August 1, 2011

Is This a Mistake?

On the first of each month Joene sponsors GOOPs --- gardening oops, where we can share mistakes in design and plant stewardship.  I have posted my blunders, and freely admitted in each one that I have erred. 

But this time I am not sure if I have made a gardening oops or not.  Have I?

These are knockout roses.  Rosa 'Radrazz'.  Not the fine specimens that rose connoisseurs value, but easy care, garden staples.  The foliage is disease free with an interesting shiny maroon tint when it first emerges.

They bloom all summer, although this year mine took a month off between the end of June and the end of July.   They are reblooming again now, though. 

Planting knockout roses is not necessarily an "oops" --- I am fine with common, workhorse plants in my garden.

But I can't decide if I like these or not.  Too bright.  Not a good deep red, not a cheerful cherry, just an indeterminate mid red color and gaudy.  The masses of blooms cover these plants so profusely they look artificial, steroidal.

I planted three and they have grown into a big stand at the top of the driveway.  Noticeable from the street, a good screen from behind, and a color statement.

But.  I think they are a mistake.

The foliage of the smokebush planted next to them is a subtle purple in spring, and becomes a mixed gray-blue / rust-red color in summer.  It has a translucent blush on the leaves that doesn't go with the saturated high color of the roses.  The medicine red of the roses simply makes the smokebush look brown.

On the other side is a dwarf globe blue spruce.  The powdery silver of the spruce next to the glare of the roses is off as well. 

Isolated blooms, with soft white creeping thyme below, can be nice enough.

But the whole effect is too much.  Even the camera thinks so, and burps loudly when trying to capture this pepto shade.

What do you think?  A garden oops?

Margaret Roach's rose from A Way to Garden
I want to take them out (gasp).  Replace them with a softer tinted Rosa glauca that has blue-gray foliage to complement the globe blue spruce, and subtler pink single roses that won't scream at the smokebush nearby.  Margaret Roach has a nice profile of rosa glauca in her garden.  They only bloom once, briefly, in June, but the foliage is soft and subtly complex, with reddish tones early in the season.

Would you do it?  Would you call my stand of knockout roses a design mistake and take out healthy robust plants just because they're too extroverted and they don't match anything?


  1. I have to say I do much prefer the Rosa glauca myself. Love the foliage colour and the soft pink of the flower. It would make a great planting between the Smokebush and Blue Spruce.

    Although I can understand some would say the summer long blooming period of Rosa 'Radrazz' may tip them in favour of keeping things as they are.

  2. I don't mind them with the spruce but they don't do much for the smoke bush. However I like the bright red. I would probably leave them until the smoke bush got a little larger and needed more room.

  3. I think you've answered your own question, Laurrie. If the roses make you cringe with each look, remove them. We plant gardens to make us feel good ... to give pleasing views. Plant, replant, transplant combinations until you obtain the look you want. Maybe you'd like Radrazz better from a distance, say along the edge of your meadow?

    Here's your first of the month thanks for playing along on GOOPs Day. Some may find it difficult to admit their mistakes ... we don't!

  4. Laurrie, I have one knockout rose that was given to me when my dad passed away. I've planted it in its own little bed with balloon flowers. You're right in that these are profuse bloomers (mine also took a rest for a month and are back at it right now), but like you, I am not impressed. Having only one, and isolating it from the rest of civilization, I can live with it where it stands. Its backdrop is a Toyota Tundra and that gray works well with Knockout's red/pink/whateveryoucallthatcolor. Is it a GOOPS? Doubtful. It's all a matter of personal preference. Subjectivity is never an error. However, as Joene said, if they're bugging you, out they go. One should never cringe in a garden one works so hard to maintain. Freecycle the kids and watch how huge a response you get from folks willing to dig them out!

  5. It doesn't look like an oops to me. I like it! The red is so nice against all the green and it's nice to have something that blooms throughout the summer. NOTHING is blooming here right now. I'm jealous!!!

