Guest Post by veterinary surgeon and master gardener James Roush/Garden Musings
I suppose that I should have expected it. Once Knock Out roses became ubiquitous in the suburban landscapes of America and moved beyond usefulness to cliché, I should have known that this paradigm-changing rose was inevitably destined to be even more misused, abused, and perverted; that it would be used in manners so hideous as to defy the imaginations of all gardeners born with even a vestige of taste.
I was still shocked, however, to stumble across the mutilated specimens shown here, these professionally scalped green rectangles and balls that I fleetingly thought—at first glance—were privet or yews. I was horrified to realize that these monstrosities were Knock Out roses, identifiable by the sparse murky red blooms visible at the back of the rectangular-shaped specimen. For a brief moment, that recognition caused me to reach for my eyes in a fruitless effort to gouge out the offending images from my soul, but alas, too late, I was staring into the abyss of Knock Out purgatory.
What was he or she thinking, this misguided landscaper? I assume this job was “professionally” done since these misshapen demons lay next to the door and walkway of a large medical center whose working doctors and nurses are not likely to moonlight as hedge-trimming psychopaths. But the blobs were even trimmed wrong as hedges; the tops and sides wider than the bottom, shading out the lower leaves and creating naked stems and thorns. Why remove the blooms? Knock Out cycles rapidly enough that spent blooms go unnoticed amid the off-red tapestry of current flowers. Does no one realize the value of orange rose hips for winter appeal? Where do we go next to misuse this rose? Knock Out topiary? A nice Knock Out elephant with a red saddle on its back and a red stripe along its trunk? A Knock Out clown face with bright red hair?
Please, those of you who just must plant Knock Out, at least give it freedom to still be a rose; to branch stiffly and awkwardly, to bloom a spine-grating red shade and to retain its dingy orange hips. Give it the freedom to be more than another green gumdrop in our landscapes. We’ve got enough shrubs that can be shaped at will into your favorite football mascot. If ‘Knock Outs’ they must be, leave them unfettered and free to grow as they were meant to, as random unshaped colorful masses in our lawns. Please.