About this time I find all my roses, and everyone else’s too, are getting a bit wayward.
They’ve mostly finished flowering, bar a few late flushes, and they suddenly start shooting great thick stems skywards in a bid to take over the world. This is a Good Thing on the whole, as it means they’re very healthy and well-established, and you should be able to look forward to a nice handsome display next year.
However – if they’re anything like the ‘Perpetually Yours’ climbers on the fence between me and my neighbour, they can become a serious hazard. This summer while my back was turned they shot up several massive stems above the fence, a good 6ft long, which began waving about spectacularly in the recent gales threatening to whip off the heads of sundry children and household pets passing by.
‘Perpetually Yours’, incidentally, is a lovely rose covered in froths of pretty frou-frou noisette flowers in palest yellow. I have two, which took a while to establish in my sandy acid soil, but which are now spectacular each summer. Their only real shortcoming is that they don’t stand up to weather very well, dissolving into soggy brown soup in heavy rain, like many roses I’ve found – a problem strangely unmentioned in the brochures. Mind you, the tried-and-tested favourites – ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Dublin Bay’ in my garden – seem to escape this problem.
But I digress. The point is, everyone talks about pruning roses in late spring (or late winter, if you’re me) but nobody mentions that they need summer pruning, too. This time of year I end up picking thorns out of my fingers yet again, tying in wayward stems and cutting out any heading in the wrong direction.
I also cut back those long flowered stems by about a third – some of this has been done already in deadheading (which I’m intolerably bad at getting around to, though it doesn’t seem to make much difference to the number of flowers I get) but there are always some which still flap about. This summer pruning will to some degree restrict growth, as all summer pruning does – but it’s sometimes no bad thing to give roses a rap on the knuckles when they’re getting too full of the joys of summer. Just don’t do it any later in the season, as new growth will get knocked back by frost if it hasn’t had the chance to harden off in time.