Gamble... or leave the secateurs in your shed?

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The pruning should have been done, but there are bound to be many who haven’t got round to the task and are wondering if they dare take secateurs to roses so far into spring.

Normally, the pampering is done when forsythia’s yellow flowers are at their brightest and best – that was a few weeks ago. But roses are nothing if not tolerant; they have to be because they are often neglected and abused – and expected to keep flowering year after year.

Most modern floribundas bloom best on the current season’s growth, so it pays to prune hard in spring and remove old woody stems. Leave some healthy canes evenly spaced around the plant.

Hybrid teas and grandifloras also bloom on new wood so spring is once again the best time to remove dead and weak wood to create an open shape.

Ramblers bloom only once and should be hard pruned right after flowering, but it’s also advisable to remove winter damage and dead wood when you spot it.

Modern shrub roses flower on mature, but not old, woody stems. Leave them unpruned to increase vigour for the first two years and then remove one-third of the oldest canes every year.

Climbers should be pruned early in spring to remove winter damage and dead wood, then pruned again after flowering to shape and keep them in check. So, do you gamble, or do you leave the secateurs in the shed? Whatever you chose to do, there are ways to ensure that your roses are happy and healthy.

Roses like sun – so try to give them a warm, sunny spot, preferably where there are no cold winds to give them a hard time. Excavate a hole that’s bigger than the root ball of the rose in question, and then throw in plenty of well-rotted manure. Newly-planted roses need plenty of water to help them establish themselves. Water thoroughly at planting time and then water at least once a week. You can occasionally add a liquid fertiliser.

Watch for greenfly and other pests – spray with a systemic insecticide or, if you prefer to be chemical-free, hose off aphids with soapy water. They’ll be back, but at least it gives breathing space. Dead-head regularly to encourage more blooms – and try to remember to prune at the right time of the year.