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The Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle

The Sunny Bank I was very excited to get the opportunity to visit this garden because I've heard so much about it. It did not disappoint. The garden was created by Elisabeth Carey Miller and her husband Pendleton who purchased the house in 1948. Mrs. Miller was a self-taught gardener who used her artistic skills (she majored in Art History) to create the stunning garden which features a dense canopy of native conifers. She became a plant collector and tracked down unusual specimens and was known as a well-respected plantswoman in the horticultural community. The front entrance Visiting this garden is not exactly easy. It is situated in a restricted community and there is a limit to the number of visitors per year. You must make an appointment on the website at designated times or you can find a tour group like I did. The address isn't listed either although even if you had it, you would have to get past the security guard at the gate to the neighborhood. I think if I lived in

It's time to prune roses

It was hard to believe that it is only mid-February with the wonderful weather we had this past weekend. We were off Friday for Winter Break and I enjoyed a long three-day weekend working in the garden. I was so tired and sore last night that I was in bed by 9:30 which is so not me.

I got out the mower and cut down the monkey grass, cut down a pitiful looking conifer and transplanted a virburnum in it's place and pruned, pruned, pruned. This is a good time to prune roses. I usually tell people to prune when the forsythia starts to bloom. I haven't seen it blooming yet but mid-February through mid-March is a good time to prune.

Since I grow mainly old roses, pruning is usually minimal. However, this year I decided to be a tad more aggressive with some of our roses.

Here are a few tips:

This is a shrub rose ("Carefree Wonder") that is very spindly and has several dead canes. First, you want to cut out all of the dead canes completely.

Take a look at the healthy canes and you should be growth buds coming out along the sides. You want to select an outward facing bud and make a diagonal cut just above this bud. Make the cut so that it slopes away from the bud.

You can cut down as far as you'd like. Hybrid tea roses are usually cut back dramatically, within 1 foot from the ground. Shrub roses, like floribundas are not cut as severely and may only require removing dead branches and light tip pruning. You want to cut the canes back to the healthiest looking area so if you see diseased stems or oddly colored stems, cut it off. Once you make a cut, inspect the cut, the cane should be clean and full on the inside. If you see holes inside the cane, keep cutting down until you no longer find that.

We have a lot of larger shrub roses and climbing roses and the only pruning I do to these is remove dead canes and lightly prune branches back to healthy growth.

When pruning roses, always dip your pruning shears in a solution of bleach and water to avoid transferring diseases from one plant to another.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Thank you! I've been putting off pruning my roses (feared it was too early here in NC or I'd screw it up), and this is good info. Question: In the 2nd picture, of the bud, did you prune diagonally toward the bud or away from it, or does it matter? (if that makes sense)

  2. Excellent question C.C. - I will ammend that. You want to cut away from the bud so that water would flow off the cane and not toward the bud.

  3. Some excellent advice! Met a woman yesterday at Lowe's who said she always prunes on Valentine's Day. I am with you on the forsythia rule of thumb.

  4. Great post, Phillip. I hope your pruning went well, and you didn't get scratched too much. How many roses do you grow in all?

  5. Masha, well my arms kind of look like I've been in a fight with my cats. I grow around 100, more or less.

  6. Looking forward to your beauties this year.

  7. Very good tutorial Phillip. I was out today too only I didn't prune roses. I pruned a dogwood shrub. I will have to look at my rose to see if it is awake yet. Isn't it amazing how sore and tired the first few days in the garden can make you.?. All that wonderful fresh air.

  8. Nice tips here...I already pruned my roses, we will see how well I did soon......

  9. Thank you, this is really useful info for me. I was wobdering, I see on your blog that your Hydrangeas are - in a word - magnificent. Could you show us how to prune Hydrangeas the next time you do yours?

  10. Great tips Phillip. I never thought about telling people to prune when forsythia starts to bloom. That will help them.~~Dee

  11. Yep yep! Its time! I actually took the chance and did mine a few weeks was so warm and I just couldn't help myself.

    The old roses I just sort of clip to make look 'neat' and then the knockouts I shear down to about 18 inches. I don't think those roses would care if I sheared them down to 3 inches.

  12. Can I relate! I pruned Clematis all day and can barely move. Thanks for reminding me about the roses, they are next (when I recover) When its pruning time I feel I have too many...when they bloom I don't have enough! Same for those 'Annabelles'.
    Isn't it great to be back in the garden?!!

  13. I would like to award you with the Stylish Blogger Award. Thank you for a terrific blog. I enjoy it very much.

    I realize this does have the whiff of a chain letter about it, but the directions I got were:

    1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
    2. Pass the award to 3 other blogs that you've newly discovered.
    3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

    Whether or not you choose to pass it on, know that I really appreciate your work.

  14. I am so jealous right now of you. Well, not you in particular, but on the weather. It’s snowing here and I can’t wait the spring to kick in. other than that, this is a really useful post. Thank you for writing it. I’ll make sure to follow your instructions when the snow will melt here.

  15. We have spent this month pruning them all back. Glad we have because this warm spot is making them antsy to come out!!

  16. Phillip, thanks for the rose pruning tutorial. We do not have many roses in our garden, though I would like to add some older varieties. We are in s. IL, zone 6b. I wonder if you could recommend three or four?

    We do have this old lovely yellow one that came from my husband's grt-g'mother's garden.

    And this one from his grandmother.

    I don't know their names, but we look forward to them each spring. The yellow one blooms the first part of May and the pink one a week or two later.

    And we have this one, given to us by a friend. It has the most heavenly scent which wafts across the garden, but the most wicked thin prickly thorns! It blooms off and on in May/June with a few stragglers now and then in the summer. Pink with a bluish cast.

    Thanks so much for sharing your lovely garden, year round!



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