KENNEWICK -- It seems like almost all area gardeners grow roses if they have the space.
Gardeners who are particularly fond of roses seldom have just one shrub; more often it is 10, 20 or more.
Perhaps this overwhelming affection for roses is why gardeners ask so many questions about roses, including when to prune, how to prune, and how to manage rose pests and diseases.
The most common inquiry is regarding the best time to prune roses in the spring. Tri-City rose experts and specialists from across the country recommend waiting to prune until the yellow-flowering shrub forsythia is in full bloom.
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For impatient gardeners, it is hard to wait this long, especially when the leaf buds are swelling and appear ready to pop open. Waiting helps protect the plant from frost and cold damage that still can happen during late winter and early spring.
Roses tend to be forgiving shrubs, so you can pretty much prune them any time of the year without killing them.
However, pruning at the "wrong" time of year can weaken the plants.
Avoid pruning them right after they leaf out in the spring.
Roses also should not be pruned in late summer or early fall because it can stimulate new growth that wouldn't be ready for winter, making the plant more vulnerable to damage from cold winter temperatures.
What can be done about overgrown roses shrubs that haven't been pruned for a year or more? Get rid of them? There is no need to yank them out, but the tangled mess will be difficult to approach with just pruning shears and light-duty loppers. Brenda Viney of the Vancouver Rose Society (Canada) notes that the Royal National Rose Society in England recommends an "easy care method" of pruning for modern shrub roses.
This "easy care method" involves using a small chainsaw, hedge trimmer or pruners to simply cut rose shrubs back to half their height in the spring, ignoring any fine pruning to remove weak and twiggy canes.
She points out that the Royal National Rose Society indicates that these "roses flourish just as well as those pruned in the traditional method."
I know of some local gardeners who use a chainsaw to cut back their roses in the spring, and then they do a little cleanup pruning to open up the center of the shrub and remove old woody canes and any weak, spindly growth.
Using a small chainsaw or heavy-duty hedge trimmer might be the easiest way to cut back neglected roses and regain control. I would recommend pruning them back to about 10 to 18 inches in height and then pruning to open up their centers.
Want to learn more about caring for roses? There will be a basic rose care class at Spring Garden Day on March 10. Helen Newman, a Tri-City rose expert, will be teaching a class about Basic Rose Care.
Other scheduled classes include Straw Bale Gardening, Composting with Worms, Gardening with Kids, The World of Geraniums, Vegetable Garden Insects, Backyard Pond Basics, and Are Fruit Trees for You?
Spring Garden Day, sponsored by WSU Extension and the Master Gardeners, is a full day of gardening classes taught by local experts for local gardeners. The day starts with two great keynote presentations on "Hummingbirds and Backyard Birds in Your Garden" and "Favorite Old Plants ... New Again."
For a registration brochure, contact the WSU Extension office at 509-735-3551 or go to: http://county.wsu.edu/benton-franklin/gardening/general.
Hope to see you there.
* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.