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Sara-Jane & Alica at Virens Studio

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Rose Pruning at Sissinghurst

Feb 26, 2022

Isn’t it inspiring when you come across seemingly common maintenance practices, but it’s at one of the worlds best known gardens? and they put a whole new twist on it? At Virens Studio, we're all about it, so when we read the latest blog from our friend, Susanne Osmond we got really excited to share it with you.
So, with great pleasure, and Susanne's permission, please enjoy...

Sissinghurt rose garden (Susanne Osmond)

I photographed these fantastic looking creations at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in the UK several years ago. Their intricate and impressive rose pruning techniques were like nothing I'd seen before.

This is one of those lost horticultural arts for me and I was astounded to see these beautifully sculptural shapes that almost look animated, as though they might dance right out of the beds.

rose pruning at sissinghurst (Susanne Osmond)
rose pruning at sissinghurst (Susanne Osmond)
roses sissinghurst garden
rose pruning at sissinghurst (Susanne Osmond)

The arched canes curve and swirl, stretched and tied to hazel ‘benders’ or ‘hoops’ positioned around the skirts of the shrubs.

 

Or tied to four vertical poles placed around the varieties that have a stiffer growth habit, keeping their forms more upright and narrow.

rose pruning at sissinghurst (Susanne Osmond)
rose pruning at sissinghurst

To use this technique on your shrub roses, start by tying the long flexible canes from the outside of the plant, then as you move towards the middle, attach the inner canes to the stems already tied to the benders, creating an ever-mounding web.

 

Any lateral shoots are shortened to a couple of inches to encourage flowering close to the main framework. Instead of shortening the long canes and thereby creating woody, leggy shrubs surrounded by bare ground with all the flowers at the top, training this way means that the roses become mounding fountains of flowers.

rose pruning at sissinghurst (Susanne Osmond)
rose pruning at sissinghurst

Climbers and ramblers grown on the walls and arbours throughout Sissinghurst are treated similarly.

 

After removing the previous year’s flowering canes and some older woody stems (to encourage new shoots from the ground), the remaining stems are re-attached to the ancient brickwork, starting from the middle of the plant and working outwards, with the tip of each cane bent and tied onto invisible wires, or to the cane below, in swirling, curling patterns.

rose pruning at sissinghurst
rose pruning at sissinghurst
rose pruning at sissinghurst
Sissinghurst roses

The technique is particularly striking in the White Garden, where Rosa mulliganii drapes and cascades over the metal arbour at the centre of the garden. In winter, the lace-like view through the newly-trained canes to the blue sky, tied in intricate curves and pincurls, is ever so beautiful.

rose pruning at sissinghurst

This is horticultural finesse. And techniques that I occasionally try to mimic in the gardens of my more adventurous clients.

 

To this end, Gardener's Kit has commissioned 'benders' from our supplier of plant supports - since we don't have local supplies of suitable coppiced wood.

 

Check out our new benders on the website or pop in to our Victoria showroom. Only available for local pick-up in Victoria.

Sissinghurst gardens

Sissinghurst Castle is an English garden in Kent created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson in the 1930s, now a National Trust property.

 

-Susanne Osmond

Susanne is a professional gardener and owner of, Gardener's Kit, located in Victoria, Canada. They stock all of the best tools that a keen gardener could need, from the likes of Sneerboer, Hasegawa, Niwaki, and more. And not only do they have a great site but they are well worth following on Instagram. Seriously, their Okatsune secateurs changed our lives!

 

-Sara-Jane & Alicia at Virens Studio

Virens is a studio located in Vancouver, Canada that specializes in ecological planting design, urban greening consultation and hort writing.  Don't forget to follow us @virensstudio!

© Virens Studio 2023 (all photos are used for demonstration purposes and do not necessarily belong to us.)

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