Monday, November 21, 2011

The Big Reveal

Did you know that Knock Out roses are controversial?  Well, maybe the average person doesn't sit around knocking Knock Out roses, but a lot of rosarians do just that!

Why?  Well, it's complicated.

First, let me explain to you why I love Knock Out roses:

1)  Very blackspot resistant.  Amazingly so!  I was made aware just how much one rainy fall when all my roses looked absolutely horrible, except the Knock Outs.  They looked great!  The difference was quite impressive.

2)  Widely available.  They are easy to find.  Sometimes the hardest part of growing roses is getting the roses!

3)  They are easy to keep.  I give these roses no respect.  I  prune with electric hedgers, plant them too close together, put them in shady areas, and generally treat them like an unwanted guest.  But they take it and keep on blooming.  Which is what I expect of them!  I wouldn't treat my other roses like that!

So, if they are such great roses, what could be the controversy?  Well, a very smart woman once told me "Your greatest asset is also your greatest liability."  If you think about that, it starts to make sense.  Let me show you:

1)  Very blackspot resistant.  They are so well known to be blackspot resistant, that people forget these are roses.  And roses can be picky.  There are some areas of the country that, for some reason, these roses didn't get the memo and perform horribly.  And it's not immune to other rose diseases, either, so again, every garden is different and this may or may not be the right rose for your particular place.

2)  Widely available.  This is a big part of the controversy.  Because they are so widely available, other roses are getting pushed out.  Many garden centers offer no other choice of roses.  And if other roses are not sold, it affects everyone from the hybridizers to the rose suppliers.  And eventually to the roses, so many of which are rare or extinct already.  It also seems there is a Knock Out used in almost every landscape.  Rose lovers know there are so many other roses to choose from, but it's difficult to find them.

3)  They are easy to keep.  What could be bad about this one?  Well, in rose talk, this is a "landscape rose".  Meaning, a rose that looks pretty (and is easy to keep), but does not evoke that sense of love and wonder that a rose should and could.  A rose that you fall in love with.  A rose that you want to sink your nose into.  A rose that you want to build a garden around.  A rose that takes your breath away.  Rose love.  Rosarians are not keen on roses that don't give you that sense of rose love.

My Knock Outs surprised me this year.  The drought and heat affected them more than any of my other roses.  They looked absolutely horrible, and are just now beginning to recover.  I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to replace them.  I have several Knock Out roses, and while I may not have a true sense of rose love for them, I do have respect and admiration for their hard working nature.  If my Knock Outs had not recovered, I'm not sure if I would have replaced them with more Knock Outs.

But, thankfully, I don't have to make that decision right now.  Because they have recovered.  And they are blooming, once again revealing their reliability.

Do you have an opinion about Knock Outs?  I'd love to hear it!

And in case you were curious, I finished painting in the bedroom.  Here's a tiny peek:

What do you think?


  1. I love Knockouts. They are what they were bred to be, exactly as you wrote. I always find it funny when so called Rose people claim they are not REALLY Roses. Geez I would never insert foot that way. Kind of like when comments are made about Stella D'Oro Daylilies. These two are widely used because they were created by a genius. :)

    I plant what I like and could care less about others. Yours look lovely. Your room looks lovely also. I really like it. Again you doing your thing. Way more fun.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. A couple of thoughts... (from a girl who sells them).

    First they would be the 'boxwood' of the rose world. They have been over utilized in every landscape. They are everywhere now.

    Second, in 2007 when all the roses looked bad due to the never ending rain and 100% humidity - they looked bad - just like all the roses. That being said - in a 'normal' year they are great performers and are very disease resistant.

    Third, Knock Out is the best thing for the rose industry. It gets the average gardener to try a rose. Once the gardener sees how easy a rose can be to grow they will venture out and want to try something with fragrance, something to make a bouquet, etc.

    Oops, was that a thought or a rant?

  3. I think there is a place for Knockouts in the garden. The street facing part of my garden gets lots of winter abuse. Finicky roses just don't make it to spring. The couple of knockouts and other common groundcover roses fair much better than more fussy roses like David Austin roses. I am glad to have knockouts as a resource.
    Love the bedroom color and the hint of the floral print on the bed.

