Pruning Roses And Flying Bees

Sunrise on Columbia Parkway

Sunrise on Columbia Parkway

It’s a gorgeous day on Columbia Parkway! The sun is shining and it’s almost 60 degrees F. It’s perfect for doing yard cleanup, putting down some compost and checking on my bees.

I noticed this morning that my rose bushes are starting to bud. Time to do some much needed late winter pruning!


Winter pruning is important for the well-being of roses, as it stimulates the growth of new shoots which will provide flowers.

The best time to prune is just as spring growth starts. It’s not a good idea to wait until the new young shoots are a few inches long as this wastes the plant’s energy and will delay flowering.

The basics of pruning

The first step is easy. Cut out any shoots that are dead and diseased. Spores on these stems can easily reinfect the new shoots in spring so removing them will help with disease control. Also cut out any stems that are particularly weak or rubbing against each other

The next step is to prune the remaining stems.  Most roses benefit from moderate pruning, reducing the height by 1/4 to 3/4. I usually trim about 1/3 of the average height of the stems.

If you have the time you can make sure to prune just above the bud and at a slight angle away from the bud. The angle of the cut is more of an issue for Hybrid Teas and Floribundas as they can be more susceptible to die back than shrub roses. I do make sure that my secateurs are clean and sharp.

Once you have finished pruning your roses it’s important to clean up all the cut stems and fallen leaves as they can carry disease onto the next season.

Then apply a good layer of mulch such as garden compost or well rotted manure. No bark mulch please!! This will help to bury any spores left on the soil surface, keep the soil moist and cool, prevent weeds from germinating and feed the microorganisms in the soil.


After I finished pruning, I checked in on my bees. They were flying like crazy!

I was delighted to see they were collecting pollen, not just out for a warm weather potty visit.




I’m adding a third hive this year, so I’m moving the original hive to the bottom of the garden. Moving day is tomorrow! I’ll be sure and let you know how it goes…

More Bee-Friendly Roses From David Austin

In addition to his new varieties, David Austin offers three beautiful bee-friendly roses.

Comte de Champagne

Comte de Champagne

‘Comte de Champagne’ has flowers of a rich yellow coloring which as they open, gradually turn to a pleasing pale yellow. They open to form a perfect open cup, with a ‘mop’ of stamens of deepest yellow; the whole providing a delightful range of color on the bush at one time. The growth is wide, low and bushy, producing its flowers on slender, arching stems. There is a delicious honey and musk fragrance that complements the flower to perfection. Healthy and free flowering.

This rose is named after Taittinger’s finest champagne. The president of Taittinger, M Claude Taittinger, is a descendant of Thibaut IV, Count of Champagne and Brie and who introduced R. gallica Officinalis (The Apothecary’s Rose) from Damascus on his return from the 7th Crusade in 1250. He was a great lover of roses and wrote about them in his poetry.

The Alexandra Rose

The Alexandra Rose

A tall and rather spreading shrub bearing dainty, coppery-pink flowers with a yellow center and pretty stamens. Its foliage shows signs of its Alba parent and the flowers have attractive, long conspicuous sepals on the opening bud. Hardy and disease-resistant.

It has a soft Musk Rose fragrance.

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens

This is not truly an English Rose but we include it here for convenience as it has connections with our Musk Hybrids. The flowers, which are small and single, are held in very large heads rather like a hydrangea and produced almost continuously from early summer through to the end of the season. The young buds are soft apricot opening to pure white, with a hint of soft lemon behind the stamens. The flowers are followed by small red hips which should be removed to encourage repeat flowering.

It is extremely healthy and completely thornless – an unusual thing among roses. It has a bushy but rather upright habit of growth, making it ideal for the back of a mixed border. A group of two or three or more bushes will provide a mass of white as though they were covered with snow. This rose is particularly suitable for forming a magnificent impenetrable flowering hedge.

We are naming this rose in celebration of the 250th anniversary of Kew Gardens. We are replanting the rose garden behind the famous Palm House, returning it to the layout of 1848 and filling it with a wonderful mixture of English Roses, Old Roses and other shrub roses.

Two New Bee-Friendly David Austin Roses

I just received my 2013 David Austin Handbook of Roses and was delighted to see there are two new cultivars that are especially bee-friendly.

"Fighting Temeraire"

“Fighting Temeraire”

‘Fighting Temeraire’  has the shape, color and fragrance that are attractive to bees and other pollinators. The fully open flowers are very large, 4-5″ across, and have only ten petals. They are a rich apricot color, with an area of yellow behind the stamens. The fragrance is medium to strong, very fruity with a strong element of lemon zest.

‘Fighting Temeraire’ is a painting from 1839 by the famous landscape painter, watercolorist and printmaker, JMW Turner. This rose has been named for the Turner Contemporary Gallery on Margate’s seafront in Kent.

