Finger Pruning

Although finger pruning it is not a MUST it has so many benefits for Hybrid Tea bushes!

It should be carried out on HT’s in mid to end September in accordance to climate and sprouting advancement. Ideally just before flower bud formation which can be felt in the tip of the new shoots.

  • When the tip or the upper two to three leaves of about three to five stems on a bush are pinched, the result is an incredible lengthening of the un-pinched stems within days.
  • The purplish leaves of the pinched stems turn green within a week and the stems become mature long before the un-pinched stems. The roots respond to this with increased vigor.
  • When the un-pinched stems come into bloom they may be picked with fairly long stems because the pinched stems have sprouted new shoots and are capable of absorbing the sudden extra sap pressure when the other leaves are removed.
  • The in-between non-flowering period of 45 days is shortened to three weeks or even less. Of course, if a light pruning has been carried out, leaving many side stems, the bush will do its own version of finger pruning by simply not producing a flower bud in the tip of every shoot. Such stems, known as blind shoots, will stop growing at about 10cm to 20cm length and mature without a flower. But the mature leaves carry on feeding the roots.

For Floribundas pinching is not necessary. Unlike a typical hybrid tea bloom that only needs a week from the first show of colour to the picking, the flowering period of a typical cluster is three weeks or more. This longer period is the critical period for the leaves to nurture the roots until new sprouting has taken place.

The actual finger pruning or pinching entails:

  • count the number of new flower-bud bearing shoots.
  • select about a third or quarter (maximum 5 out of 15 to 20 or 3 out of 12)
  • pinch out the tip, by using thumb and pointing finger and snapping it sideways.

We differentiate between a soft pinch and a hard pinch.

The soft pinch – remove the very tip of still undeveloped folded-up leaves.

A hard pinch – break off the upper 3 or 4 leaves.

Expect 1 new stem from a soft pinch which is virtually an extension and two or three new stems from a hard pinch.
All types of pinching may be carried out on one bush. Since the main purpose of finger pruning is to create green leaves quicker one will obviously pinch stems that are thinner, too close together or are bent, crooked or have damaged leaves.

Unhappy plant
If you find a bush that is just not growing well at all and has started making flower buds on unnaturally short stems, pinch off every shoot or remove every bud. This builds up more leaves with a stronger downward sap flow. This strengthens the roots allowing them to penetrate further resulting in the formation of basal shoots and stronger re-sprouting at the top. You should see the difference within three weeks. Flower formation uses up a lot of strength.

Winter Pruning Aftercare


Winter pruning stimulates root activity and sprouting of dormant eyes. The speed of development is partially dependent on temperature, but also on the water and nutrients available. It is obvious that watering and feeding should commence fairly soon after pruning has been completed.

  • Water the bed or soil around the rose bushes thoroughly, especially if watering has been applied sparingly over the past weeks during dormancy.
  • Check the soil condition in the rose bed by digging with a garden fork and getting a feel of the soil structure at root level. The soil should crumble in your hand. If it is hard and lumpy, air and water have difficulty penetrating down to the roots, resulting in poor root development. Poor soil condition is remedied by introducing organic material such as compost, old manure, peanut shells, and milled pine bark, even partially decomposed leaves and lawn clippings. Mix this material with the soil by digging it over to the depth of the fork tines. Try not to loosen strong roots: reposition the fork if it meets resistance from roots.

Be careful not to raise the soil level in a rose bed year after year by introducing compost and mulch. This can cause the root system eventually to be settled too deeply, where the soil remains too cold and wet for the development of micro-organisms.

The roots of roses should be encouraged to grow downwards and to find the best level for developing a fine hair root system. This is the best time of year to help establish such growth habits. Digging out a plant that has performed poorly can show whether it has been too deeply covered. If so, there are two ways of addressing the problem. Either simply remove most of the composted top layer in the rose bed down to the correct level – where the bud union or knob is just covered with soil – and then loosen the topsoil, so that remaining compost can penetrate down to the deeper level where the main roots are embedded. If insufficient composted soil remains at this level, remove a further layer of about 10 cm, restore some of the compost, and proceed to dig it in. Alternatively, dig up the rose bush, cut away roots that have formed higher up and above the bud union and replant the rose after having dug over the bed and mixed the good topsoil with some of the subsoil.

