Resist pruning roses now or they might suffer later

Resist pruning roses now or they might suffer later

Tracey FitzgibbonQ: I took your advice from your Jan. 22 column suggestions and am trying to be patient. I am amazed that I found the rose bushes planted last spring are starting to show signs of waking up. There are very small buds where I suppose this year’s growth will pop out. I do want to prune the bushes down to keep them more contained, but you say to wait. Why?

Then, while out inspecting my landscaping I noticed a few things that I think are egg cases. They look like layers of brown crepe paper, about ¾ of an inch long and are attached to the lower branches of a sand cherry bush I have growing. Any idea what they are and should I cut them out and dispose of them? – K.D., Albuquerque

A: I’ve said this before and will again, roses are sometimes silly. I’ve frequently defined them as “hormonal.”

When you prune or trim a rose they tend to flush new growth rapidly. It’s the end of January, that being the coldest month of the year here in the Metro, and we’re nowhere near the end of winter yet. There are still, at least, 10 more weeks of freezing temperatures.

So if you choose to prune your roses now and we get a couple of weeks of moderate temperatures, the freshly pruned roses will flush lots of new growth. Then, the weather will snap cold again, all that growth will suffer dreadfully and you will probably have to prune out lots of dead and damaged growth from your roses.

The kindest thing you can do will be to offer water. That might sound counterproductive, since water makes things grow, but that water will keep the roots insulated and the whole plant will be far more ready to explode when the time is at hand. Also, don’t offer any fertilization yet, either.

Historically in these parts, the last weekend in March is when the roses here in the Metro area should be pruned, but even then there is a risk of foul weather, since the average last freeze here isn’t until mid-April.

I get it. You can see the signs of your roses starting to pop, but if you choose to prune them now and trip that hormonal trigger, you’ll just be inviting trouble. Wait, be patient and know that the roses will be better off in the long run.

As to the peculiar looking long brown crepe paper “cases” you’ve discovered on the shrub, you’ve discovered praying mantis egg cases.

Sheer gold in your gardening world as praying mantis are great at keeping your garden more pest-free.

Consider yourself lucky, don’t disturb them and your gardens should be rewarded with a crop of praying mantis much later this year. It’s always a wonder what you can discover in your landscaping this time of year.

Q: It can’t be true! I am finding that I have baby weeds growing already. I believe that most are what you’ve called wild mustard, and a few scorpion weed plants popping up in my rocked bed out front. How can I be rid of these weeds? – H.T., Albuquerque

A: The early weeds you are seeing are probably the wild mustard or flix weed. I’m startled that you are seeing scorpion weed this early, but stranger things have happened.

These interlopers are probably enjoying the radiant heat they have found in that rocked bit of landscaping you have.

As to getting rid of them, I will suggest hand plucking them. The weather is still too cold for a liquid herbicide to be very effective. The sooner you start this chore, the better. As soon as you can stand to be outdoors, give the rock bed a good spraying of water. Then get down and pick each and every one by hand, aiming to get all of the root you can.

By watering first, the plant will be more likely to give with a bit more ease, allowing you to get the whole plant. Scooch the rock away from the baby weed and grab it as close to ground level as you can. If once started, you’re finding that the top of the plant breaks away leaving some root, offer another spraying of water to loosen the soil around the offenders.

There is no better way than to get down and hand pluck these young weeds. It’s a chore, I know, but your rock bed will be better off, and you’ll have fewer to deal with as the seasons advance.

Get plucking and Happy Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to


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