Easy Roses: First there were Knockouts, now come Drifts

Knockouts
You’re probably familiar with Knockout Roses, now the hottest-selling rose in the U.S.  Because they bloom repeatedly until December here in Maryland and are incredibly resistant to fungal disease (despite our famous humidity) they’ve won us over.  And not just individual homeowners but companies and municipalities are using them en masse to great effect, even in median strips of major streets (like 16th Street in D.C., I’ve noticed).  They come in singles and double flowers, and several different colors, and I recommend them regularly.  These roses are a godsend for the low-maintenance, eco-conscious gardener who doesn’t want to use pesticides.

Heck, they don’t even need full sun to bloom abundantly.  Just last week a gardening email group I follow discussed the question of how much sun is really required for Knockouts to bloom and many respondents reported good results with just three hours of sun, which is amazing.  They’ll bloom more with full sun but now gardeners with much less sun can have roses that bloom plenty.

Drifts
I’ve enjoyed growing Knockouts but in my new, much smaller garden, I chose instead to try their younger sibling, so to speak, the Drift Roses from the same breeder.  While Knockouts can reach 5 feet tall if unpruned and just as wide, the Drifts are just 1-2 feet tall by 2-3 feet wide, according to their website, so they’re perfect for small gardens.  I planted five of the Apricot Drift roses last spring (two of which are shown above) and this year they’re already 2′ tall and 3′ wide, and are blooming like gangbusters on four to five hours of sun a day.

Apparently Drifts are a cross between full-size groundcover roses and miniatures.  The breeder explains that from groundcovers they inherited toughness, disease resistance and winter-hardiness, and from the miniatures, their well-managed size and repeat-blooming nature.

Drifts are available in a nice array of colors, shown above.  It’s suggested that one variety be grown en masse or that an assortment of complementary colors be grown together.  I’d never have thought of that myself but I can totally imagine the Apricot looking great with the Peach and Coral colors I noticed for sale at Homestead, shown below.

Care
Most growers of roses recommend regular feeding but for Knockouts and these Drifts I’ve fertilized just once and been very happy with the results.  I notice that the Drift Rose information about care doesn’t even mention feeding them.  They’re also referred to as “drought-tolerant,” which is rare for roses.

The Drift people DO recommend pruning, but it’s quick and easy.  In early spring, just as the new leaves are emerging, cut the stems back to 6″ tall or so.  That’s it!

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