  • The first fertilizing of the season is carried out soon after pruning. If organics are also being dug into the soil, it is easier to spread both fertilizer and organics over the soil surface and to dig them in together. If, however, the existing mulch has decomposed and now consists of a thin layer of compost, spread just the fertilizer over the old mulch and mix together with the top 10 cm of soil. See here for the recommended fertilizing procedure.
  • Water well again after having dug over the soil. Any loosened roots must be well embedded in the soil, and this can only be achieved with heavy watering. See watering instructions
  • Spray with lime sulphur, Ludwig’s Insect Spray or Oleum, although this is not essential if you have adhered to a regular spraying programme throughout the season. One part of lime sulphur is diluted with five parts of water. If pernicious scale is present on the lower parts of the stems, mix 100 ml of Ludwig’s Insect Spray or Oleum in 10 litres of water and add 10 ml of Metasystox or Ripcord for best results.
  • The rose or stalk borer wasp seems to smell open cut wounds, and if they are in the vicinity they awaken and will drill down the soft pith found in the centre of a rose stem. Such holes are not detrimental or cause die back and if you have sprayed diligently with an insecticide during the season, the borer will likely have been eradicated from the garden. If not, it is best to seal all cuts with Steriseal, ordinary PVC paint or with a little clay.
  • Mulch keeps the soil cool and retains moisture, but a thick application early in the season when temperatures are still low actually prevents the soil from warming up. It is better to start a fresh layer of mulch towards the end of August.
  • From now on, water the rose bed weekly, increasing to twice weekly once the roses show rapid growth and temperatures have increased.
  • Pest control of roses becomes necessary in early September in all regions.

Spanish Garden Design

For Ludwig’s Roses by Emma Brown

Beautiful pines, graceful ferns, and sun-soaked piazzas make the Spanish garden one of the most serene and blissful, crafted to make the most of the generous sun but with graceful interludes of shade. A delicate blend of open spaces, cool sanctuaries and artfully balanced detail and simplicity, it’s one of many landscaping concepts which are easily achieved and aesthetically pleasing. The gentle climate of South Africa means that the variety of garden projects available are boundless, and the versatile Spanish garden can be adapted in a myriad of ways to accommodate the outdoor lifestyle that you desire.

Design Principles

Spanish gardens are a mixture of the grandiose and pastoral, of curves and columns, of vibrant colours and pastel hues. They take their influences from PersianRoman, and Moorish designs (like the famous Moroccan Jardin Majorelle), changing over the centuries but keeping the same general outline. These are the design principles, some of which are similar to the Victorian style:

  • The design is primarily rectangular and symmetrical, with variations of circular and cornered shapes
  • Paths are parallel and perpendicular, outlining long promenades
  • Beds, lawns and pools are geometrically shaped
  • Columns, arches and trellis-work are used to emphasize the design
  • Classical and Moorish ornaments and statues are used as focal points
  • Brick, stone, and tiled courtyards are central to the design, with bright colours
  • Topiary plants are clipped and shaped into balls, columns, and rectangles

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Unlike French gardens which are highly geometric, pristine and trimmed, Spanish gardens are orderly but more wild and natural, giving off the impression of a small, contained space which is usually enclosed by a courtyard. Smaller accents lead up to a focal point at the end of the garden where all the elements are drawn together.

