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Knockout roses show no sign of letting up in popularity

Knockout roses show no sign of letting up in popularity

Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 8:00 pm

Folklore, considerably suspect, has it Shakespeare was making a pun of sorts when he wrote those famous lines.
His famous Globe Theatre had a rival, the Rose Theatre, which, it has been said, had less than effective sanitary arrangements.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.…”
William Shakespeare
“Romeo and Juliet” — A.D. 1600
So, the thinking goes, Shakespeare was talking of the loo at the stinking Rose Theatre, not the flower of swoon.
Whatever. The rose, by any name, has been revered since Biblical times or before. Part of that is because of its (sometimes) enticing — erotic, even — scent.
However, many roses, particularly modern ones, lack any scent at all, yet make it to the big time, either because of a few sumptuous flowers or gangs of blooms of lesser magnitude.
The latter include the numerous shrub type roses on the market today. Not the least of these are of the Knockout series, from the original reddish pink on down to the latest white.
The Knockouts have varying degrees of odor, but in their case it is secondary anyway to the plenteous flowering and shrubby habit.
If the Knockout rose series isn’t named the plant kingdom introduction of the decade from 2000-10 I don’t know why.
They have been planted from Maine to Florida, in parking lot medians, fronting commercial facilities, adorning churches, smoothing and soothing the way into hospitals, and, of course, in your garden and mine.
I can’t remember ever seeing any woody johnny-come-lately make such a cannonball splash in such a short time.
They apparently haven’t reached saturation point, as they sell like the proverbial hotcakes as soon as they hit the dealers every spring.
Their popularity is not without justification. Somehow, I can’t see a monoculture of Knockout roses having the same ill effect, after some more years, as, say, Bradford pears.
They aren’t going to fall apart and, so far at least, they aren’t exhibiting any weakness of disease or insect.
For instance, the bane of roses in humid climates (that’s ours), blackspot, is virtually nonexistent on Knockouts. They subsist on less than perfect soil, though they will respond to good loam, fertilizer and timely watering.
Knockouts are given the magic adjective “everblooming,” which is a relative term. Taken at face value, it would mean they bloom 365 days a year.
Of course, they go dormant in winter, but do bloom pretty consistently from May through first frost in fall.
There will be pauses, but with deadheading, more fertilizer and water, the pauses will be short lived.
They are about as “everblooming” as a Stella d’Oro daylily, and demand the same treatment to keep them in flower most of the growing season.
A caveat with Knockouts is their ultimate size. Some of them are capable of reaching eight feet after several years.
However, by shearing them to 18 inches or so every — or every other — year, they can be kept lower. That shearing also makes for more flowers, as each stub left will throw a number of flowering twigs.
The original Knockout was touted as red. It is a pinky red the first day, then fades to more pink later. Pink Knockout is really pink through and through.
Then there is Double Knockout and Double Pink Knockout, both self explanatory. Rainbow Knockout has single flowers of a coral color with yellow centers and Blushing Knockout is a bit pinker but not as bubble-gummy as Pink Knockout.
Sunny Knockout is hailed as yellow, but is so only the first day, then its single blooms fade to cream color. It has not been vigorous for me, but I have seen it doing better in your garden. Among the latest is Whiteout, with single — guess what — white flowers.
Then there is Home Run, one of the Knockout derivatives that is truly blood red and does not fade to pink.
It has single flowers to some three inches across and is as prolific as the original Knockout.
We have a specimen in our red border and it does its share there.
As with virtually all roses, full sun is best, though a bit of high shade will work, but deplete some of the bloom.
From Poor Willie’s Almanack
You, too, can knock ’em out with Knockouts.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.

Published in The Messenger 3.13.12