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We have started to prune our climbing roses on the Pergola over the last few weeks. It is fine to prune the climbers at this time of year, and it is especially beneficial to us gardeners as pruning on the Pergola in December and January can be a very chilly job indeed! Most of our climbing roses wind around a pillar, although some are trained against a wall.
The climbing roses need to be pruned for several reasons:
They can put on a lot of growth in the summer which can make it difficult to walk down the Pergola without getting snagged onto a thorny stem! Pruning the roses helps to control these unruly stems!
If left unpruned, the roses will have fewer flowers the following year.
Pruning and tying in new stems encourages more growth and flowers lower down the plant. If left unpruned all the flowers would be on top of the pergola and all we would see underneath would be thick old stems!
I tend to start at the bottom and work my way up. I follow the stems around the pillar and assess what needs to be done in each small section at a time. However, it is always a good idea to look at the whole plant before making any rash decisions. Once you have chopped a stem off you can't put it back on!
Prune back any lateral stems (side shoots) to around three buds back from the main stem. Choose a bud going in the best direction, either upwards or outwards. If you prune to a bud that is facing the wall the shoot that will growth from that bud will just hit the wall and will become damaged. The shoots will hopefully produce flowers in the summer!
Tie the main stems onto the wires on the pillar. If you have a new stem you want to position, avoid crossing any existing stems as the stems will become damaged if they rub against each other. Damaged stems allow diseases to infect the rose. Try to tie in new stems from the base of the plant as these can be used to replace any old stems in later years.
Remove any dead, diseased or damaged stems, (these are the three D's of pruning!) Weak growth should also be removed so that the rose can concentrate its energy into producing strong healthy growth.
The finished rose: new stems have been tied into position and laterals have been pruned back to 3 buds.
How you cut the stems is quite important! Make a sloping cut away from the bud. This is so that when it rains, water will flow away from the bud. If water collects around the bud, it may rot off. Try not to make your cut too far above the bud, as any stem left above the bud will die off. Also try not to undercut the bud by cutting too closely, as this can also cause the stem to die back to the next bud down. Position your secateurs with the flat edge closest to the bud, as it is easier to see where you are cutting this way!
Tie the rose stems in using string or garden twine. I attach the string to the wire using a clove hitch as it grips the wire tightly and prevents the stem from sliding down the wire. I then make a twist in the string (like a figure of eight) to prevent the stem rubbing against the wire and causing damage. Finally I secure the stem into place using a reef knot. Trim the ends of the string to keep it nice and tidy!