‘Knock Out’ touted best shrub rose ever

Published 7:17 am Tuesday, November 4, 2008

By Staff
I suppose by now everyone out there who reads my columns regularly know full well how much I adore end-of-season sales.
Well, anyway, this year I happened to run across on one of my gardening travels what I would call a bonafide buy of the century.
I brought 15 "Knock Out" shrub roses for only a couple of bucks a piece (regular $19.99).
I'm not even a fan of growing roses.
We as gardeners know a rose's need.
All that "fussing." First off, it involves a lot of spraying, not only for the insects, the most formidable of all being the Japanese beetle, but all those aphids, rose midges, weevils, scale, borers, chafers, leafcutter bees, thrips, and sawflies.
Even psychological disorders such as "funny bud," graft failure, iron chlorosis and herbicide drift.
And let us not forget diseases such as downey mildew, rust, black spot, powdery mildew, crown gall, cankers, fungal diseases and rose mosaic virus, too.
It also seems that roses are considered a delicacy by deer, rabbits, voles and gophers.
Did I mention all the fertilizer they need to be at their very best?
What about all the watering, pruning and thorns?
By the time I'm done – no matter how careful – I planned on going into the job, I still come out looking like I just got mauled by about 20 cats.
Don't get me wrong, I ADORE roses, it's just that they are such "needy things."
I have way too much to do and I don't like all the chemicals to boot.
So, you see, I usually pass on the rose "deals."
For quite a while now, I have been reading a lot of hype about these Knock Out roses.
Given this wonderful windfall, I gathered up all my "needy things" and headed for home.
Upon arriving home, I scoured my garden looking high and low for any and all sunny spots, as I don't have many of these.
I have mostly shade.
Upon finding these rare areas, I planted them.
Months later, so far, so good, and we have had a few frosts, freezes and snow.
Still no black spot yet and they are all still smothered in flowers – shades of pink, I might add – and many, many buds are still bursting with promise. How utterly delightful!
Nurtured from a seedling discovered by chance, bred by a Milwaukee area resident, Bill Radler. He was struck by its exceptional beautiful mossy-green, disease-resistant foliage.
And by the abundant ruby red – I might call it more of a sultry hot pink myself, but who am I to say? – in single and double blossoms.
A lot of times I neglect to cut back any spent flowers. Because I have a soft spot for their hips, I have bought a lot of roses just for their hips alone.
I have also bought several books and researched plenty on rosehips, their colors, sizes and shapes. How interesting!
Maybe this will be fodder for an upcoming column.
But for now I must get to the part about the birds.
Must not forget about our fine feathered friends who are out in the garden.
They will heartily enjoy the feast of plentiful, plump, bright orange hips, which will be supplied later by the spent roses.