(Chris has been a landscaper in Montecito since 1970. Lisa, an avid organic gardener, was the catering manager at San Ysidro Ranch and now co-owns and works with Chris managing Montecito Landscape. Garden Gossip radio show can be heard Friday morning at 11 am on KZSB 1290 AM. It is rebroadcast on Friday night at 9 pm, and Saturday morning at 11 am. If you have a question about your garden the Cullens can be reached either at gardengossip@verizon.net or 969-3984.)

It’s Rose Pruning Time

January is the time of year to get rose pruning done. Every year in mid-January, the Santa Barbara Rose Society assembles at A.C. Postel Rose Garden (across from the Old Mission) to prune the roses and give pruning demonstrations and instruction to attendees. The following are a few pruning tips, compliments of Montecito rose experts Dan Bifano and Carrie Cooper-Griffith.

Roses need to “rest” for a few months of the year. The only way you can force them into dormancy in Santa Barbara is to leave them alone after October 15 or November 15. Stop everything except water, don’t deadhead them, allow them to form hips and don’t feed them. Then in January, do the annual hard pruning.

Start from the top of the rose plant, this way you’ll be able to see the plant’s structure. Prune the rose into the shape of a vase. The center of the plant (the crown) needs to be exposed to the sun to encourage new growth. The stable data you should remember are the three “D’s”: remove anything that is dead, damaged or diseased. You should also remove any crisscrossing branches.

As you are pruning, remove all the leaves. Beneath the leaves lie what are called “bud eyes,” which is where new growth will emerge. When you make the final cut, snip just above an outward facing bud eye, so new branches (canes) will grow away from the center of the plant.

Landscape Roses

Landscape roses include those you plant for mass floral effect rather than the perfection of individual blooms. The most popular of these roses (also called floribundas) is the iceberg rose. Landscape roses also need a hard pruning in January. The difference is that you leave more canes than you would on a tea rose; you will get more flowers this way. Keep in mind the desired finished shape you want. These kinds of roses should be pruned into a ball shape, reducing the size of the plant by about one-third.

When you do the annual pruning the plant breaks dormancy and pushes out new growth. After pruning, clean the bed of all debris and leaves and dormant spray the plant and the soil with an organic formula made from lime sulfur and oil (available at Agri-Turf, 569-2257, or La Sumida, 964-9944). Then a week later, rake the soil and spray a second time to catch anything that may have been missed. This kills the fungus, eggs and bugs.

Planting New Roses

The best time to plant new roses is anytime from January through March. Roses need full sun, good drainage and lots of air circulation. Dig a good size hole, about two feet by two feet.

Good drainage is key: if you have adobe soil in your garden, you won’t have good roses, so you will need to add more amendments or, better yet, replace the soil in this area of your garden with a rose-specific planting mix. If you are using existing soil, amend in a ratio of about 50% Dr. Earth or EB Stone Rose Planting Mix and 50% native soil. Mix it really well, put some bone meal at the bottom of the hole and then plant your rose.

If you replace a rose in your garden, be sure to clean out all of the old soil and use new soil and new amendments, never put a new rose in an old hole. But remember, roses are forgiving, no matter what we do to them. So don’t worry about it, you will have another chance next year.

For more info on the Santa Barbara Rose Society visit www.sbrose.org.

Important Note

Montecito residents have been experiencing multiple nights of below-freezing temperatures. You may have lost some plants and others may look wilted and/or brown. Do not prune or cut them back until the warmer weather has arrived. When you cut back a plant you are telling it to push new growth and this is not something you want until warmer weather is assured. Be patient and do nothing, most of your plants will come back to life in the spring.