Friday, May 25, 2012

The Zen of Rose Pruning: A Guest Post by Anne Welles

Anne Welles and I got to know each other through our mother/daughter book group.  During one of the meetings at her house, I couldn’t take my eyes off her her amazing garden, and wasn’t surprised to learn that she’s a professional landscape designer.    Last summer when I ran into her at the already-dearly-missed Matterhorn Nursery, she recommended several plants that are currently thriving in my shady backyard. Rose season is underway!  Since many of our area roses are either blooming or about to, here are some tips for a zen-like post-bloom pruning.

The Zen of Rose Pruning
I am not a rose expert.  Truthfully, I have never been a huge fan of roses.  However, I think I may actually owe my current passion for gardening to the three shrub roses that adorn my front yard.
The roses weren't my idea.  They were suggested by someone who was helping us with the yard after we first moved to this house.  I was at that time a garden newbie and very overwhelmed with two toddlers and a new, old house, both of which took up most of my waking (and "sleeping") hours.  For the first few years these three shrubs got pretty much no attention other than an occasional watering.  It wasn't until both my children were in school for at least part of the day that I opened my eyes and realized I had growing things in my yard.
By then the shrub roses were sizeable and, miraculously, blooming spectacularly.  I first took pruners to them just to remove the spent blooms when they started looking shabby.  To my delight, they responded by blooming again!  This was very gratifying.  As were the compliments I started getting from neighbors and passing dog-walkers.  "What amazing roses!" - uh, right!  It's just a talent I was born with I guess!  I found myself watching them, gauging when I would need to prune them next - when to time it so I only had to remove a few mature blooms in order to maintain the shape I liked the shrubs to have.
It was strange.  I was practically in a meditative state when I was pruning these shrubs.  Now, eight (!) years later, and content with my decision to be a landscape designer, I still learn something new every time I prune these roses.  It's actually very funny how many correlations you can make between pruning roses and navigating your life.  For example,
If you are working on one side of the shrub and you're not sure where - or if - you want to make a cut, it's best to walk around to another side and approach it from a different perspective.  Hmmm.
The deeper you get into the shrub, the more difficult it is to get back out - literally, because of the thorns.  Figuratively, well, you get it.
Don't leave a branch half cut or damaged - it will fester and rot.  It's better to make a clean cut even if you have to sacrifice blooms for this season, the shrub will be healthier for the years ahead.
What starts out looking like a completely overwhelming thorny tangle isn't so bad if you  approach it branch by branch - and take your time.  No one says you have to finish it all in one day!
Well, who needs a therapist when you have rose bushes to prune?  And by the way, don't forget to smell them!

Anne has provided a variety of design services for clients in Nyack, Valley Cottage, Blauvelt, Sleepy Hollow and Columbia County, NY.   She has been a resident of South Nyack, NY since 1992.  Her formal horticultural and design training was done at the New York Botanical Garden, however she also relies on her 19 years of experience living and gardening in Rockland County and her background as an environmental planner for the City of New York.    She is a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, the American Horticultural Society, the Nyack Parks Conservancy, the Nyack Garden Club, and Manitoga Woodland Landscape Council. Her website is at


k said...

You make roses sound so easy!
And it's funny - just reading about roses brings that perfume to mind.

the home tome said...

Love the connection between pruning and life! Sad to hear that Matterhorn has closed up shop, I visited a few times last year for inspiration.