The traditional Spanish garden focuses more on shape than on colour, but is diverse in its range of combinations. Here are a few examples:

[Insert image here, and properly attribute as follows: Gartenanlage Generalife, Alhambra, Granada, Spanien eigene Aufnahme, Erstellungsdatum 22.Juni 2006, Autor Peter Lorber]

Alcazar Jerez

Alcazar Jerez

Common Plants and Patterns

Some of the best plants to use in a Spanish garden include:

  • Magnolia, orchid, myrtle
  • Bougainvilleas and bignonias of varying colours
  • Jasmine, passion flowers, roses, mandevillas and dipladenias
  • Hibiscus, lantanas, oleanders, and angels trumpets
  • Cacti
  • Figs, oranges, pineapples, grapefruits

magnolia jasmine-flowers fig Cactus Hibiscus cactus-2 passiflora myrtle_2 dipladenia_diamantina_jade_red angels_trumpet_pink_large_c

Roses that would do well in such Spanish garden style:


Kissing Ayoba Red Ayoba Sunny Ayoba 2

Kissing Ayoba     Red Ayoba         Sunny Ayoba


Deloitte & Touche kinders van die wind 011 Playmate Pots07 Playmate is growing in a woven container

Deloitte & Touche      Kinders v. d. Wind             Playmate

Hybrid Teas

Tineke in full flush Full Sail Arlene Archbishop Tutu open

Tineke                Full Sail               Arlene                Archbishop Tutu

Standards are also very popular to give height



Towering Rose Magic  Cherry Garland with Fiery Sunsation at its feet over the dome at Ludwig's Rose Farm. Perfumed Breeze

Towering Rose Magic, Cherry Garland & Perfumed Breeze

The Spanish garden can be as rustic or as refined as you wish – rough stone paths work beautifully for a country life look, and symmetrical tiling can work wonderfully in more regal styles. Choosing tiles that are rich, deep hues as well as brightly lit ones can create a warm, pastoral charm, and don’t have to be geometrically arranged although tighter patterning can create a striking contrast with the rest of the garden. Even mosaics can produce enchanting effects when used as a focal point or minimalist accents, but like all other elements of the garden, it must blend organically. The fluid and diverse character of the garden allows for huge creative potential to incorporate other influences as well, and finding hand-crafted artwork and perusing local markets for ceramics, produce and other essentials to place in the garden will help to spur on the creative juices.

Other Planning Ideas

There is never greater inspiration than seeking other ideas and finding ways to blend styles and techniques of gardening. Perusing forums and websites like Garden Design provides a great opportunity to see some new styles, as well as pinterest and art websites. There are several online resources available such as gardening courses which can be taken over the internet, and YouTube presents a vast treasure trove of instructional videos as well as free interactive software which gives you the chance to brainstorm and sketch out some ideas. Visiting the local library and renting or buying guides on gardening is also an informative and fascinating source for creativity, and even older editions of publications which can reveal some true gems of landscaping design and technique, and there is no harm in asking friends, families, co-workers and professional landscapers for some key advice. Best of all, you could even visit the great gardens of Spain, whether it is Park Güell in Barcelona, the Royal Place Gardens in Aranjuez, the Gardens of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos in Cordoba, or the magnificent Alhambra.

With so many eclectic tastes and influences and freedom for creativity, the Spanish garden is the perfect setting for artistic expression, festive occasions and peaceful evenings. Perhaps one of the most beautiful styles of garden in the world, it is truly a splendour of natural and hand-crafted environments.

Winter Pruning

Roses rejuvenate themselves by producing new stems from the base on a regular basis. Left unpruned, roses eventually carry out their own pruning by not nourishing the thinner inside growth, which slowly dries out completely and dies. In this case, new basal stems either push their way through the dead growth to flower higher up in the full light, or push up on the outsides of the bush or shrub, which becomes broader over the years.

Watch these clips to see how easy pruning is. Remember, you need not fear hurting the roses by cutting them back, they love it. It is like having a hair cut to them.

Watch more of our videos on how to prune the different types of roses by following this link!

