By now we are all familiar with Knock Out Roses. Heat tolerant, cold tolerant, disease and pest resistant, drought tolerant, big, bold, almost ever blooming – in short the almost perfect landscape rose. But how did this paragon of roses come about? Not by accident.
Knock Out roses were developed by William Radler. He grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and purchased his first rose when he was 9 years old. At 17, he was winning prizes in rose society competitions with his beautiful roses. He went on to earn a degree in landscape architecture and served as the director of Boerner Botanic Gardens, all the while working on breeding roses as a hobby. He wanted roses that did not require so much work, or so many chemicals. For years he crossed roses, collected seed, raised new plants in his basement (at least 500 at a time), planted them out, infected them with every rose disease imaginable, used overhead irrigation and let nature take its brutal course. Whatever survived this tough love was used to breed more roses. Of course he also kept an eye on form, color and fragrance. In 2000, the original Knock Out was introduced.
Now we have many colors available, and Mr. Radler, not one to rest on his laurels, continues his breeding efforts today, bringing us new roses that are tough, beautiful and easy to care for.