The Garden Fanatic -- Steve Kawaratani

“Why is it no one ever sent me . . . one perfect rose?”

-- Dorothy Parker

“The essence of romantic love is the never-ending, wonderful



-- with apologies to Anita Brookner

The rose is my flower of choice. During Catharine’s recent travels in

the Grand Canyon, I kept a vase filled with roses on her night stand, so

I wouldn’t be as lonely (I was lonesome anyway). The hours leading to her


return were spent agonizing and inspecting dozens of roses in our garden.

Of course, it couldn’t be just any rose -- I needed one perfect rose for

our reunion.

The quest for perfect roses in your garden begins with the major rose

pruning events that occur during the summer -- flower cutting,

deadheading, grooming and disbudding. Although the initial cost of

acquiring may seem a bit extravagant, I absolutely recommend the Felco

line of pruning shears; not only are they the finest available, one pair


will last a lifetime. My father used his same pair of Felco #2s for well

over a decade, changing only its blades after they had worn out.

Cutting flowers is probably the most enjoyable summer pruning job.

After all, many of us grow roses so they may be appreciated indoors.

Those flowers that don’t make it indoors should be deadheaded. Remove

flowers as soon as they have faded and the petals are about to fall. It

prompts the rose toward developing additional flowers, instead of

ripening seeds.


Catharine asked, “Where should you make the cut when you remove

flowers?” I replied, that rose leaves are compound, meaning they are

composed of leaflets, and there is always an odd number of leaflets to

one leaf. The general rule is to cut just above an outward facing leaf

with five leaflets. Cut higher at a three-leaf set and the subsequent

growth will be weaker and produce smaller flowers. If you cut lower at a

seven-leaf set, you’ll be removing a lot of stem.

Cutting at the proper five-leaflet site will be about halfway down the

flower stem. At this point the rose will have the optimum strength to

develop its best flower and remain attractively bushy. Take the

opportunity to remove unwanted growth from dieback (stems which die in a

downward direction from improper pruning) and blind growth (stems which

continue to develop without producing buds).

Many rosarians recommend grooming on a constant basis during summer

pruning. “Grooming” consists of removing all yellow leaves and spindly

growth from a rose. Clean up any fallen flower petals and foliage from

the ground to minimize future insect and disease problems.

Disbudding is the way to develop full-sized flowers, one to a stem,

from roses that usually flower in clusters. Many of the grandiflora and

hybrid teas produce large flowers in such tight clusters, none can open

properly. This can be avoided by removing side buds from the dominant,

central bud.

I spent hours inspecting and grooming the more than 100 roses in our garden, however, indecision was settling in. Should I buy a rose from

Anita at the English Garden, take gummy bears, or simply show up empty

handed? Just as I was headed toward despair, I spotted its perfect form

on our deck -- an Angel Face, soft and mauve, possessing a delightful

fragrance, but not too sweet. My hand lovingly guided the Felco pruners

and I made my way to Diamond Creek, Ariz. See you next time.

* STEVE KAWARATANI is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery, 1540

South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. He is married to local artist,

Catharine Cooper, and has three cats. He can be reached at (949)

497-2438, or E-mail to