Fun with pruners.

A few weeks ago I visited a city park that had tall pillar roses all pruned and anchored on their stands, ready for next spring. I am very sensitive and impressionable and I immediately thought of my own two delinquent pillar roses which tend to grow like uncontrolled explosions.  Right then and there I resolved that in January these neglected roses should be properly pruned.

Which of course had about a 50/50 chance of getting done.

But a miracle happened–today the weather was bright and balmy and I was drawn outside to the winter garden. (Or perhaps I was just avoiding cleaning up the house after the holidays.)

“Max,” I said, “let’s whack those roses–or, you know, train the the canes to perfection.” Max would have agreed to doing most anything outdoors this lovely day, so we got ready.


I found the wheelbarrow, my leather gloves, the hand pruners, twine, scissors and, most especially, Mr. O’s secret roll of baling wire.

Actually the bailing wire has been in the kitchen since it was recently pressed into service by some creative family members when we couldn’t find the star for the top of the Christmas tree. They made a new star from the wire, wrapped with some tinsel stuff –it was perfect and will do for years–and the wire of course was still in the kitchen today.

(The Christmas tree is still in the parlor, for that matter, but I do not wish to discuss that right now.)

baling wire

So I had the wire located. This is huge.

I used to have my own whole roll of baling wire, kept in the old wood fruit box that serves as a greenhouse drawer. The wire was so useful in the garden, to support horizontal grape vines and hanging pots and a million other things. I used it all the time until one day I had used it all up. So I went back to the farm store but they didn’t sell it anymore.

(Honestly it is just like when, after maybe fifteen years of wasted money you finally find a color of lipstick, called something like Warm Peach, and it doesn’t make you look like a corpse and you decide you love it and use it up and  you go back but then all they have are these great new colors, Moldy Plum and Knife Cut Red…)

Somehow, Mr. O does still have a roll of baling wire. “I am happy to share it,” he will say, just before he puts it away in his shop in an Undisclosed Location. So having it in hand was a big break.

The roses are both American Pillar, a 1902 variety bred for pillorying– I mean pillaring, or possibly pillarizing…  For years there was just one of these plants, sprawled on the ground, planted by some previous owner.  We eventually divided it, so it would have a friend.  Then Mr O built some sacrificial looking structures out of old well pipe,  and since then I have more or less encouraged both roses to stand up and be tall.

American Pillar rosesHere they are last summer: tons of single hot pink blossoms with white centers, but no fragrance at all, which did not help them get my attention.

I have enjoyed these roses as they just casually leaned against their pillars, kind of a James Dean approach to rose presentation, but I have always wanted to try to “train” them, which sounds like they might do tricks that could go viral on YouTube but really it just means they should be a little organized relative to their support structure.

unpruned pillar roseHere is one of the roses this afternoon, before I cut it back at all. Notice the lovely day– I don’t think I am completely responsible…

pruned pillar roseHere is the first one, clipped and tied up. There is a second cross support at the top, so the rose can do a turn, but most of the canes were too short. I used twine and the precious baling wire to anchor them and direct them.

I had just completed work on the first of the two roses when Mr O appeared on the scene, rushing by really, on his way to somewhere else. But, so characteristic of him, he took a moment out of his busy day to be supportive: “Jesus honey you cut the shit out of it.”

It is just so wonderful the way people can inspire and encourage each other. Some people can. I’ve heard of such people…somewhere.

Undaunted, I whacked the other bush.

So whatever I’ve done, I’ve done it by two, so at least it will appear intentional, which is sometimes a virtue.

pruned rosesHere are the two roses, pruned into submission. Breathtaking, especially with the vibrant vegetable garden background…


These are the trimmings from the first rose, in the wheelbarrow. I managed to put another whole rose-worth on top of that, and Max and I took it out to the pasture where it will get mowed up in the spring.

Soon after, the wind rose and dark clouds arrived for a  night of rain. I went inside to care for my rose wounded hands (leather gloves aren’t bullet-proof)  and box up the Christmas decorations. The garden is safe until the next break in the weather…


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in Max the Westie, roses and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Fun with pruners.

  1. Rose pruning frightens me in case they don’t recover. We had a climber in front of our oil tank to hide it from view. The winds last month broke the trellis and the rose sprawled on the floor, so my beloved chopped it right down to the ground. Gasp! At least I can blame him if it doesn’t re-grow. Are you going to train your two pillar roses into an arch?

    • linniew says:

      Elaine, your rose will regrow. Roses are tough cookies. Especially climbers, with roots you can’t possibly ever find the end of by digging. The only danger is that the root stock might grow up, on a grafted bush, which is one of the reasons I like roses on their own roots. My two roses are each to perform a nice twisted form on the individual supports (theoretically), so no, no arches here. I do love rose arches. Maybe someday…

  2. Greggo says:

    Looks like a memorial to me.

  3. Greggo says:

    Just trying to encourage like Mr. O.

