Tuesday, February 21, 2012

‘Blush Noisette’ in winter

I have seen some beautiful photos of mature ‘Blush Noisette’, but unfortunately they were not taken in my garden.  My bush has been in the ground now almost three years which means it is still immature, but I always have doubts that his less than debonair looks are due to bad soil or insufficient feeding or any number of issues about which I am insecure.  I don’t mean to whine, but I find it difficult to be confident and self-assured growing these large, slow-growing, blooming bushes that don’t start looking like what they’re supposed to look like for four or five or more years. Remember that old TV commercial?  “What’s a mother to do?”

So I don’t have a lovely photo of this guy, only hard-to-see shots of this immature, awkwardly shaped bush that’s fairly unleafy.  So this shot that I took on January 27th is it.  In the fall and early winter he started throwing some six-foot laterals, and he gained some size (at least in one direction), getting to be a good eight feet wide.  If I had the luxury of ample space, I would have let him be, but my roses are planted cheek by jowl, so this was not acceptable.  I had to “prune for size” and hopefully arrive at a shape that is good for ‘Blush Noisette’ and good for me.  Below is my gawky teenage ‘Blush Noisette’.


And here is a borrowed photo from Ronda in North Carolina’s garden.  ‘Blush Noisette’ can be a billowing mass of shrub or a climber.  Either way, it carries clusters of sweetly fragrant light pink blooms repeatedly through the season, but you can see that mine has a lot of maturing to do.

Ronda.Blush Noisette

I took the following photos to post on the Antique Roses Forum with my question on how to properly prune it.

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The responses I received were helpful though a tad confusing for this first-time pruner of an arching rose bush.  I will post them here just as my rosey friends wrote them.  Maybe they will be helpful to others. They helped me.
  • Sherry, prune her like you would an arching bush. Those long, climbing canes can be trimmed back a bit lower than the rest of the plant to encourage them to throw laterals. When you've seen bush training of this rose, it's required regular "shearing" to keep and make it bushy, full of flowering laterals. Just do the same, as you would for any shrub which wants to periodically throw "wilder shoots". Don't let it intimidate you. You CAN'T do anything wrong. BN has already shown you she wants to grow and is going to no matter what you do, unless you dry her out, fry her with nitrogen or chop her to the ground. Even after chopping, I think she'd probably thumb her nose at you and grow how she wanted, anyway! Go for it! Kim (Zone 10 SoCal)
  • I'd take those huge climbing canes back by half, then generally shape the plant into the shape you want it. Cut it back up to a third smaller than you want and keep pinching back the longer, more vigorous shoots to see if she responds the way you desire. If she isn't cooperative, give her to a good home and replace her with Maggie. You can't really hurt her. As I said, she's going to do as SHE desires anyway. All you can hope to do is encourage her to cooperate with you. Kim
  • Hi Sherry, Firstly, take a few deep breaths and have a real good look. Some of those arching canes are thicker, greener and healthier than others - tie a string around them. These are going to be your framework structure - you only need half a dozen. Then, follow each of these canes back to the base, cutting all the laterals back to a couple of buds - 4 - 6 inches. While you are doing this, you can cut out a lot of the little twiggy stems which are doing nothing much. Cut them off - right off. Same if there is anything which looks a bit dead, a bit brown and dry (scratch the stem with a finger nail - if it is alive, it will be green under the outer bark -Any that are brown or pale and dry, with no green, will probably even snap off. Any canes rubbing together - lose the thinnest. What you should end up with is a more see through version of what you already have. I agree with Kim, this rose is showing you very clearly how it wants to grow. Now, to make it a little more shapely, cut a couple of the outer canes which arch towards you, a third shorter than the more upright ones. You want to leave less cane to throw out the summer laterals, keeping new growth as tight in to the lower centre as possible. At the sides of the bush, there are a couple of canes which have got long laterals - chop them off. Eventually, some of the framework canes will look a bit ratty - you have a choice to keep new basal canes or to keep a lateral which is growing as near to the base as possible. You can let the new lateral form the framework structure and chop all the old basal back to where the lateral grows from the original cane. Not explaining this too well, am I? Never mind, if you just trim all the annoyingly long canes and have a good thin out, then that will suffice. There is nothing funny looking about this rose to me - it looks as though it wants to make a lovely fountain shape which, if you were inclined, you could support the bottom 3 feet with some basic supports - either stout poles with crosspieces or (what I use) half an old metal obelisk thingy with the top taken out. Or, I have even used an old umbrella stand with the bottom removed and even the metal outer cage of a municipal dustbin!. The aim being to keep the long canes from flopping on to the floor, taking up tons of room. Take charge, Sherry, you can do this without worrying - this is a tough and capable rose....as you are a tough (well maybe not that much) and capable (for sure) gardener. Courage! (Campanula in UK)
  • Sherry, that is NORMAL for this rose. It, supposedly, is a hybrid between bushy, twiggy China roses and climbing musk roses. This thing is expressing the growth traits of both types...generating the elongated, climbing canes while pushing out twiggier, bushier laterals. If you shorten the long, main cane, those laterals will bulk up, lengthening and thickening and flowering profusely. You're just not used to seeing anything with this genetic combination, demonstrating these traits. Don't worry. Don't let it intimidate you. As campanula said, both you and the rose are resilient. You can't hurt it (though it can bite the heck out of you!), so reread the above, have a nice, strong glass or cup of tea or coffee or your choice of beverage to gird yourself and dive in! The earlier you do it, the more profuse the bloom you'll have. The longer you wait, the more flowering wood you'll remove and you'll have to wait for it to generate more. Kim
  • How about just "prune to shape"? Make it look like you want. (Bellegallica – zone 9)
Did I follow directions very well?


I hear some chuckling out there and perhaps some gasps.  I guess I should have gone back and re-read Campanula’s directions before I took pruners in hand.  I shortened the longest canes, and I shortened the laterals on all the canes to from two to four nodes in length.  That was mostly shorter than Campanula’s four to six inches.  However, I did not thin out the canes from the base.  Of course, I can still do that, but I’m not exactly sure how.  I’ll have to put my eyeballs on it real hard.  The bush is now about four and a half feet tall and four feet wide.

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My only concern is whether this is the way ‘Blush Noisette’ is happy being.  If it only wants to be a billowing pile of canes ten feet wide, then how will it respond to this shearing?  What will it do next?  Am I going to have to shear it two or three more times in the season?  Will it be happy staying twice (or three times) the size of the pruned bush?  I guess I will see the answers to some of those questions as the season goes on.  I’m pretty certain I didn’t hurt the bush, but I'm not sure if I didn't go too short.  We’ll see that, too, won’t we?  I’m eager to see how BN responds to this cutting.

My advise to other pruners is the same as I received.   Be courageous and go for it.  Roses are forgiving, resilient plants.


  1. Sherry, Thank you so much for this post. I recently planted Ballerina. My plan is to not give her any support and let her grow long arching cranes. I currently don’t have any roses I treat this way, so this post was very helpful. I’m so looking forward to seeing how ‘Blush Noisette’ develops.

  2. This is one of the old Southern roses that I don't have. Yet. I agree with your sentiment about these take forever to get established roses... I am not patient, and the fact that I have waited three years is really monumental...can't they see this??

  3. Hang in there, Sherry. IMHO BN will be fine with the way you pruned her. Every few years I just whack my large roses back. Other years I prune the smaller canes out and basically tip prune the large canes to keep the laterals coming.