The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Touring the Nieghborhood - Attempts at Knockout Roses -
Shaking My Head in Despair.
Have Fun with a Little Steady Creation Work on Roses

The petals on the ground show this KnockOut hedge
is not pruned often enough.


Sassy was ready for a 6 AM walk, so we took off for a tour of the area. She met a fireman, a neighbor new to us, and Almost Eden with his new dog Opie. Sassy chose the route and enjoyed the early morning attention.

We are done with the first bloom of KnockOut roses, and the results are grim. Mine are pruned of most fading blooms, so the ones remaining are vibrant. Many new buds are forming and others are opening to a full bloom.

KnockOuts grow fast, bloom fast, and fade fast. The first large plant to bloom in the neighborhood was a large KnockOut, double red. That was the kind I first saw and bought to supplement our TV roses from QVC.

The large KnockOut was stunning when it bloomed, but now no one has pruned it at all. The blooms are either dull and dropping off or already involved in producing seed. The first link I clicked on said they need no pruning at all, "plant it and forget it."

In contrast, I have 8 spoiled, productive KnockOut roses - 4 red, 2 pink, and 2 white. This is how I dote on them and get brilliant, abundant blooms:

  1. Our helper and I cut each bush in half at the beginning of the season. I had to talk him off the ledge, because he thought that was bad for the roses. All trimmings were thrown away, to prevent disease. This early encourages fresh new growth above and below ground.
  2. The KnockOuts have layers of wood mulch surrounding them now, very few weeds, and a zillion red wiggler earthworms below. Foot traffic is infrequent among the roses. All this is done to preserve the fungal connections and the root growth of the roses.
  3. When it does not rain as much as I wish, the KnockOuts are showered with hose water to clean them and given supplemental water with hidden soaker hose connections.
  4. The first stage of pruning is giving away as many roses as possible. KnockOuts are often blended with hybrid tea roses, simply because hybrid teas are slow to bloom and KnockOuts never stop. I cut long-stemmed roses and look for doubles and triples, or branches with buds. The buds do not open up at that stage, but this kind of aggressive cutting promotes plenty of new growth. Joy shared is joy doubled, as the Germans say. 
  5. When I cut roses for the altar, friends, doctors, and neighbors, I look for two enemies of rose growth and health - dead wood and spent blooms. Nothing will grow on dead wood and it slows down growth. Spent blooms are going to seed, so they slowly turn the rose from blooming to reproduction - a bad change and all too easy to foster with neglect. You want to plant and forget - buy a bag of clover. 
  6. Best of all - I do not fertilize since the earthworms do that for me. They are custom built by God to manure the entire bed if I keep it moist and full of food for them. Mulch slowly rots, thanks to fungus, and the earthworms reproduce with reckless abandon. 
  7. Even better - I do not spray for insect pests or Black Spot. Insecticides and fungicides kill the creatures that work relentlessly for me.
To save money, I got mystery roses,
including two of Bride's Dream for $5 each.

Creation Care Means Easy Care for Me. 
I do not need to inhale or touch toxins. Most of my time is spent sharing roses and doing a little of extra work on the side with preventative pruning. We step outside and rose perfume fills the air. The fragrance comes into the house as we enter. Neighbors delight in all the colors and the wide variety of blooms.

One Chrysler Imperial in a bud vase
beats a dozen daisey.




How Are Hybrid Teas and Floribunda Roses Different?
The main difference is the slower cycle for other roses. The steps above are just as productive for them as it is for KnockOuts.

Hybrid tea roses are best for that spectacular large bloom on a long stem - Peace, Pink Peace, Mr. Lincoln, Veterans Honor, Double Delight, Falling in Love, Pope John Paul II.

Floribundas are best for a mass of color, but they usually have shorter stems - Hot Cocoa, Europeana, Cinco de Mayo, Easy Does It.

If I wanted a hedge of roses for constant color - avoiding the cliche of KnockOuts spent and dropping petals and showing how care-free they are - I would plant a row of floribundas, probably Europeana. If you plant a row of KnockOuts, everyone will say, "I have some KnockOuts too." 

I always pined for Europeana floribundas and now have two that cost me $5 each. Their color and foliage give me feelings of elation not unlike grandchildren - just not as powerful. For rose growers, dessert is the foliage. There are many gorgeous roses, but relatively few also have stunning foliage. A hedge is mostly foliage, so great foliage broken up by a shimmering red rose clusters... too much.

Europeana clusters - a floribuda.


Mothers' Day Revisited
My wife did not know my plans for Mothers' Day. I got up early with my little vases and water supply in a gallon jar.  I made up nine rose vases for each home on our cul-de-sac. I did not leave a note. Only one neighbor was up, and she spotted me. She and her daughter followed me with the roses, asked if they came from me, and grinned and thanked me over and over.

For the skeptics - yes I had a bouquet for my wife, plus a card, plus gifts. 

Across the street from the neighbor who came up behind me, a Mexican woman I hardly know came out of her house weeks later to ask me in broken English about the roses. She grins and waves at me each day when I walk Sassy.

My landscaper neighbor on the corner, the Army Ranger veteran, suddenly asked me on Saturday, "Were those roses from you?" I confessed they were, since I knew he would visit his mother's grave on Mothers' Day. That meant a lot to him and his brother and step-dad.

The most heart-warming (of many) came from the mother of four girls. She got the biggest and best arrangement. Just the other day I was walking Sassy back home when her car stopped on Scott Street and she rolled down the window. "Where those roses from you?" I confessed again and did not deny - they were from me. She said, "I came home after a very rough day and there they were. They made me feel so happy all day." I said, "You have four daughters, you deserved the biggest and best arrangement."

Our Laotian neighbor loved her roses and gave us some cooked rice.

Mrs. Gardener came over with three of my recent vases. She is crazy about roses, so I took the biggest vase and packed it with roses, especially fragrant Mr. Lincoln. When I rang the bell, her main door was open. I almost talked through the screen door. She came up to the door, not at all surprised and said, "That didn't take long." Last summer, when her husband registered mock shock each time and she was equally surprised, I said, "Your husband ordered them...just for you."

Barbra Streisand is a bit stingy with the blooms
so far this year.


Hybrid Tea Blooms
I like having the combination of KnockOuts and hybrid tea roses, because hybrid teas take forever to bloom and start over rather slowly.

Mr. Lincoln is fast growing and productive. Pope John Paul II grows a lot of snowy white blooms, but they are not long-lasting in a vase.

Peace and Pink Peace will suddenly fill the bush with blooms at once, so I can cut quite a few at once. Others tend to be solo performers with one or two good roses at a time. That will improve as the roses become more established and well mulched.

But - a single hybrid tea rose in a bud vase is truly a work of Creation art. That entire library of characteristics was there at Creation. Man gets to resort the data a bit, taking about 1500 attempts to get one new rose to the market, but he did not build that library or give it life.

Peace remains very popular
with more children - varieties -
than a thoroughbred horse.