Monday, February 6, 2012

The Battle Of Cecile

Last summer, hot and exhausted from deadheading spent blooms, cleaning up fallen petals, weeding, watering, and fertilizing, I often thought of winter. The rains would come, and I would sit down, relax, read other people's blogs and write thoughtful posts full of gardener's wisdom on mine. It was not to be.

Cecile Brunner, a climbing polyantha


 The winter has been mild and sunny, and it turned out I couldn't stay away from the garden for long. This past Friday, however, after two months of pruning, mulching and spraying, I sat down, looked around and thought with satisfaction that I was done for the season. Then, I took a closer look at Cecile. Cecile Brunner, a large once-blooming climbing polyantha rose, was planted in my back yard many years ago. It has become a large healthy plant with long weeping branches that give me garlands of lovely blush pink blooms in spring.


In all its glory last year

However, I was becoming unhappy with it for two reasons. First, my neighbor in the back grows morning glory on our shared fence. The morning glory gets on top of the rose, and either breaks the branches by pulling them toward my neighbor's yard, or chokes them so they die back. It got more and more rampant each year, so I was becoming worried about it overtaking the rose completely. But because my Cecile was about 15' wide and about 10' deep I didn't see what I could do about it. How would I get to it?

Unpruned, overgrown, and burdened with dead but tenacious morning glory
The other problem was mostly my fault for letting it grow completely unchecked. It would grow new branches, bloom, then grow new branches on top of the old, and so on every year. It was expanding farther and farther, and the interior was full of spindly dying twigs.

Lots of unproductive twigs inside need to be cut off
I never have a desire to go at my roses with shrub shears (which would remove most of the desirable new growth and keep most of the old), but I also didn't believe that a more meaningful pruning was possible with a rose this size. But this year I thought I could at least attempt to clear away some of the twiggy interior, hoping also to "shrink" the rose a bit, so it would fit better into its allotted space. I started cutting off the thin interior twigs on the left side fully intending to keep the long new weeping branches above and outside the interior of the rose.

It is beginning to look a little better


The work was not so daunting as it first seemed, and soon I was able to stand up in the middle of the rose. After clearing up the interior branches I discovered I could reach the morning glory! The wild hope that I could actually untangle my beautiful rose from its ugly tentacles gave me courage to keep going. I brought out my Gardena cordless grass shears which have a telescopic handle, and my husband joined me in shearing the morning glory off the rose.

These branches bloomed and then were shaded by new ones that grew over them. The blooming laterals are dying off
Then, an unexpected thing happened. Instead of remaining upright and shrinking in size a little, the rose, freed from the shackles of morning glory, started leaning away from the fence (scary!), and the beautiful weeping branches ended up completely out of the bed and in the lawn. Oops. I didn't realize how flexible the canes were, even the thick woody ones that looked completely immobile. I could prop them back up against the fence of course, but then I would have the morning glory problem right back. So I decided to cut back the rose even more until the canes could stand up unsupported.

Pruned rather more than I was intending but still retained some of its beautiful fountain shape
I thought it would give me room to get close to the fence every once in a while and cut off any stray grabbing morning glory tentacles (quite possibly a utopian dream).

Osteospermum daisies underneath enjoying the sunshine

Probably only temporarily :)


I am amazed at how much of the rose has gone. It feels as if a long time friend has left me. Still, I hope that cutting away dead twigs and the morning glory will do the rose good, even if I don't see this spring the bounty of blooms with which I have been spoiled in previous years.

Cecile Brunner and Rosette Delizy last spring

33 comments:

  1. Cecile Brunner looks absolutely gorgeous.....I love the last picture in this post. Your roses look quite stunning!

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  2. The Roses are beautiful, but the shots of the Daisies are stunning! That was quite a project--but it should pay off with lots of healthy blooms this spring and summer. I love the fountain shape of the plant now! It will be fun to see updates with it in full bloom.

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  3. Believe me Masha, Cecile will prevail no matter what. I cut mine to 8 foot stumps every couple of years lest she take the house down. She fills all the yard waste toters about 3 weeks in a row after this activity . She is one of my favorites, even though I never should have planted her in the 1st place !

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  4. After reading your post, I thought "I have to have that rose!" But then where would I put it? I just yesterday finished pruning and tying up my climbing Graham Thomas (that had been pruned incorrectly by the Mr for several years but that's another story!). It was so hard to find any canes to even direct into a fountain shape. (Thanks to your previous post on pruning climbers, I kind of knew what I was doing!) I have it on a recently purchased trellis and hopefully it will begin growing in the right direction. I think your Cecile is saying "Thank you for liberating me!"

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  5. Oh my gosh Masha, what a wonderful pruning job you did on your Cecile Brunner! How many hours did you work on that?! Honestly I believe that the rose will come right back this spring and bloom profusely. I think your pruning will rejuvenate it in the best possible way. And I am sure that the rose will enjoy that you got the morning glory of her back. Hopefully you have a chance to keep the morning glory in check from now on so that it is not conquering the rose again. I can't wait to see your Cecile Brunner blooming this spring.
    Christina

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  6. Hello Masha...je pense que tu as bien fait d'élaguer les rosiers et que tu vas retrouver des arbustes sains et bien fleuris au printemps.C'est un gros travail que tu as entrepris mais les résultats seront à la hauteur de la tache accomplie. Clair Matin est un beau rosier que je conduis chez moi en gros arbuste, il n'a pas besoin de support. Je n'ai pas Cécile brunner dans mon jardin mais quand je le vois chez toi tu me donnes envie de l'adopter.
    belle journée jocelyne

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  7. Great job, Masha ! I did the same with my Lady Banks ... hopefuly they will bloom in the spring.
    Amazing rose, indeed. The last photo is like a dream ...

