Should I Whack Queen of Sweden?

Sylvia Weiser WendelAugust 13, 2014

Hi all,
I can't say I wasn't warned, but sure enough, my two Queens are sending up ramrod-straight canes -- getting close to 5' now. These are bare-root, planted in February.
One of the canes has (I think) a bud at the top; the other, none.
Should I cut the canes back or let them grow? The goal is, of course, to have as many blooms as possible. I'd really like to keep them closer to 4' tall maximum, especially since I plan to add a third next year.
None of my other Austins are doing this, but then QofS is famous for extreme canes.

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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

I can't comment about this particular rose, and the problem I had was not the same, but this may still be be helpful. I have Bishop's Castle and several people commented that my bush was upright whereas theirs tended to flop. Not long after I bought and planted it (it was in a 5-gallon container) I decided to move it to a better place and whacked it back in order to make it easier to move. When it grew back the flowers were at just the right height where they did not flop over. Whenever I deadhead the flowers now I cut the stems quite far down and have been able to keep it at the same height and blooming for about four years now. I know that some roses refuse to submit to this treatment and won't bloom unless they're a certain height and yours might be one of them. However, I don't think it would hurt to at least once whack it back rather low and then see what happens.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 11:51PM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

I never considered Queen of Sweden's canes as "extreme." It is naturally vertical, upright--and naturally grows to about 5 feet. That is "normal" for it. Of course, you are in a warmer zone than I am, so maybe it grows taller there than it would here.

If you wish it to be shorter, you will probably have to prune it fairly often, but it could be done, I guess. If this is its first blooming coming up, I'd wait until after it blooms--just so I could enjoy the blooms. I'd actually let it go through a couple bloom cycles before I did any drastic pruning--so that I was sure I understood how it wants to naturally function.

I don't remember my QofS blooming only at the tips, but maybe I just don't remember it clearly (it is "resting" at the moment). One thing I've done to some taller bushes that I really didn't want to give a full prune is, instead of deadheading, cut some individual branches back by about a foot. That way, the bush will bloom at different heights.

Good luck--and let us know how it does--pics and such. : )


    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 10:46AM
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Sylvia Weiser Wendel

Here's one picture of the decidedly upright canes. Note the "normal" growth about 2' below.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 2:32PM
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Sylvia Weiser Wendel

And here's the other one. They do look somewhat ridiculous.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 2:34PM
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Sylvia Weiser Wendel

The two Queens did have a wonderful flush in the spring -- started in April, went on through June. Here's an example.

Ingrid, I'm intrigued by your suggestion, but flopping buds haven't been a problem here. I've tried to deadhead several leaflets down, as you suggest, and thought I'd get less, ah, pointy bushes that way. It works on Carding Mill, Darcey B. and Munstead Wood, but apparently less with QofS.
DublinBay, I really like the idea of pruning branches back at different heights. In my mind I'm always seeing what these roses look like at the Huntington Library (25 min. away), and the full, rounded, bushy effect is what drew me to these roses in the first place.
QofS was the first Austin I completely fell in love with -- I just really, really like very pale pink roses, and the apricot shadings are just icing on the cake -- and I want mine to look like the catalog photos. Which, come to think of it, do show very upright canes.
I'll try whacking, er, pruning branches at differing heights, with hopes of a magnificent fall flush ... whenever fall is around here. Summer in the Valley lasts July 1 (when the June gloom, if it even happens, goes away) until October 15, as a rule. September is usually our hottest -- and driest -- month. We did get around 30 minutes of rain last week, but that was a momentary (if welcome) distraction.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 2:46PM
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nippstress - zone 5 Nebraska

My vote is to whack them back somewhat shorter than a spot where you want them to widen out. I've found most Austins will branch out from slightly above where they're pruned (including my two QOS), so you might not want to trim off only a foot from the top, or you'll get a candelabrum started at 5' up. Since this is their first year, I would only cut one cane at a time to see how they handle it, but in later years I've ruthlessly pruned my Austins back to promote some width as well as height.

As you know, this rose wants to be tall so it'll be an ongoing tug of war, and this rose will never be very wide even in your zone. Still, it's tough enough to handle some pruning. In the meantime, this is obviously an excuse to plant more roses - medium-sized ones around the perimeter of the QOS, so they don't look too odd after all. Like any of us need more excuses to plant roses, eh?


    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 6:50PM
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tuderte(USDA 9a equiv.)

Hi Sylvia,

I planted a hedge of QofS in January 2013 - bare root - approximately 100 plants. I would say that only half a dozen of them put out particularly long shots (and then only one or two on each of those bushes).

When I pruned them in March this year I cut them all back to roughly 60 cms tall - they're currently about 1.2 metres and I'm just about to give them a 'Summer prune'.

Apart from the hedge in the photo I have one QofS in the garden which I use to 'experiment' with pruning techniques. I don't want all the roses at the top of the hedge - I like to have them at various heights and, for that reason, I cut some canes much lower than others. I'm also trying to see if I can get a more rounded form than the hedge plants (I know that the natural tendency of QofS is to grow in a very upright way).

