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A rose that will knock you out

Like everything else this crazy spring, roses are early. Way early. Frankly, this couldn't happen at a better time; times are tough all around, and it seems everyone you meet is depressed over something! My pink double Knock Outs are blooming with abandon, and while you can argue with this blockbuster's lack of fragrance and bemoan its ubiquity, you can't (seriously) knock it - it's reliable, it's not bad looking, and it grows no matter what you do or don't do to it. It fills in inconvenient gaps in the landscape.

Somehow, though, Knock Out doesn't provide the lift - the thrill - that some other, more unusual, roses do. Maybe it's because it's like wallpaper these days. Everywhere you turn, there's a lonely Knock Out in the middle of a weedy bed in front of McDonald's or the bank.

The roses in this photo are the famous 'Zephirine Drouhin.' Gorgeous, no? They're planted in a giant pot with some native honeysuckle, scrambling up a post on a pergola. The pink is fresh and clear. This is an old Boubon rose, dating to 1868, and it's remained popular for good reason: It climbs well, has a sweet, clean fragrance, blooms more than once, and is virtually thornless, something I especially appreciate after tangling with some pain-inflicting shrub roses over the weekend. And one more thing - the canes are reddish, providing outstanding contrast with the leaves and buds.

In my experience, 'ZD' hasn't had much trouble with blackspot and other afflictions that have visited the rest of my rose collection over the last few years. I'd love to get a few more, but like France, Germany and Greece, we're on a serious austerity program after years of spending wildly. In the garden, that is.