By Helen Colt, F.r.h.s.
The subject of rose cultivation is so wide, and of such ever-increasing interest, and so high the degree of art to which it has been carried, that it is deemed advisable to deal in this article almost entirely with the practical side of rose culture subsequent to proper planting. This side is chiefly concerned with proper pruning, giving a hint only of the beautiful ways in which roses may be used, both in rose gardens or as individual features, and reserving the fuller treatment of this fascinating subject for a final article. First, therefore, as to the pruning of various sorts of roses. This is indeed a wide subject, but it is apt to be regarded by the inexperienced amateur gardener as being one of such unfathomable mystery as to preclude altogether the successful growing of roses by an ordinary mortal. This is happily not the case, and the few broad principles here laid down will be made as simple as possible, so as to leave little doubt as to the right way to set about pruning the various types of roses.
Practical experience may, then, in time be trusted to bring the learner's methods nearer to perfection.
The first two points to consider are, the purpose for which certain roses are required - broadly, that is, whether for garden decoration or for exhibition - and it must be borne in mind that rose exhibiting is a possible pleasure within the reach of quite humble amateurs, and is of great assistance and profit in the stimulus it affords. But as garden and greenhouse decoration are the first consideration with amateurs, the type of pruning from which a good supply of moderate-sized blooms, rather than a few gorgeous specimens, may be expected will be the method principally dealt with.
Pruning hybrid perpetual roses grown as medium or small bushes should be carried out as follows. Take the case of a two-year-old plant, which after planting was shortened back to the points shown in the diagram, showing several buds from which the first season's growth sprang. This flowering growth will have been lightly pruned in order to encourage the second crop of blossom after flowering, and from these shoots have started the growths which now require to be cut back.
An essential point to remember is not to attempt this cutting back too early in the year. When vigorous shoots are seen to break, as they invariably do in the milder days of February, the gardener must learn to stay her hand, reflecting that these upper shoots are the only protection against the cutting frosts which will undoubtedly play havoc in the garden during March.
By allowing the top growth to push at will, the essential - i.e., the lower - growth will be kept back, and when last frosts fall only the upper growth will be nipped. This upper growth, therefore, will now come under consideration. For moderate pruning, the lines of demarcation will be determined by counting about six buds from the ground-line, and then proceeding to cut back all the growth above these. Of course, the crowded growths will make the work seem much more complicated than when merely represented by a few of these growths shown on paper. But if the counting method is strictly adhered to, this will be vastly simplified, and effect no obstacle which should impede the correct pruning. If pruning for exhibition is required, count two or three buds only.
One or two. growths will appear towards the middle, and these, instead of being pruned in the ordinary way, will be cut clean out, in order to allow of a clear centre for the free play of light and air, to encourage the formation of sound, well-ripened wood.
It is necessary, of course, to adopt the proper method for making cuts in pruning roses - i.e., to cut just above a bud and in an outward direction, and to make the cuts short and clean, thus exposing a small unbruised surface to the rough world. A sharp budding or pruning knife should be used. Gloves are advisable, to escape scratches. A really good secateur will perform the work satisfactorily, but it must have two edges, or wounding will result. Secateurs are, of course, suitable for cutting out dead wood and thinning weakly growth.
Now, as regards the second year's pruning. A fairly safe guide will be given in saying that the thickest shoots - that is, those above one-quarter inch in girth, should be pruned back to four buds, weaker shoots being treated in proportion, cutting back to three, two, and one bud respectively. The buds will, of course, be noticeable as small red swellings on the rose's wood, and will be counted from the base of each shoot in order to find the place to begin pruning.
To prune standard roses, the same principle as to rather hard pruning holds good. Space will not here be devoted to the formation, by cutting back, of standard rose-trees, as the amateur will no doubt buy her standard roses already grown in form.
With regard to hybrid tea roses, suppose a cutting of one of these to have been planted and formed top and lower growth in the ordinary way, we should, the year after planting, move it to another place, and, in doing so, take care that the whole of the cutting stem is completely covered, leaving the subsequent growth above ground, and pruning back to one bud the weak-growing shoots of this. Strong branches will be produced the following spring, which will either be hard pruned - i.e., cut back two-thirds of their length-if a supply of good flowers is required, or cut back to one-third only if for "exhibition" blooms. The former process will give, of course, a good succession of beautiful flowers.
In the same way, a yearling grown on the seedling brier will have the leading shoot pruned back to five buds above the basal, and the side shoots shortened to two buds only. A two-year-old plant will be allowed two shoots on the leading branch, and one shoot only on the side branches. These latter will, therefore, be cut back to two buds, while the upper shoots are cut to three.
Great controversy exists on the subject of the pruning of rambler roses. The writer has seen the rambler roses of a famous amateur grower pruned back almost exactly in the fashion of a hybrid perpetual, but, of course, the general opinion is that climbing roses require little, if any, hard treatment. In any case, a tree in good flowering condition may have its flowering wood cut back to six buds, or to well-ripened wood below the flowering shoots after flowering is over.
It is of the greatest importance to keep the plant from being overcrowded with weakening side shoots, or with unripe growth, which should be cut away entirely.
The unceasing popularity of the Gloire de Dijon rose makes a special reference necessary to the system of pruning which may be employed. In the first place, the system of long pruning may be practised, by which flowered-out branches are entirely cut away, leaving the tree to form fresh flowering wood from its base, and this is undoubtedly very successful; but where space is limited plenty of fine flowers can be had by the second method, that of spurring b a c k - b e tt e r results, indeed, than those produced on the other plan. Spurring back, it need hardly be mentioned, implies that the side growths from branches are shortened to such an extent that only short stumps with a few buds are left, and from these will spring the flower-buds of next year. If any main stems from time to time assume a worn-out appearance, they should be cut back to a dormant bud and allowed to break afresh. The usual method with Gloire de Dijon roses consists in not pruning them at all, which is in most cases a pity. Where this rose is grown on the bush system, the main rods are shortened to the eighth or tenth shoot from the base, and the branches pegged down just above the pruning point.
The beautiful section of Penzance brier roses which is now so popular, must on no account be hard pruned, as this would result in the production of a great deal of flowerless wood. A certain amount of wood which has flowered should, however, be cut out annually to prevent overcrowding and its consequent evils, at the same time shortening the sappy tips of next year's canes, while side branches which have flowered may be cut back to the second bud above the base.
If the directions given in the article are followed carefully, a good supply of blooms will result