  4. Holley, I freely admit that I am not a big fan of the knock out roses and consequently I don't grow any in my own garden. I personally just don't like the specific color of red that they take on here in warm Southern California and the form is also not my cup of tea even though I have seen them work well in certain garden or park settings. I do like the double knock outs and the pink variety a little bit better, though. I can see that they are good no-fuss landscape shrubs, especially in areas with high black spot pressure and that they are appreciated by gardeners for that reason. Besides my personal dislike I am concerned, as you already mentioned in your post, that these roses are taking over and drive out other roses that just don't have such a marketing force behind them like the knock outs, are more pretty, and are equally well to grow.

  5. Holley. I think there may be a little snobbery regarding knockouts. I think the flower carpets are proving to be even better though, and don't get the idea that they just trail along the ground they do in fact make good bushy plants.

  6. Holley, from a confirmed "white wall love", I think your wall painting is FANTASTIC!! When you said orange walls I had a different idea in my head! This is beautiful ... but I should have known it would be beautiful, you have exquisite taste!

  7. I'm not a rose grower, but a low-maintenance, non-fussy, blackspot resistant flower doesn't sound bad to me. It's nice to have a few plants that don't give you heartburn.

    And I think the orange wall turned out nice! Re: your last post--I don't blame you for liking various shades of orange. It's a friendly color!

  8. My prejudice against Knock Out roses is complicated. It mainly stems from the mass marketing machine that has people convinced that KO are the best roses for every situation ... and the overuse of them in commercial landscapes. I have seen many gardens where KO is a conscious choice, and it blends well with the overall garden design (like that last beautiful garden photo of yours).

    People come to me, wanting to grow roses, and many of them ask, "I want easy to grow roses ... I guess I have to grow Knock Out." I gently explain that KO is a good rose, but there are other choices and they don't HAVE to be told what to grow. I then give them at least 30 choices of other lower-maintenance roses.

    Bottom line: Everyone should have a garden that makes them happy.

  9. Love the bedroom color. Looks professional. On the KOs I like em. I don't have a garden full of them and they aren't my favorite but they are the most bloomiferous in the most horrible conditions, and for that I give them the thumbs up. And on the BS, in Charleston, mine actually do get BS, about as much as some of the others. All of my roses are resistant, but come fall with the fog and the cool nights EVERYTHING gets a bit of blackspot, unless I want to spray. Which I don't. It does pay to be realistic.

  10. Here they mildewed and even Rusted quite a bit. Just didn't seem to like the Southern California climate. Which is fine, since we have plenty other roses that do well. It was educational to try KO's though. Our version of KO is 'Iceberg', and they are perhaps over used, but with good reason: they even look good planted next to the pumps at the gas station.

  11. I agree with Tufa Girl--KOs get gardeners who would never try a rose, like me, to try them. Once they did well then other roses will follow--I now have three 'Westerland'--orange you notice. But the main point I was going to make as I read is hinted at by Alistair--snobbery. Many experienced gardeners have this idea that a plant isn't worth growing if it's "common". I disagree: plants are often common because they are great plants that are easy to grow, take Geranium 'Rozanne'. I love the orange bedroom walls--maybe I need to start painting.

  12. This was interesting. I have never heard of Knock Out roses - they are not marketed here. The equivalent here would be Groundcover roses and Iceberg, which are everywhere. Like Carolyn, I don't see that that's any reason to despise them. Iceberg was the "Rose of the Century" because it's a great rose. That doesn't change just because lots of people have found it to be true. Pure snobbery.

  13. Oops, forgot to say - the bedroom wall is a wonderful colour!

  14. Knock Out roses are seen in commercial landscapes - before they existed I never saw roses at the mall, or the strip center or island between eight lanes of traffic... I am glad they are there these days.... You want roses go to a rose nursery..... with the internet it is as close as your fingers.... Nope, I don't have any KO's as I started with heritage roses and have not stopped....

  15. Cher - I laughed at your post, because of course they're roses! I don't like it when people put them down, either, because I'm all for people growing roses - no matter what kind they choose!

    Tufa Girl - You are so right. They are everywhere. Which makes them even more popular, so they are even more everywhere! But, I agree with you, if this makes people start growing and loving all roses - wonderful! I started this way. Little did I know roses were supposed to be 'hard'. I don't treat any of my roses like they're 'hard', even though I don't abuse the others like I do my Knock Outs. They can take it.

