First Rose pruning in an English climate. My little English darling.

Roses. My love for them is endless.  When I used to live in South Africa, with a large garden, I must have had over a hundred rose bushes scattered throughout. Growing, pruning and watching them bloom was heaven sent.

Remember those days of my parent’s generation when a garden always had ‘a rose garden?’ A little allocated plot for cramming all the hybrids into one area, usually with a small pathway criss-crossing between them?  And of course, looming between the Papa Meillands and Double Delights were always the sturdy, dependable Queen Elizabeth roses with their pink blooms.  Remember that? My mother-in-law used to live on a farm and the local deer would love to decimate her rose garden (one stop nibbling destination) so she would spread human hair around them as a deterrent.  Some of us do love our roses!

When I started gardening in my own home, the trend was to integrate roses throughout your landscape.  Mixing hybrids with floribundas, miniatures and standards – creating swathes of complimentary, blocked colours to avoid the smarties all at the same time effect. Good old dependable, and still one of my favourites, were my icebergs.


I could go on and on about my gardens, three in total, that I poured my love into back then.  Inspired by Piet Oudolf with his roses and grasses combined, with David Austin, Ludwig’s roses – and of course, all the loving transferred to all the pruning, come winter.  It was a military operation, counting some days, tactics observed, sealing of stems, spraying of lime sulphur till you could not take it anymore – but I loved every second of it.

Now, of course, I live in a tiny flat in London and have but one rose.  David Austin’s Litchfield Angel.

And what a beauty she is.  Prolific bloomer, colours of cream and white, smells of cinnamon.  Since she is my first rose baby, I want to keep her alive and do the pruning just right.  A flashback comes to mind.  Many years ago, still pruning like an officer in my own garden,  I was visiting Queen Mary’s garden in Regent’s Park.  Unlike our individual operations on each stem, a tractor came along, and simply sheared all the bushes at a standard height – and off he went. No looking for this node, that angle, just woosh and it was done. Taught me something and I am inclined to feel more liberal this time, but not quite that flamboyant with the shears just yet. So, first things first – the seasons are back to front in my new life (like a lot of things) and pruning is now late February/March.  

There are many tips on how to prune roses on various websites and Youtube.  My appointment is going to be relatively simple to execute:

  • As it is an Old English Rose, gentle pruning is required.
  • Aim for a vase shape and as it is her first year, do not cut back too harshly.
  • Prune any old, diseased and inward growing stems to create an open and free space within.
  • Remove all foliage for less chance of disease.
  • If you choose, spray with Lime Sulpher (mixed with water) to protect the early growth.
  • Sealing of stems is not required in England (and don’t ask me why but this seems to be the general consensus on all rose pruning now.  Any comments and ideas on this one?)
  • Continue light watering and don’t allow the soil to dry out.

By spring the little angel should be budding and ready to bloom.

As I was chatting about cutting the Apron Strings, cutting my little Litchfield Angel will be fine. I intend to find more space to garden again, I need a garden in my life … so dreams in the making.

Images: David Austin, Pintrest