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Originally published Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 5:31 AM

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It’s time to cut back — those roses, that is

Garden writer Ciscoe Morris advises readers to prune those roses now, so they’ll bloom on time and reduce chance of disease.

Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

Northwest Horticultural Society 6th Annual Ephemerals ... and More! Spring Plant Sale: Plants from specialty nurseries, guest speaker Dan Hinkley ($5 lecture tickets available at 8:30 a.m.), 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 N.E. 41st St., Seattle (206-780-8172 or

Seattle Rose Society pruning demonstration: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden, 13735 24th Ave. S., SeaTac (

Snohomish Garden Club lecture: Jeff Thompson will talk about growing tomatoes, 7 p.m. Monday, Snohomish Senior Center, 506 Fourth St., Snohomish; free.

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In the Garden

If you haven’t pruned your roses yet, it’s not too late — but do it soon or flowering could be delayed. Pruning your rose results in improved air circulation and greater sunlight exposure, both of which aid in reducing disease. Equally important, pruning encourages more and higher-quality blooms.

The goal when pruning tea and similar-type roses is to develop an urn-shaped plant. Begin by removing any dead canes. Then remove any sucker growth that comes from below the graft union.

If possible, dig down to where the sucker originates and twist it off the roots. If you cut it off at ground level, you’ll simply get two of the troublemakers for the price of one.

Prune all the healthy canes back by about two-thirds, cutting to an outward facing bud, or if your rose has begun to grow, cut to an outward-facing, newly forming branch.

Don’t believe the adage that you should only keep four to six canes. Roses store energy in their stems and the more canes you keep, the stronger the growth will be. If two canes are crowding each other, remove the weaker of the two, but keep as many healthy canes as possible.

Finally remove any old leaves that remain on the bush, and rake up any fallen ones and remove them from the garden ASAP. The old leaves carry black spot, rust and mildew. Removing them from your garden will help prevent problems later in spring.

Safety first

How many times have you been out pruning and decided to cut off a wayward branch of a nearby rose without proper gloves? It’s not a good idea.

If you get pricked by a thorn that happens to be infected with a rare fungus, you could come down with a disease called sporotrichosis, commonly known as “rose thorn disease.”

Symptoms usually begin as a firm, nearly painless, pink to nearly purple skin bump. Left untreated, it can lead to a serious and painful condition requiring a hospital stay.

This isn’t something to panic over. Only about 200 to 250 cases occur each year in the U.S., but I recently met someone who was hospitalized with the infection, and he asked me to warn folks to take common-sense precautions.

Wear high-quality, thorn-resistant rose gloves and thick clothing anytime you prune, transplant or work around roses.

If you suspect you might have the infection, see a doctor immediately.

Don’t be afraid to work around and enjoy your roses; just do it wisely.

Ciscoe Morris:

“Gardening With Ciscoe” airs

at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.

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About Ciscoe Morris

Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.