Welcome fellow gardening enthusiasts. Hope you all survived the holidays and are ready for a prosperous new year.

May your flowers bloom stunningly and your gardens yield a rich bounty of delicious fruits and vegetables.

The days are now starting to get longer and we all should be gearing up for our spring organic veggies. We have been harvesting LOTS of beautiful broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, lettuce and citrus. Our residents here at Sunshine Care Assisted Living Community with memory care issues, have been enjoying tasty, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and most of all tangerines. It might be hard for commercial citrus growers in San Diego County to make a buck these days, but no backyard should be without some citrus trees for friends and family to enjoy.

Not only is supplying our residents with high quality organic produce a major task, but maintaining an eye-appealing 32 acres of landscape is imperative. This leads to one my topics this month, pruning roses. We have a Memorial Rose Garden by our greenhouse, that when in bloom supplies gorgeous cut roses to all of our homes. There are also roses growing? at all the 6- bedroom country-style homes and at our larger facilities. December and January are the prime months for probably the most important chore of the season on roses. That would be the task of pruning. This brings out the creative juices to sculpt your rose bush into the prolific bloomer you desire. There are many web-sites out there to learn the basics, but until you are out there with pruning shears, loppers and gloves- it’s all just theory. But allow me to boggle your mind with some important basic tips anyway.


1. Wait until your roses are dormant- This is rather misleading because in our area of San Diego County and on the coast, roses really escape true dormant conditions. We have had a few light frosts and dropped a few leaves, but pruning is still essential to get a full blooming plant. Now is the time!

2. Clean all debris away from the plants- Clear away all weeds and dead leaves that might be a source of bacterial, fungal and insect infection and infestation. Rust, powdery mildew, downy mildew, blackspot and botrytis are ever-lurking.

3. Remove old dead diseased wood- Dead wood, diseased canes and canes showing

deep furrows must be cut out. Remove very thin canes and branches that cross through and rub in the center of the bush. You are striving for nice green healthy canes.

4. Get rid of green canes on old wood- Keep only new green canes emerging from the bud union.

5. Make flush cuts- Don’t leave stubs above the bud unions as you remove entire canes. You may need your pruning saw at this point and as you open up the plant, remember to clear out the debris.

6. Cut to a leaf bud- Strive to make cuts ¼” above outward-facing leaf bud eyes.

This will keep your blooms on the outside of your plant and free up the center for better air circulation for healthier roses. Always prune to a healthy bud and at a 45 degree angle away from the bud. Make sure your cuts are clean to avoid possible infection.

7. Cut surfaces should be white and not brown- The plant tissue should look white and healthy. If not, cut back further.

8. Remove suckers- Suckers are long slender canes emerging from below the bud union. Pull it down and off the plant. Just cutting it off might result in more suckers in the future.

9. Try to obtain a vase shape- The goal is to obtain a bush with an opened center. Do the best you can with what the plant gives you. You want to end up with only healthy canes with an open center.

10. Prune to final height- Go for a moderate prune, cutting back one third of what is left of the stems length.

11. Spray!!- This must be done immediately after pruning to ensure the destruction of all insects and fungi. Waiting too long to spray could damage some of the developing eyes. The organic based dormant spray of choice is lime sulphur, but this one is hard to find these days. Check with your local garden center and on-line. If you strike out-use a copper-based product.


You will want to start to fertilize in the spring. March is a good month. There are as many fertilizer recommendations as there are Rosarians in the world. Talk to your local garden center expert in your area, and tweak their advice to suit your fancy. Something high in nitrogen to stimulate green growth and something high in potash will give you big healthy blooms.

There are probably opportunities in your community, where demonstrations on rose pruning will give you on-the-job training. I attend annually one sponsored by the San Diego Rose Society at Balboa Park in San Diego. This was last weekend for me, at the Inez Parker Rose Garden. Dozens of volunteers got together to help the Rose Society prune the hundreds of roses they have in the garden. Expert Rosarians are there to show you the proper way to prune roses.

Now hold your hats!! We here at Sunshine Care www.SunshineCare.com in Poway CA, offer free garden lectures and workshops the third Saturday of every month. We will be kicking off 2012, with a hands-on workshop, precisely on how to care for and prune your roses, on January 21st at 10:30 in our Memorial Rose Garden. We are honored to have as our expert instructors, Consulting Master Rosarians, Richard Streeper and his lovely wife, Sue. Richard was the founder of the Inez Parker Rose Garden and heads the Rose Corps with over fifty years of passion for growing roses. Sue happens to be the current president of the San Diego Rose Society. If they can’t answer your questions and show you how to prune your roses properly, nobody can.

Farmer_Roy_PhotoSo grab your pruning clippers, pruning saw, loppers and gloves and learn from the best. If you have none of these, we will share. Everyone loves beautiful fragrant roses. I know our residents do!

For more information or to RSVP, call me or send me an email.

Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture, 858-472-6059, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Lisa Lipsey, Director of Community Relations, 858-752-8197, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. We are located at 12695 Monte Vista Rd, Poway Ca, 92064. Follow the signs to the greenhouse and you are there.

Take Care.

Roy Wilburn

About the Author
Farmer Roy
Since 2010, Farmer Roy Wilburn has been Sunshine Care’s Director of Horticulture. You can usually find Roy in one of the five organic gardens, producing high quality organic fruits and vegetables for the residents and those in need in the Poway area. Roy maintains Sunshine Care’s beautiful greenhouse, fruit tree orchards, Memorial Rose Garden and the landscaping of its 32-acre facility. Roy is a regular guest speaker about numerous horticultural topics.
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