Let's Talk about Tools
To get the best from your roses, you'll need to have a few tools for periodic pruning, harvesting and deadheading. A good, sharp pair of bypass pruners is an essential tool for all gardeners. Felco 2 and 6 (for smaller hands) are widely considered the best, top-of-the-line and will last a lifetime if properly care for (see below). Next, consider a set of long-handled bypass lopers for handling older thicker stems. If you've inherited some older roses, you might also need a small pruning saw to tackle thicker branches. Some of our members also like to use small gardening snips or Japanese shears for deadheading and blossom harvesting.
Next, a good set of goatskin or leather gloves to protect your hands from prickles, aka thorns, is also recommended. A wad of newspaper can serve in a pinch, but gauntlet goatskin gloves will ensure you emerge scratch free from your bushes. Several members recently purchased gauntlets from Bear Wallow Gloves, we'll post a review later this year. Additional protection should be used when handling chemicals, we will cover that in another post.
For climbing roses, you'll also need a method of tying your roses to train them. Strong cord is essential, but plastic zip-ties work too. Either way, be sure to allow for movement and growth of the branches.
Before you head out to prune your roses, give your tools a thorough cleaning and sharpening. While pruners should be sanitized regularly, over the course of a season, they can get build-up from sap. Rub the blades with a bit of steel wool. If the blades are particularly dirty, use a crumpled piece of aluminum foil, a neutral oil and some salt for cleaning: oil the blades, sprinkle with salt and rub clean with crumpled foil, then wipe dry. Sharpening can be done using a stone or a file, we recommend you search youtube and find a method that works for you. A light spray with WD-40 and you'll be ready for the season. A sharp blade is a safe blade!
While you are working in your garden, remember to sanitize your pruners each and every time you move to the next rose bush. Rose Rosette Disease has been reported in the Lehigh Valley, and keeping your pruners clean will help avoid the spread of it, or any other fungal disease. An alcohol based spray or sanitizing wipes (with the pandemic, there's plenty available if you don't already have some), or a jar with some disinfecting mouthwash are simple, easy ways to sanitize your pruners while you are working. Be mindful about brushing up against your plants, and, if you are working at the HBRG, we recommend you change clothes when you get home before going out into your own garden.
If you have tools other than those mentioned that you rely on when working in your rose garden, please let us know in the comments below. Happy gardening!