Seeds: Sierra Foothills Rose Society mixes pruning day with chili cook-off

Published: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3CALIFORNIA LIFE

Baldo Villegas doesn't have time to fuss. If he fretted over every cut, he'd never finish pruning his roses.

With about 1,500 rose bushes in his Orangevale garden, the longtime master rosarian streamlined his approach. Call it fast-track pruning.

"You should be able to prune most roses in three minutes," said Villegas, who has had plenty of practice following his pruning mantra. "It's easy."

Today at the Maidu Community Center, Villegas will demonstrate his pruning prowess during the Sierra Foothills Rose Society's annual winter care workshop and chili cook-off.

It's a way for the public to learn about roses while feeling comfortable and well-fed, too.

"We've been doing this for at least 10 years," said Cindy Phipps, the rose society's president. "It's indoors, so we don't have to worry about the weather. We cover the whole gamut: pruning tools and how you should care for them, pruning principles and technique, growing roses including the best varieties for our area, controlling pests and disease.

"Then, we eat chili," she added with a laugh. "Anyone who wants can bring chili, too."

January is pruning month as gardeners try to wrestle unruly shrubs and overgrown trees back into bounds. Often, this annual chore looks intimidating – especially if the bushes in need of a trim haven't been pruned in years.

Roses in particular have a thorny reputation. Many gardeners avoid pruning because they feel too overwhelmed.

"I was that way," recalled Phipps, who originally joined the society so she could learn to prune. "I thought it was difficult, too. But it's not.

"That's the key thing we want people to remember: It's not hard to grow roses."

Pruning is part of their annual cycle. It revitalizes the bush, so it can produce more and bigger flowers – which is why most people grow roses. They want the flowers, not the prickles.

Like any aspect of gardening, experts can make pruning sound very difficult with an overload of information.

"Over many, many years, you get all this stuff from experienced rosarians," Villegas said. "They make a big deal out of pruning with all sorts of do's and don'ts – but it's not a big deal. It's actually pretty simple."

That's key to Villegas' quick prune method.

"I work from the bottom up," he said. "First, I take out the dead and diseased canes and any spindly growth, less than the width of a pencil. Then, I decide which canes I want to keep and (prune out) the rest."

Confidence in making that decision is where such workshops are invaluable.

"You want to take out the oldest canes so the young, green canes can develop," Villegas explained. "Which are the oldest? They're gray, covered with scaly bark. You want to keep the smooth ones."

Villegas tends to prune his full-size roses to about waist high.

"My standard rule is you should only prune one-half to one-third of the original bush," he said. "As long as I can walk between them, it's OK.

"But the important thing is – just do it," he added. "We'll teach you how to prune without the hassle. Don't be afraid. It's easy."



Where: Maidu Community Center, 1550 Maidu Drive, Roseville

When: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. today

Admission: Free

Details:, (916) 735-9098

Presented by the Sierra Foothills Rose Society, this indoor hands-on workshop covers the basics of pruning roses as well as other shrubs. Also learn what you can do now to prevent disease and help plants thrive. After pruning, sample chili in society's annual cook-off.


Where: Folsom Public Library, 411 Stafford St., Folsom; and Belle Cooledge Library, 5600 South Land Park Drive, Sacramento

When: 10:30 a.m. next Saturday (Folsom) and 11 a.m. Jan. 26 (Sacramento)

Admission: Free

Details:, (916) 974-4333

In conjunction with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the Sacramento Tree Foundation presents these free pruning clinics. Learn how to help your trees develop good structure and form. See several pruning tools in action and learn which tools are best for which jobs. As part of the workshop, participants will walk about library grounds to look at tree structure.


Where: Natomas Rose Garden, 2921 Truxel Road, Sacramento

When: 1-3 p.m. Jan. 27

Admission: Free

Details:; (916) 359-7411

Learn by doing. Bring pruners and gloves and work with experts in pruning this public rose garden.

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