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  8. What a labor of love to prune our old garden favorites! No matter how big the task I know it was a breath of fresh air to be trimmed and pruned especially of the morning glory intruder.... Wonderful educational post on pruning.... I'm sharing with my group!

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  9. What a beautiful display of blooms this rose gives you, even while being choked out from the morning glories. I bet this rose will respond quite happily. I also hope you'll be able to keep the morning glories off her. Morning glories are quite invasive here, and I would never grow them, no matter how pretty they are. I can't wait to see Cecile bloom again this spring - I bet she will be glorious!

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  10. Wow what a waterfall of flowers and scent the rose must bring. I am amazed that your roses are giving so much flowers at this time of the year. I can't wait to see it later in the year.
    Have a lovely day
    Marijke

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  11. I love your header. They so rarely sit for even a moment and you got one gorgeous photograph. Poor Cecile. Your neighbor needs to stop crowding it out. It is so beautiful that it is a shame it needed to cut back so drastically. But, they are resilient and will be a show piece again.

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  12. Wow! You did a great job! I don't know if I would have had the heart to cut it back although that is what was obviously needed.

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  13. That story sounds so familiar to me and my pruning. I've never met a pruning job I didn't like. ha. My wife accuses me of butchery so often, but It usually ends well. Nice photos.

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  14. Hope you didn't get to scratched up with all the pruning that you did. You've gotten so much done during the cold of winter.

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  15. Votre rosier Cécile Brunner est tellement beau que cela me donne encore plus envie de le planter au jardin! Je suis convaincue que cette taille drastique lui fera beaucoup de bien. Le voilà "libéré"! Il refleurira certainement abondamment cet été.
    La dernière photo, avec Rosette Delizy et Cécile, est splendide!

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  16. Absolutely beautiful flowers... and lovely photos. :) Great story too.

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  17. I love my Cecile Brunner which is now six years old and huge. It covers the top of my patio cover, and every spring I get hundreds of blooms that I can see from my second floor bedroom. It is as if my garden comes up to greet me! I haven't pruned it yet and still can't decide if I should. But be sure to keep us up to date on yours--I would like to see how she rebounds.

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  18. I get so nervous about pruning that I never do it, and all my plants are overgrown. I bet your rose will be beautiful this year.

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  19. How frustrating that your neighbor isn't more helpful in maintaining their vines. The rose looks great after its' haircut! When it does bloom again it will be like meeting an old friend. It's truly magnificent in full bloom!!

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  20. Myślę, że ona pięknie Ci zakwitnie, bo uwolniłeś ją z objęć powoju. Piękne zdjęcia kwiatów. Pozdrawiam. *** I think it will bloom beautifully you, because it freed from the clutches of morning glories. Beautiful pictures of flowers. Yours.

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  21. Cecile was a magnificent sight to behold I full bloom and she will be again after her haircut! What an ambitious job and it turned out great.

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  22. PS those pictures of the daisies are gorgeous!

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  23. Hi Masha, it has been awhile since I stopped by, but I am so glad I did! What a project. I am sure Cecil will return better that ever. Everything looks beautiful!xo j

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  24. I'd be dreadfully tempted to "accidentally" smear a whole lot of Ipomea leaves with one of those glyphosate weeding "glue" sticks*... I remember using one when I was a kid to get rid of rampant Ipomea where it didn't belong.

    *reminds one of a "Pritt" stick.

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  25. Oh, that is a huge rose....even after cutting. I'm thinking its going to just go bonkers now that you freed it from its shackles.

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  26. James wrote what I was thinking, Masha. Morning Glory is not neighborly! Please remember to show us Cecile when she flowers this year. And congratulations on your beautiful header: just gorgeous and a great photograph.

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  27. Cecile Brunner, what a beauty, with that old fashioned look. The cultivated forms of Morning Glory are not very robust in this part of the world, although gardeners further south in the country complain of Bindweed.

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  28. What a rose! I immediately put it on the must-have-list. Don't worry I'm sure Cecil won't mind this cutting, she will only present you even more flowers.
    Thank you for showing such a beautiful rose on a grey winter day.
    Take care
    Alex

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  29. Masha,

    Those Osteospermum daisies could be a magazine cover stunning photo! I think you did right with the rose bush, it'll be better than ever!

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  30. Don't worry, everything will be OK with your Cecile. I have cutted her twice in this way (every third year of her's life) and I have well branched young shots and ordinated plant. It won't be a mass of flowers but will be instead totally renewed with reddish branches and green leafs with no old wood.

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  31. What a lot of roses! Beautiful!

    Regards Janny

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  32. I have a non-climbing Mme Cecile from a rootstock my father bought over 60 years ago. Each Valentines he comes over and whacks off a huge section of the canes (more than I do, I cringe). Year after year Cecil (as we call the bush) comes back with a vengeance! Hundreds of blooms through the year on his 3' x 6' canes!

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I am so glad you have stopped by!