    Jennifer - I have Knock Outs in several places. In the front, where I want it to look good all year (like you). And in the back walking garden, pictured above. The reason I put them there is because I was concerned the perennial beds would be a lot of time and work, and I wanted some easy roses that looked good, even if nothing else did! I do love the fact that I can pretty much rely on them always looking good. I think that's why I was so surprised when the drought affected them so much more than the other roses!

    Christina - I like what you said. You have specific reasons why you don't grow Knock Outs. Just like any other rose you may not wish to grow. Not just because they're Knock Outs. That is the right way to make a decision about any rose. I think maybe Knock Outs are good to get more people growing roses, but I wish more than anything the garden centers would offer a variety of roses, not just the Knock Outs, like they do here. I think people would buy other roses along with the Knock Outs if they were easily available. I'm not knocking the rose nurseries, I love them, but I'm not sure the majority of people will go to the trouble it sometimes takes to acquire a rose other than a Knock Out. To me, that is the main problem.

    Alistair - I grow carpet roses, too, and absolutely love them. Mine are quite mature (over 10 years old), so I now have to cut them down by half every year just to keep them from getting way too large for the space they're in.

    Gardening Blog - haha Had you scared, huh? Well, orange walls are not for everyone, but I think they'll make my winter a bit more cheerful. Glad they didn't turn out like the (horrible) picture you had in your head! ;)

    Bumble Lush - I agree. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an easy, disease resistant plant! Those are the gardener's best friends, aren't they?

    Connie - You are a rose's best advocate. Specifically, you know which roses to recommend so that people have a choice. I think that's what people need: a choice!

    Jess - Realistic. That's a wonderful word for people to remember in their gardens. I don't expect perfection, and had heard that they blackspot in some areas, but here, they are quite resistant. And that's their main appeal, I think.

    Hoover Boo - Thanks for commenting, and sharing your experience. Yes, you definitely have a different climate, with different diseases to worry about. Thankfully, we don't get mildew and rust much here. I agree that Iceberg is the Knock Out of California gardens - and like you say, for good reason. I suppose the lesson is, if a plant performs wonderfully, it will get extremely popular. Build it and they will come.

    Carolyn - Wahoo! Orange Westerlands! :) Yes, I could see that perhaps some rosarians that have coddled and babied their roses for years would be a bit upset by a rose that was so easy it became commonplace! But I'd call that progress! Now, if only everyone that has a Knock Out will try a different rose, maybe we could save the rose nurseries!

  16. Lyn - If they are not marketed there, they must not do well in your area. I agree that the Icebergs, and the Knock Outs, too, are just what we've been asking for - disease resistant, reliable bloomers! Funny, the Icebergs are not popular here - that just shows that we need different roses because we all live in different climates! And thanks for the wall color compliment.

    Mimi - I'm always surprised that the heritage roses are not more popular, as they have had to survive, and thrive, for decades. They are the ones that are disease resistant and don't need spraying. I suppose they need a marketing budget! Thanks for commenting. I like seeing the Knock Outs in the highway strips, too - it makes me smile.

  17. My wife calls me a "Rose Snob". She says I have slighted the knockouts in our garden, and I guess I have. I'm not one for the ordinary. And like the gentle reader above, they have become blasie in my mind. Yet I can't help but smile when they are the "last rose standing" each year, almost as if to say,, Ha! Ha! Look what I can do! .... Happy Thanksgiving!

  18. Holley,

    I bought my first OSO Easy rose just in Oct, and my post talks both about my plant snobbery and that as gardeners, we need to decide to plant based on a plants merits, not just its exclusiveness. Low-maintenance roses are perfect for some locations... and then there are some places where you just need a plant with more depth: fragrance, color nuance, habit, etc.

    Great post! Worth thinking about.

  19. My resentment of Knock Outs is the same as the way I feel about bullies. They move into a neighborhood and throw their weight around, driving away the gentler roses that would thrive even better and offer variety and pretty faces to boot. My third rose was a KO, and it got black spot and never failed to draw blood every time I deadheaded it. I now have 86 roses (and no Knock Outs), and none are as deathly prickly as the KO. As I drive by hedges of Knock Outs I often wonder if they're between flushes or if the owners forgot to feed and water them or if black spot has defoliated them which it will do here. Knock Outs also make me sad for all the other roses that no longer have a place in the garden stores. Nowadays the labels say "red rose", "pink rose", etc. That's sad. We don't have any rose nurseries in my town, so Walmart is the best thing for a quick fix. Recently, I bought a couple of Drift Roses - no black spot yet! I'm just glad that I know about small online rose nurseries and the one I can drive an hour to. There are other easy roses, roses that have been in gardens for more than 100 years, roses that will truly steal your heart. Knock Outs may be the gateway rose, but once in the door I hope you'll risk your heart on the others.

