February 3rd, 2002
Defoliating Roses

The Rose Bible.
Rayford Clayton Reddell.
Chronicle Books. San Francisco. 1998.

In a couple of weeks, we will begin pruning roses here in Austin (zone 8). To prepare, Rayford Clayton Reddell suggests that we defoliate the rose to encourage the growth of new eyes (from which new roses will grow). With the roses defoliated, it is also easier to see how the rose should be pruned and a good time to spray them.

This idea makes a lot of sense in Austin. Almost none of my roses have lost their leaves from last year. These leaves are tattered, bug-eaten, and in the case of a couple of roses, beginning to suffer from black spot and mildew.

I begin with Madame Alfred Carriere. She is climbing up a wire trellis on the south wall of the house and scarcely realizes that winter has come and is almost gone. She has already sprouted an abundance of new growth, almost half an inch long. I hope that a late hard freeze won’t kill the tender leaves. (She can stand any light frosts, as the stones on the wall behind her hold the heat of the winter sun.)

I untie her and cut out dead wood and reweave and retie her. This is only her second year with me and her thin branches are almost six feet long and pliable enough to work. The more I strip and prune, the more I see to strip and prune. I do not prune her as hard as one might prune hybrid teas, because she is a climber and a noisette.

Have you ever tried defoliating before pruning? If so, how did it work for you?

by M Sinclair Stevens

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