Souvenir de la Malmaison buds
2008–02-10. A couple of weeks after stripping off the old leaves, new buds form.

February 10th, 2008
Stripping Roses

In Austin winters are sometimes so mild that we can have roses blooming all year long. December is often a very good month for roses. January less so. By February the roses are gearing up for a big spring show. I always try to have my roses pruned, fed and mulched before Valentine’s day, especially during a particularly mild winter as this one has been.

The problem in Austin is that it doesn’t get cold enough for many of the roses to drop their leaves and go dormant.
Souvenir de la Malmaison leaves
Last year’s leaves are ratty and prone to disease.
Souvenir de la Malmaison leaves
The new buds are forming but the old leaves haven’t fallen off.

Therefore, I follow a process suggested by rosarian Ray Reddell (I can’t find the link online anymore). I strip last year’s leaves off the roses, wait a couple of weeks to see where the new buds are forming, and then prune accordingly.

Souvenir de la Malmaison new growth
Stripping off the old leaves forces growth on the new leaves into overdrive.

As usual, I’m behind. For example, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is already putting out new buds. I spent part of this weekend stripping off the old leaves, pruning, and to re-tying the new canes to the trellis. I also did ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, and ‘Heritage’. The ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Red Cascade’ roses lost their leaves naturally but still require pruning. ‘Ducher’ is always bushy and full this time of year and doesn’t need stripping.

Of course, the biggest gamble is timing. A hard freeze is still possible for another month in Austin. Is winter really over for 2008 or is worse yet to come? And will it come just as the roses are putting out their tender new growth? Although I’m sure we’ll have a few more freezes, I’m betting that the we’ve seen the worst of winter this year.