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I have had a love affair with roses for over 23 years.




It all began when we bought our first house.  I was a young mother with two girls who was giddy with the possibilities of having her very own spot of garden to grow roses in.

We would take our girls around to the local rose gardens where so could see what types of roses to pick for our new rose garden.

The rose garden was located in the front yard along the side of the driveway.  At the time, money was tight so we ended up purchasing twenty different ‘grade 1 1/2’ roses for $3 each at Home Depot.
‘Grade 1’ roses are considered to be the cream of the crop and the best type to purchase based on the their size and number of canes (stems).

A few months later, my roses were in full bloom and the talk of the neighborhood (we definitely stuck out from the surrounding neighbors since we had taken out a large chunk of lawn to grow a LOT of roses).


Many people ask if I had a favorite rose and the answer is “yes”.  Mr. Lincoln with its deep red blossoms which were incredibly fragrant always stands out in my memory of our first rose garden.  At one time, it reached almost 6 ft. tall and had over 30 blossoms covering it.

Three years later, we had gone from 20 rose bushes to 40 – all a different type of hybrid tea or shrub rose.  I realize that I maybe went a little overboard, but I loved growing roses – no two roses were the same.  

Whenever we were traveling, if there was a rose garden nearby – we would visit it…

The rose garden at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland.

That’s me posing by the roses and the castle.

Santa Barbara Mission rose garden in California

After we sold our home in Phoenix, we moved to the suburbs to be closer to my husband’s job.  As we built our new home, I knew that I did want room for a few roses.


After adopting our three youngest kids, I was eager to share my love for roses with them.  They each picked out their own rose from a rose catalog and helped plant them.  It was a fun experience, complete with finding earthworms in the soil and more.

While their roses did grow, they didn’t have the best location, which was rather shady and so they turned out rather straggly.  Needless to say, they were pulled out a couple of years later.

Even though I didn’t have roses growing in my garden, I still went out of my way to enjoy them whenever I found myself on the road.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon.
Stopping to smell the roses in Santa Barbara, CA.

A few months ago, I realized that my love affair with roses never ended and that it was time to think seriously about growing a few again.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you about my decision to grow a few roses in a former vegetable garden that I could see from my kitchen window.  I promised to let you know what type of roses I would plant.

The first one was just planted yesterday.


Not surprisingly, it is a Mr. Lincoln hybrid tea rose.  

While it looks rather humble right now, I have visions of a tall rose busy covered with fragrant roses whose scent comes through my kitchen window.

This is but the first rose in the garden.  There are two more that have been ordered from mailorder rose companies.  I will be sure to share what those are when they come!
I am so happy that I have returned to growing the plant that inspired my passion for gardening years ago.

**Have you ever grown roses?  Do you have a favorite type? If you find yourself overwhelmed by the different types of roses there are to pick from, I have written an article for Houzz, which looks closer at several of the most popular roses in order to help people select the best type of rose for their garden.


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 🙂


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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 😉


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 – 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. 


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.

  
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.


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


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.


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 😉

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.


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



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.


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.


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!


And the flowers were so beautiful and fragrant…




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

Do you remember when you were a child and couldn’t wait to grow up?  First it was learning how to walk before you could run.  Then learning how to ride a bike without training wheels.  Later you become impatient, waiting until you are old enough to get your driver’s license, although that is often scary for the parents.


Well, this is not a story about a child impatient to grow up.  Rather, it is a story of a rose bush that is in too much of a hurry to flower.


Back in January, we reintroduced roses into our garden.  We purchased 3 David Austin roses – Abraham Darby, Graham Thomas and William Shakespeare.  My children were so excited the day we received the roses in the mail.


We prepared the holes using bone meal, bagged compost, blood meal and aged steer manure according to the directions from the rose grower.  


Once we planted them, they were so small, it was hard to even see them.

Only two months later, we saw the beginning of a single rose bud growing on our Abraham Darby rose, which belongs to my third oldest daughter, Ruthie.  We were all so excited and it seemed like it took forever for it to bloom.


It was well worth the wait.  I love the light pink of the petals and the fragrance was just intoxicating.

Well, not wanting to be outdone by it’s neighbor, Abraham Darby….Graham Thomas decided that he would outdo Abraham.
Almost all at once, he started to grow not just one rose bud, but 10!


Now normally, I would be absolutely thrilled.


I mean, who wouldn’t love all of these beautiful roses perfuming the air.  But, there was just one problem.  You can see part of the problem in the photo above.


Graham had not grown big enough stems to support all the new roses, not to mention even one rose.

And so, we had beautiful roses laying on the ground….


Hopefully, Graham will think twice about growing roses before he has big enough stems.  

Interestingly, our William Shakespeare rose is quite patient.  He is rather puny and only formed his first rose bud a week ago.  But, the stem should be able to support the rose (hopefully).

And so the moral of the story is, do not flower until you have grown big enough to support them.   I hope Mr. Graham Thomas has learned his lesson….