By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
WELLAND – If in doubt about when to give your roses the annual autumn pruning, check to see what the City of Welland horticulture crew is up to.
When rose bushes on Parkway Drive or in Chippawa Park, for example, are cut back and have a mound of soil around their base, you know the time has come.
Lead hand Dave Steven and gardener Frank Reddon started this work in Chippawa Park on Monday.
Typically, the first week of November is when the city crew’s autumn pruning begins. It’s an annual ritual. There are a few reasons why this is done.
Cutting back the cane is important so the roots “don’t rock”, said Reddon. If left uncut, winter winds can whip canes back and forth, rocking can loosen the crown area and roots causing potential for damage.
Sanitation is another. The less leaf area, the less the disease area , said Steven. Disease can over-winter on leaves on the bush and on fallen leaves that collect in canes around the base.
Appearance is one other. A bush whose canes have been pruned looks neat and tidy and makes mounding easier. The subsequent mounding, or hilling up, helps insulate the crown area against cold conditions.
The two men also took time to show what’s involved in winter protection for climbing roses. This is labour intensive because it involves tying canes together before wrapping them in burlap and tying wrapped canes to fence posts.
The work is done later than autumn pruning, usually the first week of December when cold is here; canes wrapped early in layers of burlap could “roast” in weather like this week’s.
Regardless of the protection, nothing is “guaranteed” to get a rose through winter conditions.
“Think of it as added insurance,” Reddon said.
“You can’t control Mother Nature,” Steven added.
(Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City.)