  20. Your orange color looks nice! Very warm!

    Knockouts are planted everywhere here and look quite fabulous as a landscaping rose. I think they are one of those roses that look really good from a distance, but not so good close up. I love the bright spots of color and all the blooms they produce from a distance when planted in mass. I doubt I would put one in my garden, however, because I don't care for the shape of the flower.

    I also hate having thorny plants in the garden between having little kids and me being so clumsy :) So if I'm going to have a thorny rose in the garden, I'm going to have to love it! I only have one type of rose in my garden at the moment, and I do have to baby it in order to keep it alive and safe from blackspot, but it rewards me with it's amazing beauty and sweet fragrance.

  21. I can't knock the knock out rose because its the only one I have. I have to keep it sprayed to ward off the deer because they love the flowers. I have no plans to get any other ones so it represents the entire rose family in my garden and I'm proud of it.

  22. wow, I only JUST got this post in my inbox and the comments have evidently been pouring in! I would be new to knock outs, but sounds like that is another rose I will need for my yarden...thanks for sharing, and yes the bedroom color is wonderful! come on now, share the whole photo! have a nice day,thanks agin for all your helpful information... robin

  23. I am a lazy rose gardener and love knockouts...the roses you see in my pictures are knockouts and they are gorgeous, do well in my clay and wet gardens and like the cold and extrmeme heat and humidity of my summer and they did well in the drought. I am checking out other roses though to see if I can branch out...we shall see...

  24. Holley, as you can tell from my garden, the things we grow the best are rocks, followed by boulders, etc. I have to admit, I do own a few roses, and the majority of them are Knockouts (I don't know where Bonica falls in this, it's probably a KO, too; and a few miniatures) I am a true Rose Amateur, that's why I enjoy your blog so much. Our climate is rather difficult when it comes to roses. When I first started gardening, I planted a bunch of hybrid teas and bought the styrofoam cones and was all ready the following spring to see them bud out and bloom. Ah, no. So much for that. Then I read where I should actually tip the plant over in the fall and bury it and all sorts of other great advice that probably would have worked had I been ambitious enough to try it (I wasn't) and that was the end of my Hybrid Tea lust. Now I look enviously at other people's and sigh, sort of like how I look at those skinny supermodels. Ain't gonna happen.

    Anyway, the KO's grow here and they're pretty enough for me, though I've had a lot of garden visitors turn up their nose at them, 'Those aren't real roses'. That's ok. When I visit their gardens, I don't look at their concrete pavers and throw a hissy fit--hey, to each his own! :')

    Your orange walls are very pretty! I have to admit, we still have an orange kitchen floor (from 1978) and it's been a joke for the last twenty years at least. I was so ashamed of it; and then this year we had a visitor who came in the house and went ga-ga over it. "Oh, Orange is so IN, I LOVE it!!" I almost guffawed right then and there. See, if you keep something long enough it comes back into style.

    That's why Carl has kept me. I think.

  25. redneckrosarian - I think you're right - those of us with multiples types of roses do seem to slight them, but they keep right on keeping on! They would not be so popular if they weren't so dependable!

    Julie - I have very few 'rare' plants in my garden. Well, actually, I doubt I have any! I am not one to coddle, although if someone wants to baby their garden and do that much work, if that is what they enjoy, that's wonderful. Like you, I think a mix of plants are best. Keeps us challenged, and yet we can still rely on the old reliables when those challenging plants don't work out!

    Sherry - I, too, hope everyone that grows Knock Outs will expand their horizons and grow other roses. It does make me sad that this seems to be the only rose to be found easily. Since Knock Out is a gateway rose, I wonder if people there in Florida that see the blackspotted Knock Outs think they can't grow roses at all. That would be sad. It would help if the garden centers could employ knowledgeable people. I have to say, I know of two garden centers that are different from the others. They have a larger variety, and they stock plants that do well in their area. The big difference? They are both managed by gardeners, not just someone that got the job as a promotion but knows nothing about plants. Both have other roses for sale. Not a big variety, but at least something different!