  4. Roberta says:

    Good to hear that you are keeping active in the garden. I don’t like the idea of being sequestered away until March due to the cold. I like to get out in the chill air and sun to dig around a little bit. Max, Max, Max. That is one absolutely lovely little dog you have there. He looks ready to go! My little Baby looks like that. We call her The Commissioner , or the Commish for short. All business, that girl. In fact, she’s staring at me right now wondering why we aren’t locking up the hens. Your rose is beautiful in the summer and will only benefit from the care you gave it today. And what’s with all of the raised beds I see in the background? All empty?! I’d love to have so many but that is a project for another day.

    • linniew says:

      The only thing Max ever stares at me about is his dinner. Clearly the Commissioner has broader interests. Thanks for the confidence about the rose– I do have hope. That bunch of raised beds is my summer vegetable garden. Right now I have garlic sprouting out there, and parsley hanging on. I know you have a winter garden growing! I tried that last year, and the disappointment was…deep. I must wait for spring!

  5. Roberta says:

    There’s nothing more humbling than a garden fail. Know your strengths, I say. Stick with the summer beds.

  6. Holleygarden says:

    Your roses are beautiful! They had so many blooms! And I bet they look even more fabulous next year. I’m itching to get my pruners out, too, but am afraid it’s a bit early. But, maybe, I’ll do just one or two – surely that would be o.k.! I think you just talked me into starting my pruning now!

    • linniew says:

      Your confidence is appreciated Holley. (SOME people around here have what could only be characterized as DOUBTS.) And I should add that those poor pillars are the only ones to get pruned so far. I have roses everywhere, mixed into the beds. waiting. In fear maybe. But fortunately for them the weather lost its softness–we had rain and now cold, so they are safe a while longer.

  7. b-a-g says:

    Mr. O. scored a point for being willing to share his bailing wire but then lost it when I scrolled down.

    • linniew says:

      I’m afraid his remarks just made me laugh–must be how we get along. I’ll tell him he’s lost points with you though and maybe then he will build my garden gate.

  8. Grace says:

    I like American Pillar. It’s such a pretty rose. Truthfully I think you did a fabulous job on pruning the roses. They really do need a swift kick when they get unruly. As you know it’s the nature of gardening [pun intended] that forces us to wait six months before having our efforts appreciated. I hope your hands heal.

    • linniew says:

      Yay, a point for my team! You probably gathered that I walked Max among the roses at Bush Park in Salem, Gracie, where I found the inspiration to get pushy about pruning–there are a bunch of pillar roses in the formal garden in that park. I prefer roses sort of mixed in with the rest of the garden I think. I will likely post again about this pruning issue in the summer, unless it turns out really terrible, in which case I will forget.

  9. Alberto says:

    Vibrant background? You really have a great immagination sometimes… 🙂
    Anyway you could plant a third rose and then you cross it and you are ready for Easter.
    But the best part of all is when you gave words to mr O: I think this was his first speech ever in your blog, wasn’t it? And such deep words… I nearly fell from the chair laughing!

    • linniew says:

      And now you know why I have never actually quoted Mr O before– I’m glad you appreciated the humor Alberto. But I did not need that remark about Easter… And I do know the vegetable garden looks post-apocalyptic. How are we gardeners to endure these bleak times? I guess in this instance I took it out on the roses. Oh they’ll be fine, you’ll see. (And if they aren’t fine you won’t see.)

      • Alberto says:

        I’m gonna mark this post, as a reminder, so I can hold it against you next may or june… Beware!
        Anyway go on and get rid of all those useless Xmas decorations. I hope all the people will do the same so we can get over Christmas and look forward to spring!

  10. Linnie, you always crack me up!

    The roses before pruning look fabulous – personally I like that sorta wild look that not-overtrained roses have. But it looks like you did a good prune job on those two – look forward to seeing them when they get going again in spring!

    • linniew says:

      Hi there Christine! Yes I didn’t have a big problem with the pillar roses in their previously undisciplined state, but I have always wanted to try that DNA strand twist thing, and it was such a nice mild day… These roses grow all summer, so I feel certain they will obscure my winter efforts, and I will get distracted with cucumber vines and ferns and new beds and not keep up with them and by the end of July you will never know I pruned them at all. But for now it felt so wonderful to be outside doing a gardening activity; it kept me relatively sane for one more day.

  11. I think your poor husband was just stating the obvious, but I know nothing about rose pruning (and am bad with pruning of any kind) so I am sure the drastic change was probably warranted. The photo of the roses in bloom is glorious.

    • linniew says:

      Yes Carolyn I am so glad you got to see that old photo of the roses before the massacre. I mean maintenance. Mr O does have a way with incisive articulation and in this case he kind of nailed it. Goodbye for now, I must go pray to the god of abused shrubs.

  12. Sheila says:

    The few times I’ve whacked shrubs back they have regrown better than ever. I wish humans were so resilient. One time I tried to kill a rose of sharon tree with a climbing rose entangled in it, to free the rose to climb up the side of the house. I cut the rose of sharon back to about a foot above the ground in spring. By July it was at least as big as it was before – and it even bloomed that summer. Take that, Mr. O!

