Monday, July 30, 2012

Garden at your peril !

Can gardening be bad for your health?  Apparently so!  Just last week I bumped into a good friend who was  recovering from a Copperhead Snake bite to the hand while pulling a weed from under her Daylilies.  Alarmingly, this is not the only account of garden related attacks when you start to dig around on the web.

The juveniles are more deadly as the can't control the amount of venon

In the north, people have been attacked by Bears while working in the garden; and in the south, Alligators prey on the unwary as they hide out in the shrubbery.  Snakes of all types, venomous or not are ready to stand their ground to the unsuspecting gardener not looking where their hands go.  I myself have bitten by both Black and Garter Snakes, though not dangerous, they will draw blood with their bite.  I even beheaded one that stuck its head out of a boxwood just moments before the electric trimmer swooshed past it.  Dare you ever surprise a skunk when turning the corner, make sure you have good stock of tomato soup to bathe in.

Imagine finding this 11 footer on your front door step

James Herriot summed it up right with the title of his book 'All Creatures Great and Small' as the smaller ones are just as dangerous as Ticks have become a gardeners worst fear as they now carry Lyme Disease, debilitating you as the disease takes effect.  Spiders are the critters that give me the goose bumps, while Black Widows are easy to spot, the Brown Recluse doesn't make its presences known until its fangs are in you.  Just today as I was installing some irrigation, my daughter found a Red Velvet Ant walking across the driveway.  The name appears innocent, leaving you to believe that its a big red cuddly teddy bear but is also known as Cow Killer, in recognition for its extremely powerful sting!

The Red Velvet Ant or Cow Killer (not actual an ant but a wingless wasp)

Last year I had a run in with baldfaced hornets nesting in a Holly.  They chased me out, stinging all the way. Just when I reached safety being stung seven times in the process, I got repeatedly dived bombed by an Eastern Mocking Bird defending her nearby nest site. Mother nature had turned on me that year.  However, the next day I returned to the site of the attack and committed genocide on the nest with wasp and hornet spray, laying waste to the holly in the process, but feeling justified in my actions. The Mocking bird, being witness to the annihilation left me alone after that.

If the animals don't get you then the plants will.  I'm not talking about the fictional flesh eating plants made famous by the 1951 novel, 'The day of the Triffids' by John Wyndham.  Instead, the poisonous trio of Ivy, Oak and Sumac are lurking around.  At first these weren't such a problem but over the years the increased exposure has broken my own bodies defense leaving me breaking out in itchy watery blisters that spread around the body with ease.

Yep, you Brits still in the mother land should consider yourself lucky.  The new world isn't for the faint hearted, but instead those looking for a sprinkle of adventure in your flower borders.  So, next time you go down to the woods, be sure for a big surprise, it's not just a teddy bear's picnic anymore!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Damn good plants - Belamcanda chinensis, Blackbery lily

As some of you might of noticed I have a bias towards trees and shrubs when writing posts.  Since moving to North America I have wavered in my perennial 'Jekyll 'sensibilities by the failure of many of the typically English herbaceous plants by are brutal summer heat here in Virginia. Shrubs for the most part fair better when things become grueling in the garden. I still pine for those Victorian perennial long borders made famous in gardening coffee table books, but this is just a dream.  However my passion in perennials is begin to be rekindled as I learn what plants can stand the heat of the south and thrive with little attention needed.

Belamcanda chinensis
The Blackberry or Leopard lily, Belamcanda chinensis is a relatively unknown and under utilized perennial plant in many gardens. Housed within the Iris family it is clearly seen in the structure of the sword like foliage reminiscent of bearded iris.  However, the flowers take on the characteristics of lilies hence their common name.  Its native range is across Northern Asia from Japan into China and up to the Himalaya where it flourishes on moist fertile soil.  Having said that it is extremely adaptable to our clay soil as long as there's some drainage provided for wetter months and is hardy down to zone 5.

The freckled petals range from golden orange to yellow and flower from midsummer to in some areas can continue into fall when the shiny black seed-heads are produced that resemble a blackberry fruit.   Flower stalks can reach up to 3 to 4 foot in height but have read that they can become floppy, though mine seem to contradict this statement, appearing to be quiet sturdy.  Varieties do exist with shorter inflorescence but I will endeavour to save some wind fallen branches to weave around the flowers for support, if needed next year. It is a tidy clump forming perennial that slowly spreads but doesn't have ambitions to take over the garden. Old florets are replaced by new ones so there's never any need to divide the clump to reinvigorate growth unless you're looking to expand its territory elsewhere in the garden.

Pardancanda norrisii
Also similar is the Candy Lily, Pardancanda norrisii, created by crossing the Blackberry lily with Pardantopsis dichotoma, now considered Iris dichotoma or Vesper Iris.  It took years of development but the result was not in vain as flowers pop open to a variety of different colors and patterns.  I've recently purchase one for my garden and was please to see two different patterns on the same plant, one with stripes and the other freckled.

