Guest rant from James Roush, a professor of veterinary medicine who blogs at Garden Musings.
Was anyone else seduced by the hype of the Drift® roses this year? The slogans were enticing: “From the introducers of the Knock Out family,” and “The Next Big Thing for Small Gardens.” Well, I might be alone out here on this limb, but even so, I’ll be the first to say that I’m underwhelmed. Was I biased from the start? In the interest of full disclosure, maybe a little bit, since I know that while Conard Pyle had introduced the Knock Out roses to commerce, the creator of Knock Out, Bill Radler, is not the breeder of the Drift roses; they came from the lines of French hybridizers Meilland International.
I attended a seminar last spring on these and was told by the speaker that his personal favorite was ‘Peach Drift’. Despite being a shrub and old garden rose fanatic, I was encouraged enough by his enthusiasm to decide that I’d try one or two out this year, particularly if I could find ‘Peach Drift’—although one-foot tall roses are really not to the scale of my garden. Perhaps, I thought, a container on the patio might work well? (They are marketed as excellent choices for containers.)
Fortunately or unfortunately it took me a week to start looking and by then the local nurseries had all sold out except for the pink and red varieties. And they were priced at $30.00 each! Given a price 50% higher than most potted hybrid teas, and taking into account that ‘Red Drift’ is more double-petaled than ‘Pink Drift’, I chose the red and only purchased one. I put it into a very large container in full sun and gave it more attention than any other plant this summer.
And it is a good thing I only ended up with one, because I’m not impressed at all by my ‘Red Drift’ rose. You can see it above, pictured at the end of what was admittedly a very hot summer, the leaves a little scorched from all the Kansas sun. Yes, it seems to be blackspot resistant, but I did have to fight a bout of spider mites with pressurized sprays of water. It didn’t grow 6 inches in any direction all summer long, despite almost daily watering in the extreme heat and careful attention to fertilization. And what you see above is the best bloom display I saw all summer, as pitiful as it is. The lack of bloom was a bit understandable during the heat spells, but I would think that the cooler weather of September would have kicked off a bloom cycle, wouldn’t you?
So, pending further evidence, I’m done with the Drift. They’re just not enough of a landscape spectacle for me to overlook the fact that the blooms are not individually striking. I’m going to keep the container outside, so by next spring, I will have a strong test of how hardy mine really is. I also plan to see how these roses did in the garden of a friend who planted 50(!) of them this spring, so there’s still a chance I’ll change my mind. Or maybe not. If you get my drift.