that on your knees without knee pads! Those pebbles or rocks must hurt. Ah! Youth! I love Japanese gardening pants with knee pad inserts. Great job and post documenting it… look forward to seeing it again in Spring. Carol

  4. Kate
    Kate says:

    What a nice tutorial, Noelle. I agree, pruning roses is tough love and it is certainly not my favorite task in the gardens but it rewards us the following summer. Looking forward to seeing the blossoms once she gets going again.

  5. Liisa
    Liisa says:

    What an informative post! I planted a few bare root rose bushes last year, and I have been looking at information on proper pruning techniques. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to your follow up in the spring. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. leavesnbloom
    leavesnbloom says:

    Its from the middle of March here that we prune the roses – My grandad always did his on St Patricks Day 17th March. Glamis castle rose is lovely – the real castle is not too far from me.

  7. tina
    tina says:

    I can't wait to see how it does either. Great job! Opening up a hole was a real smart idea. What a treat to find the tag.

    I recently cut down a sweet autumn clematis and the stem was right full of borers. I thought ewww! I had never seen that before. They were probably the same kind as yours. It's really gross but I'm glad you showed it because it is a fact of life in the garden.

  8. Shady Gardener
    Shady Gardener says:

    I am very impressed with your work. I would never have the nerve to do this… perhaps that's another reason not to have rose bushes?? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hope you show us the Spring photos.

  9. Catherine@AGardenerinProgress
    Catherine@AGardenerinProgress says:

    A great post! I'll be pruning ours in about a month or so, and I have to admit I don't always do a very good job of it.
    The roses look great all cleaned up and what a lucky find that its an English rose too (maybe you can take one home for yourself ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  10. fairegarden
    fairegarden says:

    What a great job you did, Noelle! I loved seeing you and the family too, helping and checking it out. I hope your mom could see that you did it just the right way for future growth. We prune roses here on Valentine's Day. Easy to remember. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Meredith
    Meredith says:

    That was a wonderfully educational post! I'm sending the link to my Dad, who hasn't quite got the hang of rose pruning yet. ๐Ÿ™‚ (I used to do it for him when I lived near, and I don't explain what I do nearly as well as you.)

    I'm so glad you were able to find its name somewhere in there. That is one tough plant, based on the state it had gotten into, and still blooming!

  12. noel
    noel says:

    wow noelle, what a pro, can you come over and help trim my scary and prickly euphorbias…they are shocking how tall and deadly they can be.

    nice demo lesson on trimming


  13. Balisha
    Balisha says:

    What nice helpers you have in your gardening ventures. It's so hard to make that first snip…after that I can prune easily. Love your new name.

  14. VW
    VW says:

    I'm looking forward to seeing the roses as they put on their spring growth with plenty of room for new branches and flowers. This year my goal for my english roses is to prune them to encourage stronger, thicker stems to hold up the roses. I didn't remove enough of the stems last year, I think, and I ended up with a bunch of skinny, floppy stems. Plus I'm making sure they get a lot less nitrogen but plenty of other nutrients. We'll see how it works.

  15. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    This is an AWESOME tutorial Noelle. I'm afraid I've been pruning my roses the wrong way. ๐Ÿ™
    I bet it will look incredible this spring ~ lucky new owners ~ it pays to know people, doesn't it?!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Now I need to bookmark this for when it's time to prune roses here (March or April).

  16. debsgarden
    debsgarden says:

    The rose bushes look like they are newly planted! I know they are taking in some good air, now they can breathe! I look forward to seeing how lush they will be soon. BTW – my boys always were fascinated with the gross stuff – I think it is in the boy gene.

  17. gippslandgardener
    gippslandgardener says:

    For neglected plants those Glamis Castle roses looked great! I have one that gets a regular prune and at least a little TLC here and there and it doesn't look half as healthy ๐Ÿ™

    The pruning tips were wonderful too and will encourage me to take a bit more care when the time comes again in my garden. The borer was indeed gross but facinating, I've never seen such a thing!

  18. Joanne
    Joanne says:

    I couldn't believe it when you said Glamis Castle was their name. I have two in my garden and they have both been very sickly roses that have struggled to grow at all. I bought the second thinking it couldn't be as sick as the first wrong.

    When I started reading your post I thought I bet it would take well from a cutting as it had grown so well now I am not so sure.

  19. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Hello Everyone,

    Thank you all for your kind comments. The residents of Double S farms are looking forward to seeing their shrub roses bloom this spring.

    Typically, roses need to be pruned back to prepare them for dormancy. Since you live in a colder climate, I would check with your local rose society about when you should do this and how to prepare them for winter. I would try a google search for the rose society near you. Since we are in a warmer climate, I would not want to steer you wrong about the timing :^)

    Hello Noel,
    Believe me, I have pruned some Euphorbias in the past. Got to be careful of the sap though…:^)

    Thank you for sending the link to your dad. I hope it helps ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hi VW,
    I would be interested in how the changes in fertilizer and pruning work for you. Please let me know…

    Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for the nail polish tip. It is less messy then the glue…

  20. MRs. Gilligan
    MRs. Gilligan says:

    I have the same problem! Im so scared to do this by myself and I just don't know what to do and scared I may kill it. Plus there are over 3 dozen roses. Is there any better step by step instructions with pictures that anyone knows of?

  21. loveithandmade
    loveithandmade says:

    I have always had a hard time cutting back the roses when they are blooming, but know, like you said, we will be rewarded in spring. Happens all the time, yet I am leery every time ๐Ÿ™‚

    Great work and am anxious to see them in a couple months!

  22. Vivian
    Vivian says:

    It’s late May,north west Florida. I’ve recently moved here. My mother’s rose bush is, no kidding, a good 20 feet tall! Its blooming.. I want to prune it,but in memory of my mother, don’t want to ruin it. Help, what should I do? Do I have to wait or can I prune it now?

  23. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Hi Vivian,

    What a wonderful rose bush it must be. You can lightly prune it in September, removing the top 1/4 of growth. However, you’ll need to wait until January to prune it back severely, which is when roses in warm climates such as yours should be pruned. In the meantime, enjoy the memories of your mom with the lovely blossoms. I hope this helps!

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