Strip leaves and deadhead

How to train roses

A step-by-step guide on how to train roses by head gardener Jenny Barnes. Photos by Jason Ingram

A step-by-step guide to training roses. For more on rose care, head to our piece on how to prune roses and don’t miss our piece from Jenny Barnes on how she creates sculptures out of rose bushes. 


Deadheading roses
© Gavin Kingcome


Strip leaves and deadhead

Begin by stripping the leaves from the whole rose. Most rose pests and diseases are carried on the leaves, so by removing them, you’re organically removing the problem. Clearing the leaves means you get a better look at the existing structure of the rose enabling you to prune more accurately and also means you’re left with a crisp, clean structure once you’re finished. Snip off last year’s flowerheads back to the first true leaf.


Cut back

Ruthlessly, cut out any dead, damaged or diseased wood, cutting back to a healthy, strong bud. Shorten all side shoots – I leave just two healthy buds per stem, this keeps the overall structure looking neat and tidy and prevents your finished shape looking woolly. Cut back any growth thinner than a knitting needle, this keeps the framework open and airy, helping to prevent mildew.


Manipulate the stems

You should be left with stems that you can use to create your shapes. Each shoot will have a natural direction of growth, based on this, bend, curve and entwine the stem until you’re happy. Bending a stem downwards will slow the sap, encouraging more flower production along the length. Roses are more flexible than you think, but go slowly and ease them into position.


Tie in stems

When you are happy with the placement of each stem, tie the rose in place. I use simple garden twine in either natural or green. Tie the stems firmly with a tight double knot. Tradition teaches us not to cross stems when training to prevent rubbing and infection, however if you tie tightly, there is no opportunity for movement and therefore damage. I obsessively trim the ends of all twine to keep the shape looking neat and tidy.

Discover more about Jenny Barnes’ rose training sculptures