Why prune

We prune roses to maintain the shape of the bush, to keep the main branches to a manageable height, and to eliminate unsightly, superfluous dead wood. Pruning encourages strong new growth and reduces the number of flowering stems, resulting in an increase in eventual flower size.

When to prune

Pruning should generally take place from mid-July until the end of August, with local weather patterns helping to pinpoint the time more exactly. For most parts of the country, the best time to prune is during the latter part of July.

In warmer regions, such as the Lowveld and coastal KwaZulu-Natal, pruning can, if desired, be carried out by the end of June.

In very cold regions pruning is delayed – it might vary from the first week in August to the last week in August in the really cold parts of the country.

Bear in mind that pruning encourages sprouting even during fairly low temperatures. Newly sprouted leaves are tender and could be burnt by late frost, in which case nothing is gained and important stored reserves are lost.

In general, roses cannot be induced to flower earlier in spring by pruning early. However, delaying pruning by two to three weeks can result in a slight delay in flowering, possibly by up to a week.


Pruning shears must be in good condition, as sharp blades make the job much easier. Blades can be sharpened with a new sharpening device available from most garden centres. Make sure to sharpen mainly the slanted outside of the blade and only very little on the flat inside. Continual sharpening of the inside will eventually create a gap between the blades. If there is play between the blades, tighten the centre nut gradually until the two blades are squeezed tightly next to one another. Before tightening the nut, allow a few drops of oil to penetrate between the two touching parts around the centre bolt and into the spring.

Sharpener Pouch

Buy Now         Buy Now       Buy Now

Using long-handled loppers of good quality, you can prune all types of roses without the assistance of a saw. The same principles of sharpening and of keeping the pivot bolt and nut tight apply to long-handled loppers.

Gloves, available from garden centres and hardware stores, make pruning more manageable, whether they’re long-sleeved welding gloves or short gardening gloves.

How to prune

For accuracy and neatness, make a pointed measure stick of about 1 m in length. Make a mark 10 cm from the point, which is the depth that it is to be pushed into the ground. Make a further mark 50 to 70 cm (according to personal preference) up from the first mark and cut off the stick at 20 cm above the second mark.

Bush roses

Hybrid Teas, Floribundas and the bush types of the English and Nostalgia roses

Ludwig Taschner getting ready to prune

Ludwig Taschner preparing to winter prune – good tools are essential

unpruned rose bush

Using the measuring stick, the plant has been pruned to 70cm height

Push the (above mentioned) measuring stick into the ground next to the bush to be pruned, and cut off every branch and stem in line with the top of the stick (70 to 90 cm above ground level). With the top growth and twigs removed, it becomes easy to inspect the bush and to select the main stems or branches that are to remain. The maximum number of stems or branches to remain is four and the minimum one. ‘Branch’ means a fairly thick wooden member that has branched more or less at the base and is two years or older. A ‘stem’ is this season’s wooden growth from the base. The colour of the thorns helps distinguish between this season’s stems and older wood. Thorns turn grey on old wood, but are usually still brown or reddish on this season’s stems. The bark, too, is grey and thick on older wood.

step 1 cutting back to top of measuring stick

step 1: cutting back to top of measuring stick

step 2cutting back to the 70 cm mark removing twigs and criss crossing branches and older wood

step 2: cutting back to the 70cm mark, removing twigs and criss-crossing branches and older wood

Step 3 light pruning

step 3: light pruning

Step 3 severe pruning cutting back to 50 cm mark leaving maximum 4 stems

step 3: severe pruning, cutting back to 50cm mark leaving maximum of 4 stems

Step 4 severe pruning

First identify four suitable stems that are more or less neatly arranged in diverging directions. Remove all other stems and branches. If there are only one or two good stems, it is possible to retain some of the older branches. If the situation is not clear, start at the centre by removing older branches that are obviously in the way. However, if the branches do not look as if they could sustain new growth, cut away all older branches, retaining just one good stem, which should, ideally, be more or less in the centre. From this single good stem you can expect five to six good blooms, and alongside it, the development of new basal stems.  Once you have selected the stems to remain, and removed all other stems and branches, check the measuring pole again, and cut the remaining stems at the mark that is 20 cm below the top. All remaining branches should be cut at the same height, give or take 10 cm, but not more. Remember that the root system will favour taller stems to the detriment of lower stems, a trend known as apical dominance.

