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Knock Out Roses
I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.- Emma Goldman

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Ok, so since 2000, we have had this rose out there called "Knock Out."  Meet my Knock Out pictured on the right.  Need I say more?  This is an appropriately named rose if there ever was one!  No names like "Serenity," "Peace," or "Blaze."  No, no, they named this one "Knock Out" for obvious reasons!

I got a Knock Out a few years back for Mother's day and dutifully planted it in the garden, hoping it would make a nice addition.  Below is a picture of that plant four years ago, circled in red.  See it back there? I might have taken this picture in the same year I got it or maybe a year later - I can't really remember and it doesn't really matter, because this is a FAST grower, folks. 

And it's not only a fast grower.  It's virtually maintenance free!  So you stick it in the ground and just wait a while, and before you know it, you have a behemoth like the one pictured above.  No muss, no fuss.

Knock Out Roses were introduced in 2000 and won the All American Rose selections prize that year for being "a breakthrough shrub rose."  I'd say so! Colors so far include red, shades of pink, white, and yellow.  This is a re-blooming rose that will give you a spectacular show in the spring (I took that top picture in April in the South - bloom time will be somewhat later in cooler climates).  It will then keep blooming decently all summer and into the fall, although spring is still the most spectacular blooming period.  As far as fragrance, it is not the most fragrant of all the roses, and you probably won't notice any fragrance until the plant gets pretty big, but I have definitely noticed the scent as I walk by mine on a warm spring morning.  No deadheading is required for Knock-Outs, and rose hips can be left in place with no effect on future blooming.

If you are like me and  you just have to have more of this plant, take some stem cuttings of new shoots (they will be reddish) in the spring and pot them up in some good potting soil.  Place in a nice, safe, shady place for the summer and keep moist.  It will take maybe a month for them to root with luck.  I have had probably a 75% success rate with cuttings done in this way.  Sometimes they just don't take, so do enough so that if you lose a few, it won't be the end of the world.   Taking cuttings at other times of the year can work too, but I'd say that the success rate goes down to probably 40% once you are in the heat of the summer.  You have to be committed to growing from cuttings, as you need to wait until the plant is big enough to survive before planting in the wilds of the garden.  I successively give mine bigger pots for the first year or maybe a little more.   When they are looking about the size of  a small store bought plant, they are ready to be planted in the garden.  Once established, they will require little care other than maybe watering when it's really dry out and fertilizing with a slow release rose fertilizer in the spring (just throw handfuls underneath it - do this for all your roses). 

Pests and disease are less of a problem with Knock Outs than with other roses, but they are not unheard of.  Although most grow problem-free for years, Knock Outs can still get sick and even die at any point, so do be aware.  That gorgeous rose pictured at the top of this page is now gone and I still don't know for sure what happened, although I do have my suspicions.  I noticed this spring that there were some dead branches and attributed it to winter die off.  I cut out the dead areas and went on my way.  Over the summer, the plant slowly declined branch by branch, until there was little left and I finally cut it to the ground.  I looked many times for the culprit but never saw anything as far as bugs or disease. The good news is I have been rooting stem cuttings from that plant for years, and I still have 5-6 good-sized healthy duplicates living the good life elsewhere in my yard.   Having said all that, I do strongly suspect that my Knock-Out literally just got too big and burned itself out.  It was a huge, robust plant for years until it suddenly declined and died.  Therefore, I think it's prudent to trim these roses back by about 1/3 at least every few years with attention in between to crossed branches and potential air circulation issues.  I will absolutely follow this path with my remaining Knock-Outs.

If you are like me, you may have planted a Knock-Out in an inappropriate place, not realizing how big it becomes.   You can move a Knock-Out if it is not too big and if you are careful.  I had one that was maybe 3 feet tall that I moved successfully.  I was surprised at how small across the root actually was when I dug it, but it was deep and I inadvertently broke it off while digging.  Nevertheless, I planted it and watered every day, and it didn't look good at all for the first three weeks or so.  Then one day lo and behold, it perked up, and it is doing great now.  So if you find that you have to move a Knock-Out, treat it as you would any shrub and baby it for a while after the move, and you should be okay. 

Anyhow, next time you are at the big box store and happen to pass by a Knock Out, BUY it!  You absolutely won't be sorry if you have an appreciation for spectacular roses, need a flowering hedge, or just want an impressive focal point for your landscape. 


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