    Indie - You nailed it. Knock Outs look great - fabulous - from far away or in masses. I think every garden needs at least one rose. You have just proved my point. Even one rose can give such joy, and be, as you say, rewarding.

    Marcia - You really do have a problem with deer! Roses are like candy to them. I love my Knock Outs, too!

    Robin - I don't know why, but email subscribers seem to get posts in their inboxes after about a 24 hour delay. Maybe another blogger reading this can help me with this? If you want to know if Knock Outs do well in your area, just look around. They are quite popular, so check them out before putting them in your garden. They do great here, but I don't know about your area. If they are not popular where you are, that will tell you, too, that they are not the right rose for your area.

    Donna - They really are a versatile rose, and can take quite a bit of neglect. I bet if I gave mine as much TLC as my other roses, they would be amazing! The main thing about roses is there are so many, it's best to do some research before choosing. Since Knock Outs generally do well in most areas, it takes out that step. I hope you will branch out. You will still love your Knock Outs, but you may find other roses you love just as much, or more.

    Karen - You are too funny! Now I'll look at my concrete pavers in a different light! haha I think all that tipping and burying would turn off a lot of potential rose growers. Thankfully, they are growing more and more roses that can take the cold - up to zone 2 now!!! Not hybrid teas, but still, a rose that doesn't have to be buried! Poor Knock Outs. You have to feel a bit sorry for them. They bloom, they're disease resistant, they're reliable - and still we are made to feel embarrassed about them! So glad to hear orange is IN! Reminds me of a woman I met. Someone remarked how cute her shoes were and she said they were 20 years old. Back in style!

  26. Goodness--in a way it sounds like high school. I don't mean the real reasoning behind figuring out KO's strengths and weaknesses, but the "not a REAL rose" snobbery. It's like we always have to find a way to separate the "in" group from the plebes.

  27. Many clients request KO and I am happy to oblige. I know they will have little trouble with them and much satisfaction. Our area is not very accommodating to many rose varieties and I recommend Iceberg also for customer satisfaction. I have a very good friend who is a rosarian and he is quick to chastise these two varieties, but once a client feels at ease with more carefree roses, will they be able to forge ahead on 'prettier' varieties. Love your BR color choice too.

  28. While working like a crazy woman in the garden this summer,trying to protect delicate plants from storms, high humidity and oppressive heat

    the knock outs were quietly performing,... beautifully.

    love the wall color!

  29. I like the paint (and the upholstery)! I've gotten that impression about Knock-Out Roses (that people don't appreciate them). If I had a better garden for Roses, I would plant several varieties, perhaps including Knock-Outs. Good post, inviting discussion about this topic!

  30. Wow, I'm sure I'd like these Knock-out Roses in my garden. There are so mnay blooms!

  31. I am not crazy about the knock out rose. I do have a double pink that is OK but the others I have I guess are singles and not the rose I am looking for. To me they are high priced here and I would rather spend that kind of money on the type of rose I like. To grow a plant just because it will grow is not what I want in my garden. I want a plant that appeals to me visually. Unfortunately since I moves 8 years ago, I have not been successful with growing roses on this property and I do miss them.

  32. Stacy - You are so right! Who would have thought that a rose could cause so much divisiveness?

    GWGT - Although there are a lot of roses that don't need a lot of work, at least these are popular enough to be requested by name. This marketing campaign may isolate other roses, but it has made some people include roses in their gardens that would otherwise not do so. And, as you say, they may decide to expand their rose selections later on.

    Karen - They are popular for a reason! They are true performers.

    PlantPostings - I have many roses, but I have to say I do appreciate the Knock Outs, too. Unlike a lot of rosarians, I don't specialize in a certain type - I have modern, antique, HT's, and landscape roses. I think there is a place in the garden for each type.

    Autumn Belle - And they bloom on and on - one of the first in my garden to bloom, and one of the last to quit!

    wilderness - You make a great point. Roses have so many varied forms, people should look for the ones that make them swoon.

  33. Looks a lovely rose! I haven't any experience of them.

  34. Kelli - I'm not sure how widespread they're sold overseas. But it would be interesting to know how they did in your cool summers.


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