The Lady's Blush

The Lady’s Blush

Bees will be attracted to the open shape and creamy white and yellow center of The Lady’s Blush.   As with all semi-double roses, the central group of stamens is a very important feature. These are particularly fine; a beautiful soft yellow color with highlights of golden-yellow pollen. Its only drawback is its light fragrance.

It has been named to commemorate the 125th anniversary of The Lady magazine, which is the longest running weekly magazine for women.

Do Bees Like Roses?

Matchball from Vintage Roses

Matchball from Vintage Roses

Do bees like roses?

The answer is no. And yes.

Let me explain. Bees like flowers that look and smell good to them.

Bees aren’t generally attracted to red and bright pink flowers. They prefer shades of blue, violet, white, yellow and orange.

They’re put off by lots of big fluffy petals. It’s too hard to get at the nectar and pollen. They prefer flowers with shapes that provide them easy access to the goodies.

Bees are very sensitive to odors, both good and bad. Like people, they are drawn to flowers with a sweet fragrance.

Many modern roses have bunches of tightly closed petals in shades of red and bright pink. Some have little or no fragrance.  As a rule, bees don’t like ’em.

But many of the older “heirloom” roses have single or double blossoms that smell heavenly. They have big yellow “bullseyes” that seductively invite bees to visit.  Here are a few of my favorites, all from The Antique Rose Emporium:

Champney's Pink Cluster

Champney’s Pink Cluster



Bishop Darlington

Bishop Darlington

Fortunes Double Yellow

Fortunes Double Yellow



The Last Rose of Summer

‘TIS the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone ;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone ;
No flower of her kindred,
No rose-bud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one !
To pine on the stem ;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie wither’d,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh ! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone ?

Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

What’s Blooming In The Garden On July 28

There’s still plenty of nectar for the bees. I can’t wait for my dahlias to start blooming en masse!

Rosa Cinco De Mayo – First Bloom

I planted this rose back in May and was rewarded today by the first little blossom!

Rosa Gertrude Jekyll

This is a beautiful David Austin rose.  One of his most popular!!

It has beautifully cupped double blossoms of rich pink. It produces arching stems to 5 feet or more and 3 feet wide, making it an ideal candidate for training up a low structure.

Most English shrub roses bloom from spring to fall, with large, single to double, mostly fragrant flowers. They make ideal companions in mixed borders, in hedges, or as specimens.

Grow in fertile, moist, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Provide good air circulation and remove fallen leaves to help prevent disease. Prune lightly or back by up to 1/3, reducing side shoots by 1/2 to 1/3. To renovate, prune one in four or five shoots from the base.

Rosa Cinco De Mayo

Rosa Cinco de Mayo™

The abundant flower clusters of this repeat-blooming Floribunda are of a novel, smoky-russet hue that makes it a standout, while also blending well with other colors. It looks great in a cottage garden, and bees are attracted to their yellow “target”!

Cooler weather brings out the smoky tones in its 3 1/2-inch, ruffled double flowers. Growing 2-4ft tall with glossy green leaves and bushy habit, Cinco de Mayo™ is equally suited for use as a specimen in a border or for mass planting.  A 2009 All-America Rose Selections winner.

I found it at White Flower Farm.

Roses For Your Honey

Conventional wisdom dictates that bees aren’t fond of roses. That isn’t always true.

I agree that bees aren’t crazy about muscling their way into a tightly closed hybrid tea rose or struggling to find the pollen in a David Austin cabbage rose.

But they love the old- fashioned less-complicated roses like Sweet Briar and the Gallica Rose.

Bee on a Sweet Briar Rose

Known as the Sweet Briar Rose because of the strongly apple-scented leaves, this rose is a favorite English native that has been recorded in literature from Chaucer to Shakespeare. R. eglanteria, or Eglantine, has been common in cottage gardens because it is not only hardy but always fragrant, whether or not it is in bloom. The rambling shrub is large, thorny, and vigorous with dark green, slightly rough foliage. Spring flowers are pink with five petals and have a good rose fragrance of their own. R. eglanteria should be part of every fragrance garden. Rain, wind and sun all seem to bring out the perfume of the plant.

Bee on a Gallica Rose

The Gallica Rose is a European wild rose, a small shrub (usually less that 4 ft) and by convention considered red (actually more a deep reddish pink). A semi-double form “Officinalis” (see photograph) is one of the earliest recorded cultivated roses. It has many names, for instance: “The Provins Rose” (after the beautiful medieval town of Provins just outside Paris), or simply “The Red Rose”. It is also the rose with the best claim to being the “Red Rose of Lancaster“, the symbol of one of the warring factions in the wars of the roses.

So both you and your bees can enjoy roses in your garden. Happy Valentine’s Day!