Expert advice on pruning roses

The Loire Valley roses live up to their reputation of being beautiful, but a certain expertise is needed to keep them looking at their best! Head gardener at the Villandry gardens, Laurent Portuguez, reveals some of his secrets.

Why prune roses?

This yearly maintenance prevents the rose bush losing its lower leaves and also encourages new shoots to grow which will ensure exceptional flowering throughout the year. The aim is to obtain harmoniously shaped, well-balanced heads which are not lopsided. To do so, make sure you use very sharp secateurs and disinfect them with methylated spirits before moving on to the next rose bush.

The right time

Loire Valley roses

March is the best time of year to prune repeat-flowering roses, regardless of what type they are (shrubs, standards or climbers). The last hard frosts are over and late pruning avoids the risk of disease as the wounds heal quickly. Also, if the days have been relatively mild, the shoots have started to come through and there’s less chance of making a mistake. Leave 2 to 3 shoots on the weaker branches, and 4 or 5 on the more vigorous branches of the rose.  Remove all the dead wood, useless twigs and blackened branches, as well as any suckers coming from below the graft union.

Shrub roses and standard roses

Cut back the remaining main stems, making a clean cut 3 mm above the third bud from the bottom, angled away from the bud eye so that rainwater does not flow over it. If your rose is very vigorous (each year its shoots rise to over 1.50 metres above its base), the main stems must be cut back to 5 or 6 buds.

Chédigny, a village-garden

Chédigny, a village-garden

Climbing roses

Same principles as for shrub or standard roses: keep the healthy scaffold branches (trained horizontally) and a few secondary branches. Prune the secondary branches back to 3 buds – it is these that will flower in the summer.

Once-flowering roses

In the case of ‘once-flowering’ roses, in other words, they produce a single magnificent bloom in summer, pruning is carried out in September by removing any twigs and dead or diseased branches and cutting back those that have just flowered.

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