The Story of an Old, Neglected, Nameless Rose

This is a story about an old, overgrown, nameless rose bush.  This poor rose hadn’t been cared for or pruned

This is a story about an old, overgrown, nameless rose bush.  This poor rose hadn’t been cared for or pruned for a few years.  To be honest, I think it looks great considering the lack of care it had received.  But if you looked further inside, you would see lots of dead wood.

This rose bush was located on a small farm that my mother, sister and her family had recently moved to.

I absolutely love roses and couldn’t wait to help this rose.  I had to wait until winter when it was dormant.  I had no idea what variety this rose was.  I was pretty sure that it was a shrub rose and it had a lot of old, unproductive growth that needed to be removed.

So, I got started…

Hand pruners, pruning saw and loppers

I also highly recommend wearing gardening gloves and long sleeves so you don’t get hurt by the thorns.

First, because there was so much thick growth, I just started pruning in order to make a ‘hole’ so that I could reach inside and prune the old, wood inside. When pruning, it is saves you a lot of work if you first cut toward the base of larger branches, which saves you from making multiple pruning cuts of smaller branches.

When pruning roses, I normally remove 1/2 to 2/3 of the growth.  For this rose bush, I decided to remove quite a few of the large, old branches (called canes) at the base of the rose because they no longer produced many newer branches and roses as the younger branches did.

First, I removed the old and dead canes (rose branches) and then selected the green, healthy canes that I would keep.  Then I pruned the healthy canes back to an outward facing bud and cut it at a 45 degree angle.

While cutting back some of the old canes, I discovered a cane borer that had burrowed its way down into this rose cane…

Cane borer

I called my son over to look at the cane borer….he thought it was cool.  Cane borers enter through the top of rose canes and burrow their way down, causing death and damage.  To remove cane borers, simply prune the cane until there is no longer a hole down through the center.  To prevent borers, simply apply white glue to the tops of pruned canes, which will keep them out.
As I continued pruning back the rose bush, I came upon an unexpected discovery…

There were actually two rose bushes that had grown together!

Each year, when it comes time to prune back roses, it is so hard for me to prune off beautiful roses.

But as they say, “beauty hurts” and pruning ensures that there will be more beautiful blooms in spring.

I found examples examples of bad pruning like this one above.  You can see where it turned brown and died.
When pruning canes, prune back to a bud or back to the base of a larger cane.

I was making pretty good progress.  I used my hand pruners for the small canes and then switched to my loppers for the larger canes.  Soon I had a large pile of clippings. Thankfully I had some great helpers (my kids) that were happy to put them in the trash.

I’m almost finished. All that is left is to remove all the remaining leaves and clean up any surrounding rose leaves.  I did this because the leaves can harbor fungal diseases that will reinfect new rose leaves.

As I was finishing up, I discovered a surprise buried in the soil.

I found the original label for the rose bushes.  They are the variety ‘Glamis Castle’, which is an ever-blooming shrub rose.

After I finished pruning, the rose bushes hardly resembled their former selves.

I think my mother was a bit surprised at the how different they looked 😉

I was finished and was happy that these roses were no longer neglected or nameless any longer.

A few months after pruning, they were full of healthy foliage and beautiful roses…

Although the pruning was drastic, it needs to be done with most of today’s modern roses types including grandiflora, hybrid tea and floribunda.

**When to prune your roses depends on which USDA zone you live in:

Zones 6 – 8 prune back in February.

Zones 9 – 10 prune back in January.

All other zones, prune back in spring.

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Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. When she is not writing or helping other people with their gardens, you can find her growing fruits and vegetables, and planting flowering shrubs and maybe a cactus or two.