Friday, October 26, 2012

Red thorns, brown thorns, no thorns…


I’ve had several people ask if the blood red thorns on my Rosa sericea ssp. omeiensis f. pteracantha (which from now on we’re just going to call the Wingthorn Rose) stay as vibrant all season. Sadly the answer is no. The photo above was taken sometime in June, with the new growth fresh and bright. The rest of these photos were taken on October 17th.

You can see many of the thorns are still just as red…

While others have started to lose their color…

And some have gone completely brown.

At the ends of several branches there are no thorns at all…

I don’t worry too much about the loss of color, because I know I’ll be cutting the plant back hard to stimulate the new colorful growth. But when to do that cutting? According to Annie’s Annuals: “To have the bloodiest show of thorns, prune the plants severely in winter to force more new growth, as the color of the thorns will fade as the growing season wears on, and the ferny foliage of the plant fills in.”

But Gossler Farms says “We cut our plants down to one foot each March.”

I guess March is technically still winter, but I was hoping for sometime like January. I am ignorant in the ways of the rose and would love to hear any advice you can share on when to do this severe pruning. My Wingthorn Rose has put on a lot of growth this year. In fact it’s kind of making me question it’s placement in the garden. I never dreamt it could get this big in one growing season; it’s even threatening the mailman. When can I chop?

40 comments:

  1. I also live in PDX and prune my roses at end of February or early March as weather permits. I do it when I see buds on the stems, but before the buds break.

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  2. I am not skilled in the way of the rose. But I know that of all the roses, yours is the coolest!

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  3. Loree, time to prune roses is really contingent on your date of last frost, and whether you get early bouts of warm weather to break dormancy followed by more freezing weather. At Annie's it's a zone 9b/10a climate with only light frosts, so January pruning provokes little fear of tender new rose shoots getting zapped by a hard freeze before March. I wouldn't be so confident of safe early pruning in PDX, but maybe your garden is safer to do so as early pruning wouldn't provoke too early bud break before last killing frost?

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    1. Thanks for the info Anon. It didn't even occur to me that Annie's would do things different because of their zone...mentally I'm a Californian you know...

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  4. I do all my major pruning in February, typically on Super Bowl weekend, because the date is easy to remember and it is usually warm (or warm-ish) that first weekend in February. In Portland the growing season starts in early February and it is considered spring (Cliff Mass agrees). Even the Sunset Western Garden book shows our growing season starting at this time. More importantly, it is nice to leave your plants unpruned in the winter for wildlife. Those branches look like safe perches for the birds as they search your garden for seeds.

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    1. And so that means your not watching the game? (haha) Super Bowl (or Valentines as others suggest) are great reminders, I like it!

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  5. The common wisdom with "fancy" roses is to prune somewhat in fall to prevent winter damage, then prune hard around the President's Birthday weekend, i.e. late February. Annie's is in a more temperate zone so their winter pruning recommendation may be the equivalent of March pruning up here. I wouldn't prune as early as January though, or you may stimulate new growth earlier than it would be safe from our weather.

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    1. I like the notion that I have a "fancy rose"...and maybe I'll go ahead and prune back the MLTI branch (most likely to impale).

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  6. My grandpa always said to prune roses on Valentine's Day, so that's what I do.

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    1. I to think Grandpa's tend to know what's best...

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  7. Late February - early March depending on the weather just like everyone else said. Whenever you do it, that full body armor you got for working with your spiky plants will come in handy!

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    1. Nah, that takes all the fun out of it! Besides those thorns are blood red for a reason.

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  8. Jane seems to have the right idea: prune just enough now to keep the mail carrier safe, then go for it in February. President's Day is my target, but if you prefer to hack at things on Valentine's Day...hmmm...

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    1. Agreed. I think I will follow the Jane plan...

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  9. Looks like a lost cause to me -- you'll never get that thing under control! The best solution would be to dig it up, stick it in a box and send to me immediately. Your mailman will be happy, I will be happy, and you... well 2 out of 3 ain't bad, right? ;-)

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    1. I will take this suggestion under consideration.

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  10. I'm sort of clueless about roses...and March is winter for most parts of the country, but around here, we're well into spring by then...and I could swear roses leaf out pretty early here. That being said, I think you'd be safe cutting back in February...but if you do see it budding earlier, there's no reason not to cut it back then.

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    1. I'm thinking of making a big "spring advent calendar" so I can start counting down the days to spring by ripping a big page off the fridge every morning....March 20th here I come!

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  11. Credits to you how we got to know of this most unusual and lovely rose :)

    Perhaps there are actually no hard or fast rules with regards to when exactly this rose needs to be pruned hard as long as its still within winter? Just to throw in to the mix, David Austin here prunes theirs at the end of November.

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  12. I agree with MulchMaid. I'm cutting mine back to about three feet tall by the end of this month and then I'll prune again around President's Day.

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    1. I love it when there is a consensus!

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  13. March is when we prune roses around here...but that seems kinda late for you guys. I generally do it right about when the buds start to break in the spring.

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    1. This will be a great opportunity for me to really pay attention to this plant and see just when the buds appear!

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  14. I'm in Seattle, and always prune between Valentine's and President's Day. I always feel like a torturous murderer, cutting them back like that, but they like it! :)

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    1. A "torturous murderer"...that's pretty serious language!

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  15. Sounds like you got a lot of different dates! It won't hurt to cut it back a little now if it's starting to grab someone (just not a lot). The pruning date does depend upon your frost date. And the best advice is when the forsythias bloom in your area, then that is the time to prune. Here (zone 8), it's around Valentine's day, but if you want a hard date for your region, instead of looking for the forsythia blooms, you may want to call the local rose society and ask them. Of course, they will insist upon coming by to see this unusual and wonderful specimen!

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    1. Hey that's a great idea! As long as they don't ask me to join. I'm a rose-hater really...

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  16. I'd do early March, the first week. I doubt you can ever kill that thing.

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    1. Yikes! That sounds like a challenge!

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  17. thats the coolest danger plnat yet....I love it!

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  18. fantastic looking plant!... so nature is teaching us about "doubly sure", extra effort on protection with different set of thorns... so nature asks us not to take life lightly.... Hmmmmm...

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    1. The brown thorns are much tougher too.

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  19. What a fabulous rose. Love, love, love those red thorns

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  20. i love that you have the glaucous grass? next to it. Can you grow Fothergilla?F. Blue Shadow is fantastic blue and if you grew your rose up though it, you could do some serious plantsman fooling!

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