The pruning of roses is one of the most satisfying jobs of the year: that complex tangle of growth and thorns lopped clean off, and the remaining plant ordered and set up neatly for next year’s growth. We can briefly enjoy the fantasy of the perfectly cup-shaped shrub that will arise from our pruning without the messy and inconvenient reality of actual plant growth.
You also can’t go wrong with rose pruning: they always produce flowers on the current year’s growth so whether you hack haphazardly or snip delicately you will still have roses next year. Set to without fear.
Clearly, if you have a bush rose that is festooned with glossy hips or looks like it could produce a few last miracle winter roses you might want to hang on, but shrubby roses do benefit from having a chop at this time of year. That big bush of top growth acts like a sail in autumn and winter winds and when the plant is rocked the roots can be damaged and can send up suckers.
Remove about two thirds of the growth, just like that. If that is all you have time for then that will do, but a more considered pruning will create better airflow through the plant next year, so helping to reduce incidence of disease, and allowing the stems to ripen up and produce more flowers. Next you should completely cut out any growth that is crossing the centre of the plant, and anything that is damaged or diseased, so reducing the remnants of this year’s congestion.
Then finally, godlike, you can make a move on future congestion and command next year’s growth do your bidding: cut each remaining stem to an outward-facing bud, so forcing it to grow outwards rather than inwards, and – hopefully – creating that ideal goblet shape.
The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2018 by Lia Leendertz (Unbound, £9.99) is out now. To order your copy for £7.99 plus p&p call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk