The outlook has been particularly depressing this year as I wander the local stores and see only Knock Out's and shrub roses. Two prominent local nurseries, who were faithful up until this year, stopped carrying Hybrid Teas, Floribunda's, Grandifloras, or Climbers at all. It is as if 'Peace' and the AARS awards never existed. Even the cheap container roses at the big box stores look more decrepit and lonelier than normal, mere memories of the roses I love.
But yesterday, on a trip to Home Depot to buy some spray paint, I found hope amidst despair. I was wandering by the garden center roses (I still can't resist) and couldn't help but hear a woman exclaim, "Look at this 'Knock Out', Tom." What a great color and so full of petals!" "Oh, and it has a great smell too!"
In a flash, I think my fellow shopper has shown me the future of roses. It's not that the American public innately prefers the likes of 'Knock Out' and the Drift roses and other landscape roses. It is that the rose industry made prima donnas of roses, commercialized them, branded them, weakened them, and cheapened them. Perhaps it is a good thing that the AARS winners are being shunned. Mostly, they sucked. Blackspotted, cold-sensitive, thorny-caned monsters, we are not rejecting roses, we're rejecting what they have become. We're rejecting novelty color and bling for dependability and health. 'Knock Out' is popular because anyone can grow it south of Zone 3 without care. The fact that 'Knock Out' has no fragrance, simple blooms, and a mild color doesn't matter. What matters is that 'Knock Out' is healthy and doesn't die.
So now, I'm thinking differently. The breeders and nurseries have simply been taught a lesson. Yes, there will be a period of turmoil in the rose-growing world. In the interim, hard-liners, like myself, will turn to smaller specialty mail-order nurseries and the public will just have to put up with they're offered by Big Box. But after that period of time, breeders will again improve the flowers and add scent back to fair rose, and increase the numbers of petals while keeping the rose bush healthy. And we'll have new roses that we love. Different roses, but better roses for it. And the rose industry will rise again. We won't forsake the rose for marigolds and snapdragons. The world is not that crazy.