No doubt about it, ‘Knock Out’ rose has been the most successful plant introduction since marijuana. Millions upon millions have been sold to people looking for constant color with zero maintenance to the point where it’s hard to find anyone growing a rose that isn’t ‘Knock Out.’ But perhaps for the average homeowner, there might be something better.
See, one of the misconceptions about ‘Knock Out’ is that planting it is the only demand it ever makes of you. Not so. Look closely and you’ll notice something astonishing. It grows bigger every year! An unpruned plant eventually reaches 6 feet tall and wide. And since it’s one of the most viciously thorny of all roses, you can imagine how many blood transfusions you’ll need after you prune it and your frantic but not overly bright neighbors find you unconscious. I can hear them now: “What’s the number for 9-1-1?”
Thus, the Conard-Pyle Company, those friendly folks from Pennsylvania who introduced ‘Knock Out’ rose to America, saw an opportunity. They brought out a new line of roses called Drift. Just like ‘Knock Out,’ they bloom nonstop and don’t need spraying for disease. But these roses grow only 18 inches tall and about 3 feet wide with an arching, graceful shape.
Conard-Pyle calls them “ground cover roses” because you can plant them in a sweep at the front of a bed for a blanket of color. But you can also let them drift from a container or drift over a low wall or drift over a bank — if you get my drift.
The way Grumpy sees it, Drift roses offer several advantages over ‘Knock Out.’ To wit:
1. They’re not ‘Knock Out.’ The world needs something different.
2. They don’t grow as big and have more graceful forms.
3. Their flowers have a more traditional rose shape.
4. Quite a few of the Drifts, such as ‘Coral Drift’ and ‘Sweet Drift,’ are fragrant.
How to Grow
There’s not much to master here. Just plant Drift roses in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. They grow well throughout the South and also parts north — USDA Zones 4-11. Look for ‘Drift’ roses at garden centers now and in the fall.
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