Saturday, August 17, 2013

'Knock Out' Purgatory

I suppose that I should have expected it, should have foreseen the horrors. Once 'Knock Out' became ubiquitous in the suburban landscape 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; to ultimately be used in manners so hideous as to defy the imagination of gardeners born with a vestige of good taste.

I was still shocked, however, to stumble across the mutilated specimens shown here, these professionally scalped and shaped green rectangles and balls that I fleetingly mistook at first glance for privet or yews.  These, my friends, are not evergreens, yews, privet, or box.  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 fleeting 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, I was too late, my sensibilities pushed over into the abyss, plunging into the bottomless pit 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 these blobs were even trimmed "wrong" as hedges; the tops and sides wider than the bottom, shading out the lower leaves and destining them to 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, I beg of you, those 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 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 Out' it must be, leave them unfettered and free to grow as they were meant to, as random unshaped colorful masses in our lawns.  Please.


  1. When asked for my opinion about Knock Out, I reply that I think of them as more of a landscape shrub than a rose. This abuse of them shows that others think about them the same way.

    1. Yes, I think of them as a landscape shrub too. But in that case, they still aren't amenable to shaping like a privet or boxwood would be.

  2. Step away from the hedge trimmers!!! I have seen it all now.
    I cringe when I see this done to Abelias and Loropetalums -- well, I cringe when I see this done to most shrubs. God did not intend shrubs to be square.

  3. Wow. I didn't think anyone could make Knock Outs worse than they already are but the proof is in the pictures.

  4. i am enjoying your blog so much... when i got to the part about the shrubs in front of the medical center I laughed out loud..Great writing and info...i love old roses and have just planted some in my garden.....


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