I promised a post about cutting back roses. I don’t actually grow any roses that have to be cut back at the moment. Everything I grow is technically deemed a “shrub” rose which means that in the spring that only dead wood is trimmed off.
But it wasn’t always this way. I used to grow hybrid teas on occasion. And the first roses I ever grew were floribundas, which is a funky cross between a hybrid tea and a shrub rose.
They grew quite well considering they were in heavy clay and in a spot that wasn’t the sunniest I had (they were where the hydrangea hedge is now so that tells you it wasn’t a terribly sunny spot!). But the interesting thing was that the Spoiler and I chose them and planted them together–one of the few gardening things that we actually did together. Usually it’s all me.
So about November of that first gardening year, the Spoiler came to me and asked, “Aren’t you going to cut back the roses?” or “Isn’t it time to cut back the roses?” or some such question. Needless to say, I looked at him as if he had sprouted 3 heads. I certainly don’t do any gardening in November. And I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about.
He was fairly persistent about this. “You have to cut them back. It’s what you do,” he told me. And although I began to feel like a cranky three year old, I asked him, “Why?”
“Well, if you don’t, they’ll all whip around in the wind and die back.”
At that point, I really felt as if I had entered some alternate reality. You were cutting a living plant back because you didn’t want it to die? Who invented that rule?
So I tried logic with him. “Let’s try it my way. Let’s not cut them back. That way if a 5 foot shrub whips around and dies back, we might start with a 3 foot shrub next spring. If we do it your way and cut them back to a 3 foot shrub now, what happens if we have a hard winter and the plant dies back anyway? We’ll be starting with a 1 foot plant. Do we really want that?”
So we tried it my way. And gradually, because of sun issues, we moved the rose garden out near the street where the roses regularly get blasted by the snow plows. And we still don’t cut them back. And they survive just fine–a little bit of breakage from the heavy snow thrown by the plows, but nothing terrible.
So if you have a good reason for doing something in the garden, try it. What’s the worst that could happen? A plant dies, perhaps? Isn’t that how we all learn as gardeners?