Oprah’s Rose Garden is legendary. When she moved to Montecito a few years back, she elicited the help of Dan Bifano, one of the worlds most sought after master rosarians. To give a clue as to the volume of his talent and skill, he not only designed and installed the rose garden for Oprah Winfrey but for Barbara Streisand as well. Dan was also involved in the creation and selection of the namesake roses for Oprah (The Legends rose) and Ms. Streisand (Barbara Streisand Rose). Not long ago, I spent some time chatting with Dan about rose-pruning, here are his top 4 pruning tips.

Dan Bifano, Rose pruning, Santa Barbara, A.C. Postel Rose Garden, Mission of Santa Barbara

Dan Bifano and volunteers from the Santa Barbara Rose Society prune the roses at Santa Barbara’s A.C. Postel Rose Garden every January

Rose Pruning Tip #1 Roses need to rest

Roses need to rest. Here in Santa Barbara, the weather never gets cold enough to force plants into true dormancy, but that is what roses need. In our climate, roses will only go dormant if you stop trimming, dead heading and feeding. Starting in November, don’t touch your roses. Water them if needed, but nothing else. When you prune them in January, this action will “wake them up” and they will start to grow again.

Rose Pruning Tip #2 Remember the Three D’s

When pruning roses, remember “the three D’s” Remove anything that is Dead, Dying or Diseased. You want to encourage new “canes” to develop so getting rid of any of the three D’s is part of the deal.

Rose Pruning Tip #3 Create a Vase Shape

Rose pruning, Santa Barbara, Dan Bifano, Rose Gardens, A.C. Postel Rose Garden

Santa Barbara’s A.C. Postel Rose Garden after it’s annual pruning

Prune Roses in the shape of a “vase”. The crown or center of the plants needs sun, so get rid of all the criss-crossing branches to open it up to sun and air. As you are pruning, remove all the leaves. Beneath the leaves lie what are called “Bud Eyes” (a bud eye is where new growth will emerge). When you make the final cut, cut just above an outward facing bud eye, so new branches (canes) will grow away from the center of the plant.

Rose Pruning Tip #4 Landscape Roses

Landscape Roses include Roses you plant for mass floral effect rather than the perfection of individual blooms. The most popular of these Roses (also called Floribundas) is the Iceberg Rose. Landscape Roses also need a hard pruning in January. The difference is that you leave more canes than you would on a Tea Rose, you will get more flowers this way. Keep in mind the desired finished shape you want. These kinds of Roses should be pruned into a ball shape, reducing the size of the plant by about one-third.

Dan’s Best Advice of all

Julia Child Rose, Rose Story Farm, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Roses

A mass of Julia Child Roses at Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria

Dan’s best advice on Roses is to remember that they will grow no matter what we do to them, so don’t worry about it, you will have another chance next year. Roses are a beautiful addition to any garden and despite their reputation for being difficult, they aren’t. Splurge on them.

Until next time, fill your garden with joy, and roses.