I'll post another photo of the 'experimental' bush I'm trying my pruning techniques on.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 5:35PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

It's a baby. Let it grow and establish for a couple of years, and then start making it the height you want.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 5:38PM
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tuderte(USDA 9a equiv.)


This is the 'experimental' bush that I'm trying out my pruning technique on. I'm trying to achieve a more 'rounded' plant - it's certainly not as rounded as, say, my Lichfield Angel or Golden Celebration but, for a bush whose natural tendency is to grow tall and rather narrow, I don't think it's too bad. The longer, straighter canes you see are new basal shoots that have appeared in the past week or two.

With my hedge plants that put out the very long canes, I cut them back so that they were the same height as the rest of the bushes - it didn't cause them any harm.

I did a pruning course early this Spring run by a Richard Stubbs from David Austin Roses in the UK. When I mentioned that a few of my QofS put out very long canes he told me to just cut them back to whatever height I wanted them to be - so I guess that it really doesn't matter.

Interestingly, this year they're all more 'uniform' in height but, of course, they're still only 18 months old. Ideally, I want to keep my hedge around 1.5 metres high but I intend to cut some of the outer branches shorter so that I have blooms lower down on the bushes.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 5:56PM
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Wow Tricia. I love it shorter and more rounded. So do you mind telling us some of the techniques? Mine grow tall and thin but one needs to be moved I guess but it does get a good 6-7 hrs of sun. Thanks,Judy

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 8:51PM
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Sylvia Weiser Wendel

Yes, let's hear more about those techniques! 100 QofS -- it's to swoon for.
Cynthia, you're enabling me .. as if I needed an excuse.
Hoovb, you're right. It's like worrying about obesity in a 8-month-old. I did -- "my God! Look at those rolls on his thighs!" -- and my son turned out rail-thin;)
I guess I'll leave the Queens alone for a while and see what happens.
Thanks all,

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 10:13PM
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tuderte(USDA 9a equiv.)

Hi Judy and Sylvia,

First, let me state that I am by no means an expert … I did the rose pruning course because I was rather daunted by the prospect of having to prune all those QofS (plus my other 'non hedge' roses).

I was really comforted by the fact that one of the 'tools' that Richard Stubbs used for showing us how to prune certain roses was a petrol driven hedge trimmer :-) His point was that you can use whatever you like to prune your roses - they're generally very forgiving - of course, he was referring to David Austin roses and I don't know that all roses would welcome a hair cut with a hedge trimmer.

I don't know whether I mentioned earlier that the pruning course was held at a rose nursery at Assisi that specialises in David Austin and old garden roses at the beginning of March this year so there were plenty (hundreds) of roses that required pruning? He comes every year to help them with their pruning and to hold pruning courses for anyone who's interested and they seem to have a great turn up considering that early March is generally not the most pleasant time to be out in the garden all day.

Anyhow, he basically said 'you decide the shape and size of the bush you want and then prune to get what you want'. Obviously, it's a bit more difficult to get certain roses to become more 'rounded' if their natural tendency is to grow straight up.

I've found with my 'experimental' QofS that whenever I decide to prune it (I first pruned this bush in March, then again after the Spring flowering and, again now in Summer) I try to find a bud on a cane that's going to grow in the direction I want - if I have to cut down 40 or 50 cms to get to the bud I want that doesn't bother me because I also like to have the roses flowering at different heights.

Also, the QofS in the photo is still only 20 months old and I don't know whether my 'technique' will be valid in the long term, however, for now it seems to be working.

I just took my tape measure out and checked the bush to give you an idea of its size. There are three strong, new canes that are taller than the rest of the bush - they're just over 1 metre tall and have appeared in the past 1 - 2 weeks, however, most of the canes are around 60cms. The diameter of the bush is also 1 metre and the growth is relatively rounded and uniform. I will let the new long canes flower and then I'll cut them back so that their size matches the rest of the bush.

If you would like, I can put a wider lens on my camera and take some photos and upload them to either Dropbox or Photobucket so you can check them out - just let me know.


I'm attaching a link to the website of the rose nursery at Assisi where the pruning course was held - I hope it's not considered advertising - their site is in Italian only, however, the photos that scroll across the home page of the nursery and its location are quite breath taking!

Here is a link that might be useful: Paola's Roseto at Assisi

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 4:06AM
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Thanks so much Tricia. I will try this and see how I do. My QOS does grow quite tall as do lots of my other English. Hoping to try this the rest of the year and next. Wish me luck. I will check out the link tonight. Thanks again!! Judy

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 2:11PM
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Sylvia Weiser Wendel

Tricia, I like the idea of "you decide what shape your rose will be." I've got to get over the idea that there is some ideal shape and I must compel my roses to assume it. Hopefully these canes (which sound exactly like what you described) will flower - then I can whack them subsequently.
Thanks all,

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 1:26PM
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