Low-Maintenance Rose Varieties - Changing The Culture Of Rose Gardening

Sunday, January 17, 2016

New, low-maintenance rose varieties are introducing rose gardening to new demographic groups, and redefining the schema of the traditional rosarian. After the Rose Knock OutTM was chosen as an All- America Rose Selection (AARS) in 2000, it sold better in the following years than any rose ever before. The disease resistance and hardiness of this plant made it accessible to even the most novice gardeners. Commercial landscapers who normally avoided roses because of the hassle began using them everywhere. This was the start of a different way of thinking about roses.

Change is Good

The breeder who developed the Rose Knock Out , William Radler, was interested in roses from a very young age, and this shaped his entire career. He recognized something fundamentally wrong with the rose industry and set out to correct it. His goal was to "breed the maintenance out of roses."

Traditionally, old garden varieties and Hybrid Teas dominated the rose market. These varieties were delicate and bred specifically for their beauty. Their diseases, pests, and climate limitations were the burden of the individual gardener-- a burden born with great pride, because very few people were willing to make the sacrifice. To have a yard full of roses spoke loudly, touting the reputation of the rosarian. Many people who grew roses grew little else. That is starting to change.

A few die-hard old-fashioned rose gardeners may believe that the experience is cheapened, and they may fear that the doors of an exclusive club have been opened to the whole neighborhood. However, most will welcome the new varieties with a sigh of relief, and will delight in seeing their ranks swell as more and more gardeners successfully incorporate roses into their repertoire.

A Good Idea Goes a Long Way

William Radler developed the first Knock Out in 1989, and it hit the mainstream market in 2000, causing sweeping changes. The Knock Out roses have been unbelievably popular, and Radler hasn't stopped breeding, with the goal of a maintenance-free rose still in mind. There have been the Pink Knock Out , the Double Knock Out , Ramblin' Red , Carefree Sunshine , and the Rainbow Knock Out . This year, the Rainbow Knock Out picked up another AARS award for the Knock Out line. The Rainbow is the most floriferous, most disease resistant, and has the longest growing season of any Knock Out so far. They just keep getting better.

The buying public has responded positively to low-maintenance roses. And the popularity of these new roses has changed a lot about the way that roses are marketed and the way they are bred. In the eighties, you would get a full paragraph about the color and maybe another about its fragrance. Now, when you read about roses in a catalog, all of them are "easy to grow", "sturdy", and "exceptionally disease resistant." It's not just the retailers; the breeders have also shifted their focus. There is a new rose culture, a new generation of breeders out to grow the strongest roses, and our gardens and our backs will reap the benefits.

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