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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in easy care roses (2)


The Frog Prince in my Garden

Photo is the copy-write property of allanbecker-gardenguru.The Rainbow Knock Out Rose is one of the most important plants in my repertoire and the most difficult to find. Last year, it was available from only two wholesalers in my region who reached a  sold out position by mid season. Half way through, what turned out to be a bumper year for my garden design business, I had to source it from a big box store. Although the plants were scrawny and, for my purposes, overpriced, I had no other choice but to purchase every one that I could find. I promised my clients that the unimpressive diminutive plants, that appeared, at first, to add nothing to their newly designed gardens, would knock their socks off by the following year. 

A garden writing colleague had mentioned that in her region, a similar unavailability occurred. She reported that most retail nurseries refuse to stock it because Rainbow Knock Out Rose doesn’t show very well in its pot. That is true. It is a Frog Prince in the garden. Not only is it unattractive at point of sale but until it produces its first full flush of blooms, it resembles an ugly brambly bush. However, once it starts pumping out multi-hued coral roses, it becomes a prince as it takes visual ownership of the flower bed.

Unfortunately and realistically, no nursery can expect to do business by promising the consumer to take a chance or to wait and see. Consequently, most refuse to buy and miss out on a great and pleasurable visual experience. I am fortunate that my clients trusted me; they have not been disappointed. Some have asked me to plant additional Rainbow Knock Outs after watching the first one develop. 

Imagine an almost spherical shrub, 3 feet high and wide, completely coated in many hues and shades of pink, yellow, coral and blush. It resembles a giant luminous scoop of bubble gum-peach ice cream. For those who live in temperate climates, that might not be such a big deal. Just south of where I live, in the warmer parts of the United States, gardeners have a wide selection of warm, tropical-colored flowering plants that bloom impressively at various times of year. By comparison, the cold climate gardener in USDA Zone 4b, has very few of these experiences. That is why the contribution to the garden of Rainbow Knock Out Rose is so significant. 

How sad that a plant that delivers such a moving experience to the patient gardener should be so unattractive at point of sale that it is removed from market. Perhaps it should be tagged with a luxurious glossy image attached to a plastic wand stuck into the pot. The Endless Summer series of Hydrangeas are marketed that way and I believe that Rainbow Knock Out would benefit from a similar treatment. However, growers should pay special attention to the quality of the photograph that they use. The consumer needs to see two images:- one, a close up of the rose when it is still a deep coral color and two, an image of the shrub coated in multi-hued flowers. 

On the other hand, I’ll bet the breeders are now working to develop an improved Rainbow Knock Out that will present well at retail. In the gardening business, the market is a powerful and influential force that drives change. Meanwhile, I will continue to hunt and collect as many of these roses as I can. This plant belongs in the category of takes your breathe away.


An Ever Blooming Rose:No Wonder It's Called "Carefree Wonder"

Image courtesy of White Flower Farm.By now you may have observed that I am enthusiastic about beautiful plants that perform dramatically.

This is one of them. I plant it in practically every garden I design. As the name suggests, Carefree Wonder is a low maintenance shrub rose. It will grow both in full sun and part shade, but the maximum flowering and disease resistance will occur in full sun. As a precaution, keep the ground around the plant free of dead or diseased leaves

This is an upright bushy, yet compact, plant and only slightly fragrant. It grows well in zones 4 to 9 and reaches a height and width of 3 to 4 feet. Its flowers are deep vivid pink [almost cherry, but not quite], with creamy white edges and reverses. When in bloom, from June until frost, it flowers profusely and will compete with the boldest colored perennials in the garden. It deservedly takes center stage no matter where it is planted.

 The powerful profusion of blooms continues into late fall up until the first frost. Because it is one of the last plants to succumb to winter, its foliage remains glossy green past the first snowfall. I’ve grown this rose in my garden, in zone 5a, for many years without winter protection. I feed it Epsom salts and slow release fertilizer in early spring and early summer and ensure that it gets adequate water. Deadheading spent flowers will encourage new buds but eliminates the striking orange hips of autumn. I’d rather have the flowers! Grow it and you’ll understand why.