The War of the Roses

No, not the movie. Not the war between the Houses of Lancaster and York either. But my annual battle with my idiotic desire to try to garden - specifically to try to grow roses. Two years ago, I purchased these with the thought process that, if you believe the little blurbs in the catalog and the conventional wisdom of other gardeners in the area, I should have no problem getting them to grow and thrive in my full-sun front yard.

Here's where the dilemma comes in and why, dear readers, I am soliciting your wisdom. I figure someone, somewhere out there, must be able to help me out.

When I got the roses, I scoured conventional wisdom looking to figure out when you're supposed to cut them back. (I guess at least it's good I know you're supposed to cut them back.) The first year, I thought it was supposed to be after the first hard frost in and around the October timeframe. Well, frankly, I forgot to do it. So then, I thought I had to wait until the next year. In August of this year I did some more research just to try and firm up when I needed to do the cut backs and long story short, the new conventional wisdom I found said late February or early March.

Ok, fine. So the other day I was out looking at something in the front yard and noticed that my dang roses were starting to pop out leaves. Well, this can't be a good thing since I haven't cut them back yet. I imagine part of it is the crazily warm weather we've been having the DC area of late but now I just don't know what to do.

So...today, because I needed to do something to blow off steam and figured that lopping off stems with sharp pruners just might do it, I went ahead and cut back my roses.

My questions are these:
1) Did I just kill the dang things (since they were starting to grow)?
2) Anyone know when I was actually supposed to cut them back? October? March? Some other month or weather-based timeframe?
3) What happens if it continues to be warm, I somehow didn't manage to kill them by cutting them back, they start to grow and then we hit a cold snap and it freezes again?
4) Do you think there's any possibility that my homeowner's assocation would let me rip out every growing thing in my front "garden beds" and just make a rock garden? I have a feeling I might not screw that up.



  1. Here in Kansas I usually prune my roses around the middle of March. I grow mostly hybrid teas, which bloom from May to the first hard freeze. Old-fashioned varieties and shrub roses that bloom only once a year I prune immediately after flowering and then leave alone. I have no experience with the Brownell roses, but if they're hybrid teas then you probably didn't do any harm by cutting them back today. It's possible that you may lose some new growth if there is extreme cold in the next few weeks, but the plants will regenerate quickly once the weather warms up for real. A rock garden can be elegant, but it requires patience: rocks grow slowly.

  2. Thanks, Don. I'll keep my fingers crossed then that I didn't do any significant damage. Of course, last night it dropped below freezing and generated some nice frost. Typical.

    I'm thinking maybe rocks are the way to go though - don't think my black thumb would hurt them any. :)

  3. Anonymous10:31 AM

    I agree with Don. I have grown roses for many years. I've always waited until March, or where I come from, whenever the Forsythia is in bloom, to prune my bushes. Reason being, that when your roses go into hybernation in the winter, they need the nutrients from the branches and leaves they've been growing all season pull back into the root ball. It helps sustain them through the winter. If you cut it all off in the fall, your roses stand a chance to not be as wonderful in the spring.

    Good luck! Roses take alot of care and pampering! Take pictures of them when they bloom so we can all see them!!

  4. Thanks Beth! If I managed not to murder the things, I will take pictures.

    I have a suspicion though that some organization for plant rights has my face on a Wanted poster for mass murder by neglect. Maybe roses weren't the best choice. Ah well.