The most enduring and romantic of all British garden plants are roses. To keep plants healthy though, it’s important not to plant them too closely so that air can circulate between plants. And to keep plants strong and shapely by pruning out old and weak shoots every year between November and March.
On a day when the weather is neither icy nor frosty, arm yourself with a sharp pair of secateurs and don a pair of tough gloves to prune your rose bushes. Pruning will encourage them to produce lots of flower buds on a well-shaped framework of branches with an open centre.
As it’s the younger stems that tend to produce the best flowers, the aim is to prevent the plant from becoming congested. Remove any dead, damaged, diseased or weak-looking stems completely. Then cut back the most vigorous stems to within 25-30cm or three or four buds above last year’s cut. And the thinner stems back a little harder. Always cut to an outward-pointing bud, making a sloping cut about 6mm above the bud.
As thorns don’t tend to rot, put the dead material in the dustbin instead of the compost—especially if the plant has been infected by disease.