Floribunda, shrub and hybrid tea roses produce lots of growth during the summer with flowers on the tips of tall stems. Couple this height with a deep but not necessarily wide root system, and there is a danger that during the autumn and winter, roses can become loosened by inclement weather, causing what we call wind rock.
This wind rock will disturb the roots and cause some to break, making the plant less stable and severing the connection from the root tip, where the moisture and nutrition is absorbed, to those stems above the ground. To combat this issue, reduce the height of your rose by around a third to minimise the impact of those autumnal wind gusts.
It’s good practice to prune back to a bud, but here it’s not necessary as this is a temporary solution in response to the changing weather and we’ll prune back to an outward-facing bud in the spring. Some gardeners use a hedge trimmer for this job, which shows how little finesse is required. Remove any fallen leaves from around the base, particularly those that show symptoms of black spot, which will persist in the soil if left. Prune out any dead wood (brown and dried out stems) back to a healthy bud.
The best ways to prune your roses and reduce their height this winter
Autumn is a perfect time to plant bare root roses: nurseries will be lifting their field-grown roses when they lose their foliage and will be dispatching them through their websites, and potting them to be sold in garden centres. I was recently asked to suggest tough roses that can cope where others have struggled to thrive.
‘Buff Beauty’ and ‘Silver Anniversary’ have proven to be quite resilient, and ‘Buff Beauty’ also makes a wonderful hedge. If you’re treating yourself to a new rose bush, dig a hole that will take the depth of the root ball and then fork over the base of the hole to allow those roots to penetrate the base. Place a bamboo cane across the top of the hole and lower your rose in, making sure that the union (where the stems meet the roots) is a couple of centimetres below the surface of the ground. Add half a handful of pelleted chicken manure to the base of the hole and back fill. Firm with your heel and water well.
A wheelbarrow of well-rotted manure around the base of the rose will give the shrub a great start but avoid piling manure around the stems.
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