Rose Cuttings – December, 2011

When trimming roses, any dead canes can be cut and used in grilling your favorite meat on the barbecue. Photo by Neil Sperry.

The Sweet Flavor of Smoking with… Rose Twigs?


January and February are the months for giving roses the most important pruning of the year. Photo by Neil Sperry.

The month of January is typically a very quiet time for garden chores, but there are some hidden opportunities for enjoyment and improvement. You just have to get to the bones of it. By “bones,” I mean the composition of your design, the hardscape, the flow of the beds, the architectural elements and their embellishments, which are more evident this time of year. The colorful flowers and lush foliage that were prominent in the spring, summer and fall are gone in the winter, allowing you to see the garden in its simplistic form — its “bare bones,” so to speak. Now is a great time to clean house by improving the design, moving dormant plants to more appropriate locations, and reducing the size of plants to better fit the scale of the overall garden niche in which they reside.
My housecleaning consists of shaping, pruning and training my roses during late January through February. As an advocate of easy-care roses, I seldom encourage the idea that roses must be cut back drastically — rather, a light shaping in the case of shrubs, and training in the case of climbers. These tasks are done to solidify the bones of the garden design and to harness the rose to its best use in the garden. Removing dead canes is always part of the job, as roses are quick to thin themselves by growing new, more vigorous branches over the older dying canes from years before.

Surprisingly, the reward for my effort is something I can sink my teeth into, literally. I smoke meat over rose canes. Removing dead canes not only opens up the rose and improves its look, but it provides wonderful wood to use in the barbecue pit. Soaking the brown twigs and canes and placing them near the charcoal — so they slowly burn — will provide a wonderful fruity, somewhat sweet taste to pork, lamb or chicken. This flavor is not a whole lot different from “apple-wood” smoke, which has a wonderful reputation for its sweet flavor.
Now when I prune roses, I’m like Pavlov’s dog and start to salivate for a barbecue pork roast permeated with the sweet smoke from roses.

So, just another reason that the rose is the ultimate garden plant!

About the author: Mike Shoup is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium. Visit his company’s Brenham and San Antonio display gardens for endless ideas on landscaping with roses. To order roses online, visit

Posted by Neil Sperry
Back To Top