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Gardening with Gael - Pruning always a thorny issue



Lady of Shalott rose-823This time last year I moved all the roses from around my garden where they were being devastated by possums. After pruning, my friend Jan and I moved them into a new walled area with a wire netting roof, safe from their destruction.

It worked. Safe from their predators the roses flourished. Some varieties that I thought were of medium height or smaller (possibly due to their inability to outgrow their raider) sent out canes that penetrated the roof. The mild periods during the winter served to only promote their growth. Box went in to sprinkle some ash from the fire around their stems. Canes reached out and plucked at his shirt from every angle. He was reluctant to return.

Here in the North it is advisable to wait till August to prune, and, thanks to a few fine days, I have begun. The roses had grown over the paths and into each other. It was hard to know where to start. Last year my friend Jan, armed with her wire brush, helped prune and transplant. This year I bought my own wire brush from Mitre 10 and, armed with a clean sharp pair of secateurs I ventured in.

I find that the best way to approach is to start with any dead wood, cut it out, then approach overlapping canes and ones growing across the centre. Carefully select an outward facing bud.

Having all the roses in one area has really helped. Once cut well back, and I have been quite severe, I realise there are some that appear to be climbers. They will need transplanting to the back against the fence. Now is the right time to transplant and feed them.

The wood ash from the wood burner that Box was spreading contains potassium and lime. Potassium regulates the plant water balance and helps transport food within the plant. The soil around my roses is quite acidic and the wood ash will help balance that. It is also good in the compost where it aids fertility. I plan to sprinkle some around the hydrangeas that I am determined to turn pink. I’ll use it to support the lime already sprinkled around the stems. The wood ash is no good around acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and blueberries.

It is also good for most root vegetables. Every article I have read about it warns against using wood ash around potatoes. During the winter we have lots of ash and I also sprinkle it around the fruit trees and my hibiscus. With the roses all pruned it is once again safe to venture in and we have a bucket of ash ready to be applied.

During the pruning I noticed evidence of black spot on the remaining leaves, an unfortunate bi-product of planting the roses all together. Prevention is best if possible by removing all the damaged leaves and spraying with conqueror oil and copper. I’ll also be taking note of the roses that show resistance.

A member of my whanau, Abi, gave me a gift voucher for Sciadopitys Garden Centre (Whangarei) at Christmas and I ordered a beautiful Austin rose called Lady of Shalott. I’ve only seen pictures of this enchanting rose so I am looking forward to seeing the first blooms this season. It is reputed to be a border plant, strong, vigorous, disease resistant and with masses of chalice-shaped apricot blooms that are repeated over the entire season.

PRIZED: Lady of Shalott, striking in rich apricot-yellow bloom.

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