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Spring-like weather brings out the buds

Some roses refuse to quit. This is Pink Promise on Jan. 31. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Some roses refuse to quit during mild winter; prune any way

What do you do when your roses start sprouting new growth before they’re pruned? Prune anyway.

Current spring-like conditions are bringing out fresh and rapid growth on roses – and it’s still January.

Meanwhile, mild winter conditions kept many bushes blooming (and growing) instead of dropping their leaves and resting. For example, my 8-foot-tall Pink Promise just won’t quit.

It’s much easier to prune a bush that’s dormant; it’s already lost its leaves and its naked framework is easier to evaluate.

But it’s also important to remove last year’s foliage before this season’s leaves grow out. The old leaves harbor fungal diseases such as black spot and rust that will rapidly infect that new growth.

In addition, roses tend to sprout new growth at the end of old canes. If you don’t prune back the canes, spring blooms will be way over your head. If unpruned, my Pink Promise soon would be 12 feet tall.

Those little pink points of new growth poking out from the cane
are bud breaks.
Roses are unusual shrubs; they can break buds on old wood. That means they can sprout growth – with a bud eye breaking through the outer protective bark – on almost any healthy cane or trunk.

As days get warmer, more bud breaks appear – even on unpruned canes.

Let those bud breaks be your guide. Prune about ½ inch above the new growth, preferably pointing outward away from the center of the bush.

When pruning, always take out the “3Ds”: Dead, damaged or diseased canes. Then, prune for shape and air flow, eliminating crossing canes.

Concentrate on reducing the overall size of the bush by a third or by half.

Pink Promise, for example, will come down to 4 feet – still a big bush. At that size, it doesn’t have to waste that much energy growing canes from the ground up and get right into sprouting spring blooms.

Judging by how it spent the winter and the bud breaks already appearing on this bush, Pink Promise will have its first spring blooms in six to eight weeks.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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