Sunday, May 29, 2011

A better KnockOut

All of you know that I pretty much despise the wildly popular 'Knockout' rose, right?  No surprises there for any regular readers.  Well, I'll show you a rose that, if we must have a rose whose primary purpose is to bloom and bloom for landscaping enhancement, has 'Knockout' and its relatives beat to shame.

That rose is 'Champlain', a 1982 Canadian rose of the Explorer series, named to honor the founder of the city of Quebec, and touted everywhere for its continuous flowering habit by everyone who grows it.   In fact, it is the third longest blooming rose of the Canadian releases.  I have two, one in full sun in a long border in the garden proper and a shaded one in my front landscaping near the house that has only a northeast exposure.  The latter also has a tree to its immediate east, so it might see direct sun 4 hours a day in the summer and barely at all in the winter.  Both bloom their heads off, although I have to admit the one in the sun does have a more continuous bloom pattern.

'Champlain' is a healthy rose, free of mildew and almost free of blackspot (I see a little on them in humid August every other year and they lose some lower leaves).  Flowers are bright red (a much better red than vivid pukey off-red 'Knockout'), are 6-7 cm in diameter, and have 30 petals.  There is an occasional white streak to the petals as you can see in the second picture.  'Champlain' is a complex hybrid of a cross between 'R. Kordesii' and 'Max Graff' on one side and a seedling from' Red Dawn' and 'Suzanne' on the other.  It seems to be easy to start from softwood cuttings because that is where my 2nd plant came from.  Hardy to Zone 2, it has never had any dieback here in zone 5.  Canadian climates do have some dieback as noted in Robert Osborne and Beth Pownings Hardy Roses.

In front, part sun 
So how many ways is 'Champlain' better than 'Knockout'?  Let's see, better color, better hardiness in the far northern climes, and likely a more continuous bloom.  I'm actually going to count weeks this year for the 'Double Knockout' and 'Champlain' in my garden to determine the latter once and for all.  'Champlain' has a better shrub form, with thinner canes than the hybrid-tea-like gawky canes of the original 'Knockout'.  But most importantly, both my 'Champlain's have grown to three feet tall and wide and have NEVER been pruned.  Never.  Not a single cut.  Around here, many commercial places trim their 'Knockout' to the ground each year, or at least trim them to keep them within reason because it can get to be a six foot bush when left alone.   'Champlain' seems to reach an "adult" size and then just stop growing.  How cool is that?  Heck, even Martha Stewart approves of it.

In back, full sun
Sadly, although it is listed in Ag Canada's Winter-Hardy Roses as having a little fragrance, I can detect none with my middle-aged male nose.

I point out that single drawback solely in hopes that not all of you will choose to grow this nearly-perfect landscape rose.  If 'Champlain' was grown everywhere by everyone, I'm sure that I wouldn't like it nearly as much.  I'm peculiar that way.


  1. There's a few things I don't like about KOs. The biggest is that they have pushed other roses out of the local market. I never (well, twice) buy roses locally because no one sells antiques, but it would be nice to be able to make an impulse purchase now and then. Bigger in another sense even than that are the thorns on these bushes. Gosh, they're totally lethal. A friend had three of them rooted on Fortuniana (can you imagine? KnockOuts on steroids!). She finally decided they were just too dangerous to prune and to have near her front door and had them yanked out with a chain on the end of a pickup truck. But that's Florida for you.

  2. Sounds like a plan. Replacing knockouts that is..or is it knockoffs.

  3. Thank you for the story. I am not a fan of Knockouts either (Icebergs are our local Knockouts though) or of red roses in general. I do grow one red that does very well for me, and that's Trumpeter.

  4. So, 5 years later Professor, were you able to compare the days in bloom between Double Knock Out and Champlain? Anything to report?

    1. Champlain is much more floriferous than Double Knock Out....blooms earlier and with more blooms at any given time, but both bloom right up till early Winter here.


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