Some roses flower well into October and beyond, either because they flower for much of the year or because they have a good second flush of blooms from late summer. It’s tempting at this time of year just to leave these late-flowering blooms, but a bit of attention will improve the plants' health and vigour, and they will flower all the better next year. All they need is a bit of tidying and some reduction in height to stop them rocking in the wind.

Autumn Sunset, Ridings Park, Brighouse, 7 November 2008. A fine bright late afternoon in the park, with brilliant colouring in the autumn leaves and a late flowering of yellow roses.

Autumn Sunset, Ridings Park, Brighouse, 7 November 2008. A fine bright late afternoon in the park, with brilliant colouring in the autumn leaves and a late flowering of yellow roses.
geograph.org.uk/p/1036585 © Tim Marchant and reused under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

There’s also just time to prune those shrub roses that have a single flush of flowers. The aim is to encourage healthy regrowth and to let more air and light into the plant.

Tidying late-flowering roses in autumn

Enjoy any roses in flower, such as 'Golden Showers', one of the best late-flowering roses.

Rose 'Golden Showers'.

Rose 'Golden Showers'. © Leonora (Ellie) Enking and reused under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Remove the petals from those that are starting to form hips: these are lovely in the winter and birds enjoy them too. Prevent rot from getting a hold by snipping off any flowers that are wet and faded.

Does any of the foliage show signs of black spot, powdery mildew or rust? Pick the leaves off, rake up any fallen leaves and bin them or burn them to prevent disease being carried into next year.

Prevent wind rock in roses

Winter gales can make roses rock in the wind, and this loosens and damages the roots.

Standard roses have a single tall stem with a round, lollipop-shaped head. These can easily catch the wind so thin them out to avoid or minimise damage.

Reduce the height of tall bush roses by cutting their stems back by around a third in October or November. Find an outward-facing bud and cut just above it. Whilst you’re about it, remove any obviously dead stems too. Then give your roses a good mulch of well-rotted manure or garden compost to give them a good start next spring.

Pruning shrub roses that have a single flush of flowers

The RHS advice is as follows:

  • Prune in late summer once flowering is completed.
  • The main requirement is to keep the plants free of dead, diseased and damaged wood, crossing or rubbing branches, or spindly growth.
  • Avoid excessive build-up of older, unproductive wood that is causing the centre to become crowded, removing one or two older branches from the centre if necessary.
  • If they become leggy and bare at the base, remove one or two stems back to near ground level, which will usually encourage new growth from the base.

Watch Monty Don as he prunes a shrub rose, treating it 'as a hedge'. And as he prunes an overgrown shrub rose to encourage healthy regrowth and create the right shape to promote air circulation and let in more light.

Enjoyable garden jobs on pleasant autumn days.