Forum home Problem solving

Pruning roses and flowering currants in Shetland

I've moved from Shropshire (70 miles from the sea) to Shetland (100 meters from the sea). My garden is unusual on the Island in that it is surrounded by healthy sycamores on three sides, giving it a lot of shelter.  We also have a very well established hedge made of flowering currants - so well established that we can't see over them and they're very dense so can't get through them!  We noticed the other day that the interior of the currants is very woody and seem almost dead.  What is the best time to get in and prune them?  Do we go back hard or just give them a light back and sides?  I have the same problem with a large patch (or hedge, even) of old fashioned and very fragrant red and white roses.  They have flowered over the past two months and have been gorgeous!  The previous owner of this house really loved her garden and put a lot of thought into successional (?) flowering.  Back to the roses, I need to know when the best time is to prune them and how to get rid of a couple of bushes that are in the centre of the roses and look brown and dead?

I got used to gardening in the mild climate of Shropshire and now find everything I thought I had learnt about gardening (really not a lot to be honest) doesn't work in Shetland!

We've been in the house since April and have been watching what's growing and trying to decide what else to put in, but keeping the trees and bushes for protection from the wind and the salt in the air.

Thanks for your help on this - I really need it!


  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,882
    edited August 2021
    Yes - ever so slightly different . Just get ready to batten down the hatches soon.... :D
    I think I'd leave the hedge until after flowering in spring, when it will want to re grow.
    I know nothing about roses other than very general stuff, so can't advise on those, but there are plenty of rose growers on the forum who'll be able to help. 
    Are the shrubs in the middle of the roses, roses - or something else?
    If you can put a couple of photos on that will help too  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Native58Native58 Posts: 46
    Hi Fairygirl - thanks for the advice.

    This is the first time we've been here in the summer.  Every time we've been here in the past has been in the winter, so it's been a pleasant surprise at how mild it actually is here in summer!  So far in the garden we've been blessed with daffodils literally by the hundreds, tulips (not so many), Himalayan poppies, lily of the valley and followed in close succession by geraniums, roses, honeysuckle, lupins, foxgloves and a host of other plants that we've yet to find a name for!  The lady who lived here before she passed away had a fantastic eye for plants and her nose seems to have been as good as well.  

    The reason for my asking for advice is that the seasons here are different to the mainland - spring arrived in mid-May with the snowdrops, crocus, flowering currants and daffs and summer came in mid-July with the roses, honeysuckle and wild iris.  It's a lovely garden without much to do in it, although I do have a couple of beds that have been destroyed by the building works we've had to do, so I'll be trying to find out what herbs, veg and fruit I can grow here.

    thanks :)
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,882
    Yes - spring is later here than further south, so even later there. It was also even colder than a 'normal' winter here, so you may find it won't always be as late. I'd have said May would be an average time for many plants you might have had in flower through March, in the south. We still had daffs in flower here through late May into June, so they were about 3 or 4 weeks later than normal. We've also had the driest July on record in the west of Scotland, while the north east has had it's wettest, so it'll be a case of working with changes as time goes on  :)
    A shelter belt is certainly vital if you want anything to grow, so the previous owner clearly knew what she was doing  getting that in place.  ;)
    The season is shorter - that's the main thing to remember, and you also have more daylight in summer, but very short hours of daylight in winter. Wind is a huge factor too, so as long as you account for it, and adapt accordingly, it'll be surprising how much will thrive.
    It's trial and error though. I'd have problems adapting if I moved to the south of England!
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Native58Native58 Posts: 46
    Hey Fairygirl :)  We moved here in January in the middle of one of the coldest winters anyone could remember with snow reaching almost to the top of my wellies - it cleared up, got a little warmer and encouraged some plants to investigate the world and then, in April we got a repeat performance with deep snow arriving again.  My dog loved it, but the kitties weren't too keen on it!  When spring did arrive it was glorious in our new garden - never seen so many daffodils in so many different varieties in a private garden before.  They put in their appearance in May - as opposed to March in Shropshire!

    The previous owner really loved her garden and it's so lovely I'm afraid to change or add anything in case her ghost comes back to tell me off!  There are a couple of things I'm going to change, such as making a herb garden and growing a few tatties.

    Thanks :smile:
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,882
    All a learning curve.  :)
    They get less snow than many other areas, due to the nature of the landscape, but that's the challenge in gardening - working with what you have, whether it's wind, sun, rain, ice, frost or snow.
    Sometimes all of those in the same day  ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,512
    Sounds as if you have inherited a wonderful garden, congratulations on that and you new home, the move must’ve been quite a shock to the gardening system!

    With regard to your roses, how and when you prune does depend on what type they are. When you say ‘old fashioned’ do you mean like wild/rambling roses/very old varieties that just bloom in one big show in June/July? Or do you mean like stiff, upright bushes that have blooms like classic Valentine’s day red roses, that will repeat flower (if deadheaded) but less prolifically than the former type? In which case they may be Hybrid Teas or some other type of modern repeat flowering rose.