The direction of the top eye is of minor importance – the rose will decide which eye to favour. The actual final cut should be at 90° to the stem. This is the smallest wound and since the stems are almost never absolutely vertical, it means that the cut is also not horizontal and will not collect water.

any type of cut is acceptable, however avoic slanted cut too close to an eye as seen on right stem

any type of cut is acceptable, however avoid slanted cut too close to an eye as seen on right stem

When cutting, make sure that the thick blade is facing up and is pointed away from you. If the thicker blade faces downwards it will bruise the stem severely. Another trick to make cutting easier is to grip the branch or stem well above where the cut is to be made, and to push gently away from the cutting blade of the shear. Very thick branches require vigorous pushing. Pushing stretches the wood and makes it softer to cut. If not familiar with this method, practice it higher up on the stems until you get the feel. If pushing is not synchronised with cutting, the branch might split. Pulling the stem backwards over the blade will make cutting almost impossible. The same technique applies to cutting very thick branches with loppers, where one can either use a foot or knee to push, or ask an assistant to help.

Once the remaining stems have been pruned to the specified height, any side branches on these stems should be cut off smoothly next to the main stem. If any of the main stems is forked, remove one tine of the fork. Remaining stems should be separated from each other at the top by at least the length of the shears (about 20 cm).

Commence with the next bush. It gets easier all the time. However, no two rose bushes are identical, and adjustments have to be made. Where a bush is much weaker and shorter than the others, it is advisable to cut back such a bush more severely than the others. Much taller bushes are usually simply brought back to the standard 50 to 70 cm. They will grow as tall again, and as quickly.

Specimen Bush roses

The above method applies to Bush roses planted in beds, in groups and rows. Bush roses that are planted as single specimens or further apart than the recommended 50 to 80 cm, have more space to develop and can be pruned more lightly. This entails cutting them back to about 1 to 1,2 m. It still helps to remove growth, and particularly old wood, from the centre of the bush. Leave no more than four main branches, but allow substantial side stems on the main branches to remain, usually cut back to a length of about 20 cm. Such lightly pruned roses will produce quality blooms in October. Rose bushes that are pruned lightly every year form very thick wooden stems and have a tendency to remain bare – without foliage and flowers – at the lower part of the bush.

Spire roses

These are simply very tall Hybrid Teas, whose growth is formal and upright. They are planted for the purpose of screening or providing colour high up as a background. Prune Spire roses to chest height (1,3 m) and lop off all branches at this level. Then remove all surplus branches from the centre, again leaving not more than four main branches. When it comes to cleaning up the remaining main stems or branches, leave some of the stems on the upper level. Make sure that the tops of remaining stems are spaced about 30 cm from each other.

Shrub roses

There are two ways of handling this group of roses. They can be pruned more or less like Spire roses, which will encourage strong new stems and large flowers in spring. However, if the graceful, arching habit of an informal shrub is required, do not cut off the shrub at a certain height but rather start by identifying the younger, better stems, and then removing older wood at the base. Since growth is usually very dense, it is advisable to pull out each main branch as it is cut, and then to re-check which other stems can be removed. Space must be created for new growth in the centre of the shrub. Cut back long, arching canes to where they start growing horizontally, as last season’s hanging stems will not give rise to quality blooms. However, the weight of new growth and flowers will recreate the arching effect. Again, all or most of the shorter side stems are cut off smoothly next to the main stem.

Climbing roses

Some Climbing roses grow to such size and profusion that it becomes an impossible task to prune them. You can leave them unpruned, or simply tidy up at the base by cutting off obvious non-flower-bearing wood and stems. Since the bulk of the flowers are usually at such a height that one cannot see the detail of each bloom, the concern here is for profusion of blooms rather than individual quality.