  6. At this point, I'd be thrilled with anything that could bloom like that in our conditions!

    If they make you cringe - move won't be happy until you do. Just sayin' ;)

  7. Not a mistake in my book. If I lived close to you, I would take those Knock Out Roses off your hand. They would perk me up, I think they're beautiful. As a matter of fact, I will be planting a few this fall. I've been admiring them for years.

  8. If they irritate you, move them and put in something that makes you happy. The smokebush does look a little weird next to their vividness. Ask yourself: Self - what do I need to see/feel when I look at that spot? If a gaudy drag queen in pinkish red sequins and heels isn't the answer, then out it goes. Personally, I like drag queens and would move the smokebush. But that's just me! :o)

  9. Bernie, I'm glad you agree about the rosa glauca. I'm just not sure I'd get the same screening effect.

    Lisa, the smokebush will outgrow that space, so maybe that is the plant to move, not the roses.

    Joene, I thought of that too --- they may "read" better from afar if I move them to the back out by the meadow.

    Wendy, Maybe I need a gray Toyota Tundra for a better backdrop for my roses! That made me laugh.

    Roberta, It actually is nicer blooming all summer when the blooms are not so profuse. The first flush in spring is too much, though. It's a solid wall of bright red!

    Cat, I know you are right. I have obsessed about these roses for two seasons now. Just not making me happy.

    rmgales, I have to agree that knockout roses are great plants, just not this color. I have a pink one that is just as carefree and a good bloomer but a prettier color (to me anyway). But I'm glad you like my red ones!

    TS, I love your description of gaudy queens : ) I may just move the smokebush after all. There isn't room for a big smokebush and three big rosebushes together, I know that!

  10. Here's another idea: Make the bed wider and add an 18" white flowering perennial such as a veronica or maybe white balloon flowers or daisies or yarrow to soften the red. Perhaps adding to the palette and expanding the depth of the visual field will make the red seem less RED. Broadleaf mountain mint (pycnanthemum) would look great as a bridge between the roses and the spruce since they're a bit silvery. Plus, they attract pollinators. White gooseneck loosestrife would be gorgeous but it tends to take over.

  11. White mist flower (eupatorium coel-latin-latin...) would look great, too. It's very soft. It would tone down the red.

  12. Ultimately you have to please yourself.I would say that for a front of the house planting, these look 'wow' at 30 mph while driving. I would move the smokebush which is a much more refined and subtle plant. Just a thought or two.

  13. Look at that rose! Look how hard it is trying to please you, the healthy foliage, the double blooms! It looks awesome, and I should know.
    I have 12.

  14. The beauty of having your own garden is that you can do what you want!! :)

    I have two red Knockout roses, once large, one small, separated by several hundred feet. They are bright.

  15. TS, Great suggestions, all! I put gooseneck loosestrife in pots because it does rampage in the garden. I love the idea of white flowers near these bright bloomers.

    Layanee, I am increasingly hearing from commenters that I should move the smokebush. I think that might happen!

    Sissy, you really have 12 knock out roses? The red ones? But you do have a lot of room, so I can picture it!

    Sweetbay, In my garden I can do what I want, if I can figure out what it is that I want!

  16. Hi Laurrie, I think if you don't like them anywhere, then gift them away.

    If it is the combo, then, to be honest, I would move the smokebush because even without the rose it doesn't seem to blend. Sorry. :)

  17. I like them, but hey, it's your garden! You could move somewhere else where you would like more color, or I agree with some of the others that maybe you could move the smokebush instead.

  18. Garden Ms. S, I am starting to agree that it's the smokebush causing the design issues. Hmmmm. It may be easier to remove than the 3 rosebushes.

    Rose, I just planted the smokebush last year, so it is the easier plant to move while it is still small. That may be the plan now that I am considering all the comments.

  19. hmm, this is such an issue for me. You try a plant because it's new to you and then it doesn't quite work. I keep moving plants until I'm completely satisfied. In this case either the rose or the smokebush could move. I wouldn't toss the rose but just try it with another combination where you might like it better.

  20. Marguerite, I'm not sure where I would like the rose. It's the red color that gets me, but at a distance it might work a little better.


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