Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ready or not, here I prune!

Winter? Absolutely no sign of it here.  Daytime temps are way up in the 70’s and sunny, and nights are fine for shirt-sleeves.  I did a search for a 30-day forecast, hoping to find our ‘last freeze date’, and came up with precious little. One site showed the lowest temperature would be 36 degrees in mid-February.  Not a problem, so yesterday when I heard the roses crying, “Pru-u-une me.”, I said, “I hear ya. Here I come.”  Everything is showing new growth (‘Hermosa’ is even blooming!), and I had had enough of looking at the ugly dead stuff from the freeze. Did you catch that? Freeze singular? What a winter!


Since ‘Madame Abel Chatenay’ was the instigator, I better start with her last weekend. You may remember that MAC was suffering terribly and that I had determined to lift her, amend the bed and move her a few feet. So I was back to excavating again - this time to a depth of three and a half feet. I dug out an area of 3’x6’ (thankfully, the clay was moist and diggable) right beside her toward the house and moved the five or six wheelbarrowfuls of crappy stuff to the backyard, raising the level of the swing area. I’m almost not heavy enough to push that wheelbarrow when it’s full.

Then I had an enlightened moment and decided to stick the pH tester in one of the big clumps of solid white clay. I was stunned to read 6.8. Huh? I can live with that pH, so what’s the problem?  I tested the fertility. Uh-huh, very low.  Then I tested the grainy sand/clay strata that was above the clay level - 6.0 pH (apparently my sulfur applications have worked) and very low fertility. Interesting.  Breaking up the bottom, I mixed in Milorganite, cow manure and small pine bark mulch with the clay, then filled up the hole with more compost, topsoil (by the way, I found Walmart’s topsoil to be plain old sand), a little sphagnum peat moss, pine bark mulch, Scott’s LawnSoil, and the original top 15 inches of amended soil that I had set aside. End of day one.

On Sunday I lifted ‘Mme Abel’ and set her aside on the new bed.  Time was of the essence since she was sitting in the sun, so I opted to pile the removed soil on the driveway.  By way of visuals much of my digging time was spent sitting on the ground with one leg dangling in the hole while the other pounded the shovel into the clay, then muscling the shovelful over my shoulder beside and behind me.  I found out that getting out of a three and a half foot deep hole isn’t easy when you’re an arthritic old lady, so again I returned to my butt and rolled to my knees to regain sea-level.  Don’t you wish you had a ringside seat?  Dumping on the driveway made the job much quicker, and I got her settled in with scratches on arms and legs.  She’s a very prickly lady, definitely well armed. Here she is, albeit hard to see.



She’s to the right of the label marker which used to be in front of her, so she didn’t go far. A big Variegated Liriope was moved out, too, so the vacant area will be home to about four daylilies. The rose in the white pot is a ‘Peach Drift’.  I got two the other day.  I thought their color would go great with ‘Mme Abel’, so they’re planted on both sides of her now.  FYI, I shoveled the dirt from the driveway into the truck for easy transport to the back. It filled half the bed as high as the sides. I was astonished because this hole was only 3'x3'x3' - half the size of the previous day. Highly compacted stuff.

Back to this weekend’s pruning. I did not not cut back MAC when I dug her up, and rather unbelievably her growth buds are bulging everywhere and her one flower bud only went limp overnight.  So I figured I might as well prune her…along with ‘Clotilde Soupert’, ‘Souv de Francois Gaulain’, the three ‘Hermosas’ and half of ‘Le Vesuve’.  Then darkness set in. Today I finished ‘Le Vesuve’. My goodness, what a tangled mess he is. He grows all wacky in all directions and back again. He had a lot of dead stuff on him, so as I‘ve been saying I would for months, I finally replaced the drip tubing with two 180-degree micro-sprinkler heads for his circle bed.  I’m hoping this will make him happier this year.  Then I moved on to ‘Bermuda’s Anna Olivier’.  What a bedraggled rose bush, so full of dead and dying stuff.  Her soil situation is like MAC’s was, but I’ve decided to handle hers differently.  I’m going to drive a 3/4” pole into the ground as close to three feet down as I can get, then pour a bunch of Milorganite down the zillion holes I make along with some liquid humus.  Since the soil problem looks more like a fertility issue rather than pH, I’m hoping this strategy will save me from digging and more digging again.

I vipped on to ‘Softee’ in a pot and the two ‘Souvenir de la Malmaisons’ (dead stuff only on SDLM), and then quit pruning.  I find pruning to be very exhausting, physically and mentally.  That bent over position is a pain, and examining each and every cut makes for a mentally demanding exercise in decision-making that wears me out.  When I was done with these, my brain was mush, and I barely managed to move an under-a-rose daylily and plant a lovely potted purple pansy next to MAC and a $7 ‘Chrysler Imperial’ from Lowe's next to the front sidewalk.  It’s grafted on Dr. Huey rootstock, so I figure if it lasts a couple of years, I’ll be happy to have had those gorgeous red blooms and the phenomenal fragrance again.

So once again I have found pruning to be a wonderfully satisfying experience.  The roses took a giant step closer to spring.  I on the other hand have many more to go.


  1. I was just thinking about pruning my roses. They are calling out to me too. Around here we prune around President's Day so it won't be long. I'm already seeing a little growth on my roses.
    Have you ever grown a climber in a container? We planted 'Eden' in one last year, but I'm not sure it was a great idea.

  2. You really have very beautiful garden. Roses are looking very beautiful for proper growth of plant Topsoil is must.

  3. Pruning is not easy, but I like so much to clean the roses. The roses will be grateful in the spring, I'm sure.
    Have a beautiful week, Sherry !

  4. I agree that pruning is mentally draining! I started on mine a while back, convinced that we are not going to have a winter this year. There'a always the possibility of a late freeze, but it sure doesn't seem like it, does it? Good luck on your pruning - and try to stay out of holes! ;)

  5. I was out pruning this weekend, too. Was going to wait until the 15th but the roses were sprouting out so I figured I better get the job done. It is definitely a back breaking job. I've got 7 more to go, but I know you've got many more than that. Just think in 4 to 6 weeks we'll have a yard full of gorgeous blooms.