It wasn’t until a few weeks after we moved in that I realized the task before me in regards to cleaning up the yard. Sure, I saw the trash and weeds and old junk piles and mouldering lawn clippings. But that stuff was easy to see. What hid from my eyes were the established plants in the yard.
There aren’t any substantial trees, there are no monstrous holly bushes, and very little blackberry brambles. There’s no comfrey or bamboo or even many dandelions. Even though the yard was neglected recently, it seemed to be fairly low-maintenance. I was quite thankful.
But then I saw them — more than 25 overgrown and diseased rose bushes. Shit. Where do I start? I know nothing about roses.
Sure, I have bought a couple here and there, planted them in the yards of rental houses. Never got much from them. I’ve tried pruning, but it was always more out of necessity than maintenance (i.e., the branches were going to slice open my children’s eyes if I didn’t cut them back).
After desperately searching the internet, and even contacting my local rose society for a (hopeful, but never to occur) lesson, there were few hard-and-fast rules that I learned. I had to just dive in. This is what I learned:
- Prune after Jan. 1 and try to complete before February (ha!). Since most roses are very hardy in this area, and we have little winter weather to worry about, the goal was to get the pruning complete before too much new growth began.
- If a bush is taking more than 15 minutes, I’m spending too much time on it.
- Even though I used wood glue on the cuts for the first three bushes (to prevent disease), the process was going to drastically affect my productivity. If these overgrown and neglected bushes couldn’t make it through my first pruning, then I didn’t want to keep them anyway.
- I have over 20 bushes. Are there some that are not in an ideal location? Dig them out. Seriously. I don’t care what kind of flowers those inconvenient bushes have.
I managed to prune 18 of the 21 bushes in the front yard, and we pruned down completely (but haven’t yet dug) three bushes that were in the back yard. We did leave a couple on the far fence, but I wanted to de-thorn the back yard as much as possible for the kids’ safety and comfort (and mine!).