Best Time To … Prune a Rosebush

The best time to prune a rosebush is when the wife ain’t looking.

Last February, I came home to a side garden bereft of a rosebush and surrounding English Ivy.

“Lawd have meercy Honey!  You’ve wacked the poor thing down the ground!  I ain’t gonna have any pretty pink roses for years!”  My Southern accent thickening with emotion.

“I told you I was gonna trim it.  It will be OKYou’ll have a rosebush by spring.”  His “Mad Wife Meter” was at red alert.

“Fine.  If it doesn’t, you’ll just have to buy me some pink roses.”  I walked away shaking my head in disbelief, repeatedly mumbling “Lawd have mercy.”

seven-sisters-roses (1)
Seven Sisters climbing rose. Image credit Rose Galore .com

For several winters, my husband had stared woefully at a mass of old thorny canes from the rosebush sprawling along the garden wall.  Poking and prodding the vegetation with his walking stick, he’d warned:

“This rosebush really needs to be cut back this winter.  Waaay back.  All this old growth needs pruning out.  And all this ivy is choking out what little rosebush we have left!  If you don’t feel like pruning it.  I’ll do it.”

I didn’t.

He did.

I couldn’t believe my husband actually cut down the antique Seven Sisters rosebush that my Momma gave me.  So like any sensible, middle-age woman, I pouted and grimaced each time I passed the stubby remnants.

Then I happened upon this passage in a 1950s gardening book:

“In pruning shrubs with a loose natural-growing habit, old stems are cut clear to the ground if thinning seems necessary.” (10,000 Garden Questions: Answered by 20 Experts)

Today’s featured sketch was inspired by the accompanying illustration.

Cropped Pruning
Pruning. Watercolor wash and ink.

With the weather finally warming up,  the rosebush has been vigorously sprouting new growth.  Can’t wait until May.  I’ve been promised bouquets of fragrant pink flowers.


BTW: Seven Sisters roses can be easily spotted growing wild along many roadways of Georgia.  Learn more at Roses