Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pruning a climbing Tea

I’ll start out by saying that she used to be bigger than this and much prettier. 2012 was a bad year for ‘Maman Cochet, Climbing’. I used to only blame the squirrels, but as of today I blame the gardener, too, and I’ll be frank. This rose scared me. Tending to her even in my timid way meant getting shredded, and I was afraid if I cut her too much she would die. “Teas don’t like pruning!” is a constant refrain out there on the rose internet, and the only reason I took pruner in hand today was that I know a real, live person who grows MC, Climbing who prunes her side shoots the same way as other climbers - and does it twice a year to keep her in check even in Zone 7B North Carolina. She says she's no expert, but she's smarter than me! Thanks, Meredith.

She was thin, rangy and had had a lot of dead wood cut out of her at summer's end.
Looking back from the arbor, you can see her canes were going everywhere, and it was advisable to duck when venturing through her area.
There was still lots of dead wood on top of the arbor. Timidity really prevailed after the last cutting binge when live wood looked just like dead wood. Uh-oh.
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The wood trellis is 8 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Her canes flopped toward the house and seemed to be eager to devour my neighbor's house. To the right she reaches another 5 feet beyond the trellis, and to the left over the arbor she goes another 8 feet easy. And as to height, my guess would be 17 feet and waving.
Looking up into that mess, all I knew to do was try to follow the canes to the base and start cutting above the third budeye.
I saved this side for last. These canes are reaching out at me big-time. Side shoots break all along her canes and then grow 8, 10, 12 feet long... and then they do the same.
At one time the growth over this arbor was a thing of beauty. I knew in my head that the old wood of climbers needed to be cut out regularly, but my head was good at ignoring what she couldn't figure out how to deal with.
There are half a dozen really long canes from the arbor hanging over the A/C unit.
More long canes reaching to the back and over both sides of the fence.
There are a bunch of side shoots up there.
You literally cannot touch her without getting stuck. More accurately, hooked and sharply.
Amazingly, the thought never crossed my mind to apply the loppers to her base.
My head and shoulders had to go up in there, step by step on the ladder. Gives multi-tasking a whole new meaning.
Mommy, what did you do?
I think your scrolling finger is going to cramp up. Sorry.
Oh, that looks painful. Poor baby.
This was my questionable area. The rules say don't shorten the main cane, only the laterals, but those canes to the left hang out five feet past the trellis over the grill and in a few months will have long laterals hanging off them. I tried sending them in a u-turn but already knew her stiff canes wouldn't do that. So I nipped one at a sprouted budeye and told it that it was now officially the new main cane. The others I'm still thinking about.
The bird netting did a decent job of dissuading the squirrels from making her the fast-food stop on their fence-highway. I found one dangling by his toenails (literally) but was too lily-livered to finish the execution. Turns out he got away, but he must have warned his buddies. After that, I didn't see many squirrels on Mama's trellis.
There are many, many swollen budeyes on those short laterals, so I'm hoping she will bush out like all the other pruned roses.
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Her center portion over the base took a real hit last year. I'm hoping it wasn't because a clematis vine was growing up into her canopy. It wasn't a monster clem, only six to eight feet tall.
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I just plain had to chop her long main canes over the arbor. What else could I do? They don't do well hanging down toward the ground, and the roof is not an option.
The bungee is temporary :)) She still wants to eat the orange house. I should let her.
The white rope is my version of a pulley system to hoist her heavy, prickled canes up high enough to walk under. I know someone who leases big cranes. I'll have to give her a call.
She doesn't look too bad, ya think?
When I was shortening laterals at the right side of this photo, I was finding perfectly live, long canes already cut off, and I was ticked that I had cut something that was alive, thinking it was dead. Then it hit me. They were the cut laterals from over the arbor! Still sad but definitely necessary. I was pulling canes out by the yard.
All neat and tidy. And no torn flesh on my body. I was so smart this time. Of course, I wore the gauntlets but also long sleeves - a first! The shirt got hooked lots of times by prickles that wouldn't let go. So glad it wasn't my arms. Gosh, that's so painful.
Oops. Looks like I missed one.
I'll keep you posted as the laterals grow out. I'm thinking she'll need a comb-over for a rather big bare spot.
This one pile is about the size of a twin bed. I know absolutely that I cut off 40  really long canes, probably more than that, but stop and think about it. She must been struggling to find enough energy to support all that growth. And not succeeding. Which was evident in her sad condition.
So I have a strong feeling that Mama Cochet does not hate me now. I feel like she’s glad I showed her the tough love that she’s been needing and suffering without. Here's to a glorious spring! after the forecast of below-freezing temps this weekend. The groundhog was flat wrong, but I'm praying he was right.


  1. This was great! I have a climbing Maman Cochet too, actually 4 of them now, as I've gotten three rooted cuttings from the first shrub. I know nothing about pruning roses by the book, and I am a procrastinator, so I just get in there and cut back canes. :-)

    Thanks for this informative post with great photos.


    1. Wow, Lorraine, four Maman Cochet, Climbings!! You'll have to move out! I'll let you know how my pruning works out.

  2. Hi Sherry, I think you did a great job. It also pains me to cut off 'good' growth. But we have to do it. She will now fill out with laterals and blooms instead of rangy canes. I can't wait to see the 'after' photo when she is in bloom. I have to do this on a few of my climbers this year. I've been really lazy the past few springs.

    1. Thanks, Bet. It will be interesting to see if how often I need to do this and how the laterals turn out - shorter or long again. I'm thinking long. It's way too soon to expect a response from her, but I keep looking.

  3. Sherry, how scary! But, sometimes things like this become necessary. I am in the middle of pruning my WAY overgrown Mutabilis. Like you, I'm just hoping it won't mind. I continually tell myself "the root system is established - it can handle it". It will be interesting to know if your rose sulks this next year, or puts out even more blooms than usual! Sometimes, rose "rules" that are constantly repeated are not necessarily true - each garden is different.

    1. Scary is right, HolleyGarden. I've heard that Mutabilis responds well to pruning - at least in California. Sulking and crazy growth are possibilities. Now the waiting starts - like back when we planted them as babies. There's always something new to experience in the garden.