    • linniew says:

      Hi Sheila
      Thank you for the fortifying testimonial! In my heart of hearts I KNOW that these roses will grow miles in summer, but it is nice to hear from another believer.

  13. Alistair says:

    Hi Linnie, the American pillars sure looked great in the Summer and even though they now look prepared for crucifixion I am sure they will rise again and be beautiful. Wid yi tak yer tree doon. alistair.

    • linniew says:

      Dear Alistair,
      My response was delayed while I hiked the hills to the stone tower where I consulted my Guru of Scottish Linguistics, Professor Kininvie.

      Wid yi tak yer tree doon, he said, is a reference to removal of my Christmas tree. (Now that is not such a difficult translation to guess, but the roses confused me.) Further, he said you were just being polite by omitting “the necessary admonitory exclamatory postcript of ‘wumman’, as in ‘Wud ye tak yir tree doon, wumman!'” Is this true Alistair? Were you just being polite, or are you feeling outnumbered in terms of blogging genders and possibly fearful of the aftermath?

      But wait! The Professor suggested a kind underlying motivation on your part. “Why Alistair is concerned, is of course due to the well-known Aberdonian belief that bogles – or maybe even the ‘deil himsel’ can conceal themselves behind the baubles on a Christmas tree that is left standing after 12th night, and carry off your immortal soul (which would be a pity).” My first response here was to stare at “Aberdonian” for a while. Is that a word? And then I was moved that Kininvie felt my eternal damnation would be “a pity” — what an old softie he is.

      Finally, his suggestion for my appropriate Aberdonian response: ‘Ye can tak yir neb oot ‘o my neeps’ which he says means Happy New Year…

      Thanks Alistair! I just learn so much here –Linnie

      • Alistair says:

        Ha,ha, why don’t I come back more often to check for replies. I think our casual manner in which it may look like we are insulting others is in fact a term of endearment. K is right the inclusion of Wummin would have been appropriate and would have rounded it off more thoroughly. You are correct I am feeling outnumbered by wimmin, (which is plural for wummin) but my attempt to address this problem seems fruitless. Bogles! naw never heard of that, boggies on the other hand are ghosties and creatures of the night, on the other hand they are also things which one may find sticking up ones nose. (Ye can tak yer neb oot o my neeps) never heard of it although it has more a ring of, mind yer ain bloody business.

        • linniew says:

          I must admit that as a ‘wummin’ I would not have been insulted by the complete version of that demand. I fear I sent along the wrong closing quote from Kininvie. It should have been ‘and have a guid yin yirsel’ (happy new year). — And actually he totally made up that part about 12th Night and the devil, but I really liked it so I wanted to share. Thanks for participating in the questionable discussions here Alistair– you are brave and much appreciated.

        • kininvie says:

          Hello Alistair,

          Aye, tak yer neb oot o’ my neeps is ane authentic hame-grown sayin’ fer ‘mind yer ain bloody business’ as ye richtly speired. Jist how Linnie cam to so tae misinterpret is a mystery, gin I telt her tae wish ye a guid yin to you an yer ain.

  14. David says:

    That picture of Max is very nice!

    Nice pruning work too. I’m sure your rose will be spectacular this summer. We have these hideous wild roses with the most horrific thorns. They’re impossible to control and grow back with a vengeance whenever we attempt to tame them.

    • linniew says:

      Hi David
      I know you love flowers…but I do think roses are closer to being a brambly wild thing than they are to being say a pansy. Especially the climbing roses. So really one must just take some vitamins, sharpen the pruning shears and be brave. I hope.

  15. Bridget says:

    There is an old saying that “One should let one’s enemies prune one’s Roses”. !!

  16. You have to be brave and, once having become ruthless, if you are me – you have to be careful you don’t become murderous. I have some gloves which are ‘thorn resistant’. They are thinner than my leather ones (which aren’t very thick) and do seem to protect the hands better. Don’t know how they manage it. Looking forward to seeing what the roses look like when they flower. The photos suggest they will look very impressive.

    • linniew says:

      Well yes Esther I have become murderous I am afraid. Just today the sky was sunny and I pruned a few bush roses. Short. And then shorter, which I expect = murderous. Nice clean short limbless canes.

      I hugely appreciate your confidence about the pillar roses looking well next summer. I guess I will have to report no matter what the outcome, now that I’ve made such an issue of it. –If the flowers in my “after” photos are a different color don’t worry about it ok?

  17. cynthia says:

    Pruning always feels a little cruel to me. i can hear the plants in my head: “Ow! Stop that! Ouch!” They do usually look better next summer. I try to remind them of this as I work. Alas, they are always focused on the now.

  18. Good for you, Linnie! I really must do that to mine as well – although, they seem to grow and provide lush blooms in spite of me each year. They would be happier with a nice pruning.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Debra! You are so right. What plants want is attention. And what I want is something gardeny to do outside in deep winter. Pruning is the obvious answer. If the winter were longer I suppose there would be no plants left around here…

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