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Inherited garden plants

Native58Native58 Posts: 46
Hello, I'm back again already!
When I moved from Shropshire to Shetland we were lucky to inherit a garden with sycamore trees on two sides which do a lot to alleviate the (mostly bitter) winds that blow up from the sea. I also inherited an enormous patch of highly scented single roses.  They are around eight feet tall and a good eight foot deep.  They bloomed beautifully last year (my first year here) but I noticed that there is an awful lot of dead branches and possibly a few dead plants as well.  I really want to keep them, but I'm worried that, as they were totally neglected for at least 3 years and for our first year here, I will watch them gradually die if I don't do anything about them.  

My questions are:

1.  when is the best time to cut them back hard and will this damage the plants and will they flower this year?

2.  if I leave them alone will it be a case of slow suicide for these beautiful plants?


3.  Does anyone know what kind of rose they are?  The plants have fairly thick branches with really evil sharp, backward facing thorns that grab you if you get within range of them!  I have to say that the pink and white flowers are really beautiful and heavily scented and the bushes/trees seem to bloom in succession with flowers from around July to September  (everything here is at least a month behind the mainland when it comes to the garden!) so I think they were planted so that this would happen, if that's possible?

The roses are also underplanted with the most magnificent bluebell wood that looks spectacular for a couple of weeks, so these need to be taken into account when cutting the roses back.

Thanks in advance from a truly befuddled new gardener. 


  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,439
    They are probably Rugosa roses.  When I visited friends in Orkney they told me the only roses that grow well there are Rugosas, very thorny but can withstand the relentless salt laden winds. You could cut them back now but don't leave it much longer.
    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,656
    The golden rules of pruning to conserve a plant are the three Ds.

    Take out at the base all Dead, Diseased or Damaged wood.  For roses, depending on the exposure of the garden this should be done from about mid Feb to mid April so do yours now.   Then, if you can, mulch the border with a thick layer of well-rotted garden compost or manure or some well-rinsed seaweed, assuming you're by the sea.

    You can also do a prune in late autumn to remove the 3 Ds and thus reduce wind resistance as strong gales can damage stems and loosen roots.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,912
    edited April 2022
    Rugosa roses are less 'formal' in their pruning requirements than other roses. They also don't really need much in the way of feeding. I don't think the dead branches are down to you - I think the die back is just how they cope with cold winds - you'll probably find fresh growth comes up behind it very quickly, so get in to cut out the dead stuff asap, or you'll be shredded trying to do it later, once they're growing strongly again. 
    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
  • Native58Native58 Posts: 46
    Thank you all for the advice - as far as I'm aware, the roses have been in situ for at least 20 years, and possibly older.  People who have lived in the area for a long time can't remember the roses not being there!

    Gales aren't a problem here on Shetland, we get them all year round and know when it's summer as the rain is warmer, but still horizontal!  

    I'll be going out tomorrow in a suit of armour to cut back as much as I can - and thank you again for all the help and information.


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