by Frances Ballentine
(From The Charleston Rose, March 1999)
This year's unseasonably warm winter has played havoc with spring pruning It looked like pruning time early in February, with most of the roses leafing out. Was it really time to prune?
Sandy Lundberg, in our Sandy's Garden feature, advised us to let Mother Nature, and not the calendar, tell us when to prune. "It is time to prune when the bud eyes become red and slightly swollen. '
In the Lowcountry, we normally prune from mid to late February, finishing in the first week of March. Pruning too early risks exposure to late winter freezes- pruning late wastes vigorous new growth. Exhibitors usually prune to produce exhibition roses for our peak rose show season (early to mid-May).
At the Midwinter meeting, I asked Dr. Satish Prabhu about pruning timetables this year: Prune early because of the early leafing out? Wait until the danger of freezes is past? Prune late for best spring rose shows blooms?
"If you don't prune at all because the bushes have too much top growth because of unseasonably warm weather, you will have lots of small blooms on spindly apical growth. But you will be able to prune moderately in the fall and still have great blooms for the fall season.
" I have experienced some success by pruning early halfway: instead of the usual 18 inches, I may prune down to 24 to 30 inches. If the season ends without any more freezes, I will be okay with early yet good blooms. Should late freezes kill back the canes somewhat, there will be enough left to prune again during our usual spring pruning times. So that is what I would recommend for this unusually warm season."
Remember, Nature has a way of healing man's mistakes!