However, if you feel that the rose has grown out of hand, pull up a ladder and reduce the growth drastically, always bearing in mind that cutting back such a strong rose will result in even more new growth and, usually, fewer flowers. It is best, before commencing pruning, to remove all ties holding the long branches in place. Cut away older branches in favour of new ones and then tie back the remaining branches on to the fence, pole, pergola etc. The most spectacular show can be achieved by tying long, climbing stems horizontally on to a fence or wall. Again, all side stems are cut off next to the main stems.

unpruned climber

Unpruned branch of a climber

pruned climbing branch

Pruned branch of a climber

Pruning Wedding Garland

‘Wedding Garland’s’ leaves have been stripped off, now the stems sticking out are being tied down and or cut back


After pruning climbers, try to spiral the stems as much as possible around the pole for more flower production


After pruning – climbers should be fanned out horizontally or spiraled to have maximum bloom production

Another way of handling Climbers and also several of the large shrub and climbing types of English rose, is to bower the long canes and tie their tips at the base of the plant or on special pegs driven into the soil.

If a Climbing rose in your garden does not flower, try leaving it alone. Some Climbers need two years before they have done most of their growing and are ready to start flowering.

Pruning will encourage them to grow again, but not necessarily to flower. If this means that the rose is too large and unwieldy where you have planted it, and does not perform as you wish, take it out and transplant it to another, more appropriate spot, or give it to someone who has more space.

Miniature roses

There are two pruning options here. One is to chop off all stems about 10 cm above soil level and then to cut out the ground shoots, leaving about four. If the Miniature is grown as a specimen and has achieved a substantial height and width – about 80 cm high and wide – use hedge clippers to trim it by a third or half. Older, woody stems can be removed from the centre. It is too time-consuming to prune the numerous little twigs. The rose will sort itself out and flower beautifully in spring. We do not expect large blooms from miniature roses, but rather an abundance of flowers.

Groundcover roses


‘Granny’s Delight’ as a mature plant before pruning

Granny's Delight - light trimming

‘Granny’s Delight’ – lightly pruned

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‘Granny’s Delight’ – winter pruned

These grow into a dense, matted bush or low shrub. They can be left unpruned, but this might bring on red spiders early in the season. If weeds have become established amongst them, clip the roses well with hedge shears, and then remove some or all of the older wood, as well as the surrounding weeds.


Iceberg pruned severely last winter 009

‘Iceberg’ severely pruned the previous winter

Unpruned Iceberg stem

‘Iceberg’ – stem unpruned

Iceberg Stem pruned

‘Iceberg’ – lightly pruned

Iceberg Stem severely pruned

‘Iceberg’ – severely pruned

Iceberg resprouting after pruning

‘Iceberg’ – resprouting after pruning

This variety is exceptional in that it is able to flourish year after year on old wood without having to renew itself from the base. This is why ‘Iceberg’ is able to grow into quite a large shrub and to flower every day of the season. No other variety matches this ability.

Large shrubs of ‘Iceberg’ can be pruned lightly year after year and they will still produce the same quantity and quality of flowering clusters. However, if you wish your ‘Iceberg’ to remain a ‘tame’ bush that fits in with other Floribundas, prune in accordance with the instructions for Bush roses.

Standard roses

These are essentially Bush roses, and are pruned in almost the same way. However, do not use the measuring stick as described for Bush roses. Instead, cut back all stems and branches to about 50 cm of the crown or bud union and then remove all older wood and twigs. Final pruning should leave the stems about 30 cm long.

Miniature Standards are obviously cut even shorter unless they, too, are expected to perform as small shrubs.

Umbrella Standards are also tidied up by cutting off all the side stems and twigs and by shortening the arching canes.

Watch our videos on how easy pruning really is by following this link!