Question from Brigitte:
I have a climbing rose that might be anywhere from 20 to 40 years old. It has a very large winding trunk and looks similar to the lady banks rose except that it has clusters of small pink one inch flowers that bloom in the spring. My gardener recommends pruning hard in October, but your book seems to recommend pruning now, at the end of July. Could you tell me if I should be pruning now, back to the large laterals? Would I also be leaving some of the vertical green shoots for the blooms next year? It is growing on top of an arbor and can get out of hand within a year of growth. My location is in Glendale, near Pasadena.
Answer from Pat:
Before knowing how to prune your climbing rose, it would help to find out which rose it is, but as a general rule, if your climbing rose blooms in spring and never ever at other times of year, the time to prune is after bloom (Usually in June or July) and not in winter or you risk cutting off the buds or new wood that will bloom next year. If your rose blooms once in summer, prune after bloom has finished. Your rose could be one of several so it’s difficult for me to give you the correct information. (Why not take a photo of the plant in bloom to your local chapter of the rose society and see what they think it is?)
If the small pink flowers you describe are in masses in spring and have the shape of perfect little rosebuds before flowers open, it is most likely Climbing Cecile Brunner. I suggest you ‘Google’ that variety and compare the photos to what you have. Another you might have Paul’s Himalayan Musk. (You didn’t mention fragrance.) Both of these are fragrant Rambling Roses and can grow very large. The time to prune rambling roses is in summer after bloom. But the time to prune ever-blooming climbing roses, or those that bloom more than once a year is in winter along with other roses. So it’s pretty important to be sure of when your rose blooms and how. If your gardener reads, you can show him books or Google “How to Prune a Rambling Rose” and it will say the same. (Perhaps if you read it to him, he will understand and accept what you are saying.) It took me many years to teach this fact to my gardener. Then finally he pointed at a Lady Banks that is climbing through a hedge and said to me “That rose didn’t bloom this year.” and I replied “That’s because you cut it back in winter.” He said “Oh!” and a light went on in his head. From then on I never had a problem with that.
Yes, these one-time climbers like Cecile Brunner and Paul’s Himalayan Musk are very large. Some experts believe in cutting back only lightly but if you go with that idea the rose can take over. If you have a rambling rose, read what I suggest in my book on pruning 258 on pruning climbing roses, but basically here’s what to do: Once the rose has bloomed, in summer, prune it after bloom. Take out all dead wood. Remove any suckers arising from below the bud union. (However if your rose is on a single trunk it may be growing on its own roots and will have no suckers.) Then you can take off as much as 25% of top growth, cut back laterals that have bloomed to 2 buds, so new growth will sprout to bloom next year. It is all right also to cut out old canes that have bloomed so new canes can grow, but sounds as if your rose only has one main trunk or base cane. If fresh canes (not suckers) have already arisen from the ground or from low on the plant that have not bloomed this year, and if there is room, leave them on to bloom next year, but it is okay to confine all growth to one trunk for many years if that is what you want.
There is much information available in books and also on the Internet on how to prune a rambling rose. If I were you I would read several. They all differ, and you can pick up various ideas and choose what suits your rose best, but one thing is for sure, for once-blooming roses, summer pruning after bloom is best. Glendale is a great area for roses.
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