Humboldt Rose Society teaches rose pruning

Facilitator: 'You need to inspire roses to grow'

A close-up of a properly cut rose cane. The cut is at about a 45 degree angle, and is located about 1/4 inch above a bud eye. (Philip Santos — The Times-Standard)
  • A rose bush before it has been pruned (Philip Santos — The Times-Standard)

  • A rose bush after it has been pruned (Philip Santos — The Times-Standard)



The Humboldt Rose Society hosted a timely rose pruning class at the Humboldt Botanical Garden today.

For the Humboldt County area, mid-February is toward the end of the ideal window to prune roses. But the Humboldt Rose Society will be hosting the last of several rose pruning classes it’s put on across the area on Feb. 23 at 10 a.m. at the Redwood Acres Rose Garden in Eureka.

Around a dozen people attended this morning’s session, which was blessed with a rotating mix of clouds, sun and rain throughout the day. Several members of the Humboldt Rose Society were present to facilitate the class, which covered the basics of pruning, including the proper tools, pruning methods and soil preparation necessary for robust growth.

Richard Grabowski, a local rosarian, began the class inside a greenhouse with a quick rundown of the proper tools for pruning. The primary tools useful for the process are bypass shears, lopping shears and a small pruning saw. Grabowski warned against the use of “anvil shears,” which often crush the stalks, or “canes,” on rose bushes rather than creating a clean cut.

Grabowski then demonstrated the various aspects of what proper pruning entails with a small rose bush before the class moved outdoors to the Dr. Stan Baird Rose Garden for hands-on practice. After removing old canes to make way for new growth, he focused on how to best prepare the preserved canes. This involves locating a “bud eye,” which is a place on the cane from where new growth will sprout. They tend to form where old leaves were attached and can be spotted by looking for slight swelling or a thin horizontal line on the cane.

“I’m looking for outward facing (bud eyes) that we’re going to keep,” he said. “I’m trying to cut it at 45 degrees.”

Although there isn’t an “absolute” answer, many agreed that pruned canes should be lopped off at about knee height, close to 1/4 inches above the nearest bud eye. In terms of shaping the roses, circulation is an important factor to consider, Jack Saffell, vice president of the Humboldt Rose Society said.

“What do I do when I first walk up to a rose?” Saffell asked, as he approached a rose in need of pruning. “I look at the center.”

The center of a rose bush should be clear, so canes in the center of the bush should be removed to improve air circulation, he said. From that point, canes that cross over one another should be removed, as well as canes that crowd one another.

“Leave three to five good-sized canes,” Saffell said.

So how much pruning is too much pruning? Discretion is important, but Grabowski assured the class throughout the session that roses are resilient plants.

“It’s hard to hurt most roses,” Grabowski said. “You need to inspire roses to grow and that’s not going to happen by being nice.”

Laurie Dennis, a Eureka resident who attended the class said she was happy she participated.

“It was really good information for a beginner,” she said. “It was all helpful, and we accomplished something.”

For questions related to roses or for more information about the Humboldt Rose Society, visit

Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.

blog comments powered by Disqus