Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Been pruning for days

Let's see. What other activities are approached with such trepidation? Taking a swimming lesson? Driver's test? Job interview? Meeting his/her parents? Wedding night? Yes, yes, I know those are all life changing, life-or-death events, so what's the big deal about pruning? Perhaps it's the do-it-yourself aspect of it. Ever given yourself a perm? Oh, my, I have. Total disaster. Perhaps it's because I've never seen it done, never seen the finished work, never had it explained, never understood the whys and wherefores of it. Perhaps it's the dread of not knowing where to start...or when to stop. Or maybe the terror of living forever with this bald plant in the center of my front yard and being branded the laughing stock of the gardening world and the neighborhood.

Whatever it is, it is something that must be overcome. Mind over matter. Just dive in. Sink or swim. What helped me was a series of how-to photos in Cass Bernstein's "A Tea Pruning Lesson" (the link is in the sidebar). I remember her talking about forks, and the photos of the bushes after pruning were full of forked canes.

So when I went out today to continue and maybe finish pruning Le Vesuve (a mass of dense, crossing, hyper thorny canes), it was with the picture of a fork in the forefront of my mind. This rose delights in growing multiple canes from one budeye (apparently, a tea trait), some at 90 degree angles straight up, some running tightly parallel, some bending again at an odd angle. This word, fork, was a lifesaver even though many times there were multiple choices of forks to pick. I just kind of figured which one would look the most normal, but sometimes the answer was none. That's when I punted, thinking that Cass would understand. It became very clear early on that this rose does not play by the rules. It's not unusual to see canes growing backwards toward  the inside of the bush from a cane growing normally toward the outside of the bush. In those situations I made a command decision and cut it off. Seems like I remember that anything growing in or down or crossing on trees should be removed, so I applied that rule to roses. There were many command decisions to be made. All those skinny, zig-ziggy canes near the bottom. All that new growth. How much is too much and not enough. Pruning must be done with the brain in gear - or not. I have been known to over-think things.

Removing all the leaves from this very well foliated bush was a great help. Suddenly I could see the canes that had been invisible. Wearing rose gauntlets gave me real fearlessness after the first time I reached my arm deep into the bush and came out unscathed. I was no longer afraid. By the time it was too dark to see this evening, I was about halfway around this six-foot diameter monster, just trimming out the crazy stuff. Tomorrow after that's finished, I may still have to shorten it up some and draw it farther in from the edges. No nibbling on this fast growing two-year-old baby. Using the brick edging as a guide has been helpful. When I stood back in the dimness, I had hope that Le Vesuve would not only be smaller and thinner but also symmetrical for the first time in its life. Yes, I had hope, and the fear was gone. This was not the dangerous ogre of my nightmares. Just a jolly green giant wanting to be tamed. Boundaries are good for a lot of things, and I think come the spring flush I'm going to see how much this rose loves discipline. More tomorrow.


  1. Pruning is intimidating that's for sure. It sounds like you did a great job, and I'm sure you will be rewarded with lots of blooms.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  2. Oh my! I, while laughing uproariously, related to everything you described.

  3. Your roses have gotten big, Sherry! I can't wait to see pictures of the spring flush!

  4. I know exactly what you mean Sherry! I too spent a day of pruning and I was and am still afraid I did it wrong. I have also watched Paul Z's videos on pruning climbers and shrub roses. Over and over I have watched them and still it didn't help me to over come the fear that I have totally ruined the structure of my roses! Oh well I keep telling myself what I hear a lot and that is that roses are very forgiving! I do hope they forgive me!