    The distinction is important as the first group, called summer flowering or once-blooming, flower on 2-3 year old wood, or a combination of old and new, so if you seriously hack them back you may not get any roses next year as you have just lopped off the critical, flowering bits. That type only usually need a bit of a light tidy up after flowering has finished (now) plus cutting back any overhanging/wayward canes just getting in the way. If it is a seriously overgrown rose thicket, more major surgery may be required to rejuvenate them 😊 

    Repeat flowering roses usually grow on new wood and are pruned more heavily in late winter/early spring and they will then flower on new fresh growth.

    If you haven’t a clue what they are, the best thing is to do nothing very much apart from a light tidy and observe what they do next year. It would be so much better if you could identify them, or at least their general type, so, if you have any, you could post lots of photos of the whole bushes, plus some of foliage, buds and open rose blooms - perhaps start a new ‘Please ID these roses’ thread.

    One thing you can and should do at any time, regardless of what type of rose, is to prune right down to the ground any dead, diseased, dying or very old, non-productive canes. This will encourage new, healthy growth.

    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • Native58Native58 Posts: 46
    Hi Nollie
    Thank you for replying :)

    The roses have bloomed once, with smallish flowers that seem to be single on some and 'almost' double on others. They seem to be almost upright, but it's hard to see if they are actually upright, or if they are standing up because they are all intertwined.  The lady who owned the house previously was in a nursing home for a couple of years and passed away about 2 years ago, so the garden hasn't been touched for at least 4 years (our neighbours told us that she used to have a gardener come in to tidy up the garden but that they've not seen anyone in the garden for at least 2 years.)  The roses, as a result, are now between 8 and 9 feet tall.  They may have been planted as a bank originally, as the garden is on a slope, and are around 3 to 5 plants deep, but it's hard to tell due to the overgrowth. To be honest, it resembles the forest of briars around sleeping beauty's castle!  Totally imprenatble, very dark and not very healthy looking. 

    Would it be ok to cut them back not so much to tidy them up (my 4 cats LOVE pretending they're jaguars in the undergrowth lol), but to ensure they survive for a very long time.    One of our new neighbours thinks they were originally planted in the late 1940s - mid 1950s.  This is why I want to be very careful with them - do roses have a limited lifetime or do they outlive most gardeners?  

    There are other plants underneath them - what looks like a small shrub with little white pompom type flowers growing up the stems, lupins, Himalayan poppies, and pretty little plants with delicate pink 'feather' flowers which I think are really gorgeous and cute but I have no idea what they are!

    Ideally, I'd like to tame the roses and make them a little bit better behaved whilst keeping their natural and wild appearance and, at the same time save the lovely plants that are growing all around them.

    I really hope someone out there can give me the advice I need to prune without killing these fantastic roses.

    Thanks in desperation :blush:  
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,882
    edited August 2021
    I wonder if you could get hold of the gardener? It shouldn't be too difficult.
    Failing that, there could be a gardening group. Have a look online - I know my sister sometimes uses a Scottish one. I'll see if I can find out the name, although I think it's mainland, but it might still be of use.  :)

    Think it's this one
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,512
    Hi there, OK that’s good, so now we know you have summer-flowering single/semi-double red and white roses of the wild/rambling/very old variety, planted long ago and that have grown out of hand into a neglected and impenetrable thicket!

    Maybe they are Rosa Rugosa Alba and Rubra, but could be anything. Can you post some photos of the whole hedge and some close-ups of the foliage? You can do that with your tablet/phone then upload them using the little mountain icon above the text box. That would really, really help! I’m not great at IDs as I don’t grow those type of roses much, but plenty on here do.

    With the caveat of it would be good to know what they are first before recommending any action, it sounds as if a hands-off, go lightly approach wouldn’t work. I think you may have to go for the major surgery with a chainsaw method, to fully rejuvenate and promote fresh growth that you can then subsequently manage. This would involve taking the lot down to about 1-2ft, then completely removing any dead stuff and giving them a good mulch of fresh compost. Sounds as if they are pretty vigorous, so in a year or two you will have a healthy, controlled flowering hedge, rather than an unsightly dying thicket. 

    At that age, it could also be that they are reaching the end of their natural life, although some roses rejuvenate themselves by suckering wildly (you still have to remove the dead stuff). I know you feel a sense of reverence and responsibility, but if the old owner were still around and she was a knowledgeable rose grower, she may well have ripped the entire lot out and started again, in a no-nonsense Shetland way 😊 

    Some local help would be invaluable though, so as @Fairygirl says, if the gardener is still around, they may well know what they are and be able to tackle them for you. By googling ‘growing roses in Shetland’ I came across this blog - the author’s mum sounds like the perfect person to help! It would be a rare gardener/rose grower indeed that wouldn’t gladly share their knowledge and advice, so don’t be afraid to ask.

    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
Sign In or Register to comment.