Rose garden curator to give advice on cutting back bushes to encourage growth.

Out with the old and in with the new: A leftover New Year's bromide perhaps, but for those who tend roses it is sound advice.

Clair Martin can't promise you a rose garden, but he can offer some counsel in the thorny matter of rose pruning Sunday morning at the South Coast Botanic Garden on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Martin, curator of the rose garden at the Huntington Library Art Collection and Botanical Garden in San Marino, said now is the time to trim rosebushes back to encourage new growth that will mature by spring.

Pruning is not the difficult chore that one might think. "Most people make rose pruning too complicated," Martin said. "I try to simplify it."

Martin and members of the South Coast Rose Society, the event's sponsor, will talk about the anatomy of a rose and pruning methods. After watching a pruning demonstration using potted roses, participants can "try it themselves on plants actually growing in the garden," said Sharon Van Enoo of Torrance, vice president of the Rose Society and editor of two newsletters on rose gardening.

Without pruning, a rosebush grows into a mass of tangled brambles that produces inferior flowers. Removing unproductive and damaged woody stems, or canes, rejuvenates the plant and gives it a better shape.

Pruning shears and good gloves are essential for working on rosebushes.

Martin said he recommends removing between one-third and one-half of the top growth of the plant. Cuts should be made at an angle about three-eighths of an inch above and away from outward-facing buds, or eyes, on the large canes.

For people who have hybrid roses and floribunda roses and want a profusion of short-stemmed flowers, a light pruning that leaves bushes about three to four feet in height is best, Martin said.

Cutting back the bush more heavily results in fewer, but larger flowers, he said.

"Ortho's Complete Guide to Successful Gardening" estimates that more than 50 million American families have at least one rosebush under cultivation. The guide also notes that fossil evidence shows that roses existed at least 30 million years ago.

The genus Rosa contains about 200 species, with countless crosses that have produced thousands of varieties and hybrids. Among the rose's admirers was William Shakespeare, who wrote: "Of all the flowers, methinks a rose is best."

The Spanish introduced several varieties of roses to California when they planted them around their missions, Martin said. During the last half of the 19th Century, settlers and others brought more than 4,000 varieties to the state, he said.

While a rose by any other name would certainly smell as sweet, people who know about roses always refer to them by their specific names, Van Enoo said. Rose names include brandy, touch of class, Mr. Lincoln, Spartan, Chicago peace, Olympiad and David Austin's English roses--Othello, Fair Bianca, Chaucer and Heritage.

"Roses have characteristics, just like people," Van Enoo said. "But they're not nearly as temperamental as people think they are. They can withstand drought and neglect and still manage to survive."

Martin said people should not be too worried about making mistakes while pruning because roses are resilient. He likened roses to children. "They grow more in spite of what we do than because of what we do."

What: Rose pruning seminar, sponsored by the South Coast Rose Society.

Where: South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula.

When: Sunday, 11 a.m.

Admission: $3 for adults, $1.50 for senior citizens and students and 75 cents for children ages 5 to 12.

Information: Call the garden at (310) 544-1948.

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