The size of the bloom for both isn't large enough to catch the eye from afar, so you will need to mass it for effect but a flower doesn't needs to slap you in the face to be noticed.  I prefer to tuck them around to add a little spice and allow them to develop into larger colonies over time.  The bloom is rather short lived, lasting only a day, then coils itself up in an unusal manner before dropping off.  More blooms appear in succession so the limited duration of each bloom isn't a negative.  Seed can be collected and sown indoors in late winter after stratifying the seed in the refrigerator but it takes away space for the beer.  Instead I scattered the seed in late fall and have been rewarded with seedlings appearing under there own steam.
Old bloom coiled up

With a fan base to included such people like Thomas Jefferson who grew this perennial at Monticello during his second term as president, too yours truly, The British Gardener, shows that it must be a favorite for anyone destiny for greatness! With such a glorious review how can you deny yourself the luxury of grow it for yourself.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The true cost of plants

When I first penned the title for this post I had the intention of taking this in a different direction after being inspired from an article in Royal Horticultural Society magazine, 'The Garden'.  It was a very thought provoking look at what goes into producing a plant that we buy from garden centers but based on a European market.  One day I may revisit with that intention it but recent events made me rethink this concept to examine the human angle.

A lot has been said on the debate of illegal migrant workers here in Northern America and with this being an election year I'm sure we will hear a lot more.  Its not my intention to weigh into this debate as a lot of hot heads have bigger soap boxes to stand on than I do but we all seem to forget the fallout from it all.  Everyday I'm asked if we can 'cut a deal' by customers looking to landscape their yards and its a fair question to ask.  We even approach are growers looking for incentives to do business with them to help offset discounts to the budget conscious consumer.  On both sides, the retailer and producer have margins that need to be met to keep the doors open.  Migrant laborers help achieve the goals of keeping cost low and enable the big green machine of the horticultural industry to work productively.  Its the same concept in any business that requires a labor force, construction, agriculture and even restaurants for example.

Companies that actively hire migrant workers are subjected to an immigration audit from time to time to see if documents provided are legal or current and notified to which ones are not.  From that investigation, an employer has to terminate those with invalid documents to stay on the side of the law.  So what then happens when a percentage of your work force has to leave because of invalid documents, leaving companies in a weaken state.  How can this be good for an economy that's trying to recover.  It still hasn't addressed the problem of illegal immigrant workers, released once again to disappear, but now forced to find another way to provide for themselves, honestly or not!  The only benefit an audit seems to do it make it harder for a worker to stay in one place for long.

When migrant workers are employed by a company they are paying taxes on what they earn, its not a cash in hand arrangement but one that is recorded and tracked. Many pay there taxes but do not file at tax time because it will draw unwanted attention to them. Instead they pay up and hide under the radar because the benefits of working in this country is far better than in their own homelands. Couple this with the fact that they are hired on at minimum wage for unskilled labor, allowing companies to stay competitive and hopefully grow. One of the most patriotic thing you can do for your country is pay taxes. Does this mean that illegal immigrants are more patriotic than the top 5% of this country that do what they can to dodge paying uncle Sam?

However, something needs to give if we as consumers keep looking for discounted products that are constantly costing more to produce. Migrant workers, legal or illegal help keep the balance allowing businesses to grow which in turn helps the economy. Are we in fact aiding and abetting illegal immigration by asking for cheaper products and services? The argument that illegal immigrants are stealing jobs from Americans doesn't really stand as many will not be willing to work outside in 100 degree heat all day watering plants. No one wants to get dirty and earn minimum wage so why are we head hunting those that are happy to do this. As for draining health care costs lets examine the massive payouts from malpractice lawsuits and how attorney's are cashing in from this, let alone discussing the huge profits drug and insurance companies make every year. The immigrant cost I'm sure is just a fraction compared to liability costs.

Non tax paying day laborers looking for work
The problem of illegal immigration will never be solved either here or around the rest of the world but we should look at how we can utilize the labor force for the advantage of the economy.  I'm not saying we should have slave labor but the role they play in making industry more competitive helps everyone.  Telling companies to terminate them instead of offering solutions to utilize this labor pool only slows down economic recovery.  At least while they have a job they are earning a living instead of, worst case scenario stealing to support themselves, spending money on services that stimulates the economy and paying their taxes like every other good American, except those top 5 percent!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Old Faithful Plants - Viburnum Chindo

Up until now I have been addressing exceptional plants that shine on their stage, categorized under the heading of 'Damn Good Plants'.  However, every leading actor or actress needs a supporting counterpart to play off and the same can be said for plants.  This new category 'Old Faithful's' are what I consider must haves but often don't get the attention they should.  They are the background performers to highlight the stars but hold together the whole display even when the stars don't shine as bright.  Though you may never see them grown in a colorful pot, trademarked with a fancy name or featured in a full page advertisement in Southern Living, they are as dependable as the snow is white.

The first plant to take this honor is the Chindo Viburnum or more scientifically speaking, Viburnum awabuki 'Chindo' or is it Viburnum odoratissimum var awabuki 'Chindo', oh the naming.  A native of South Korea, it was introduced into North America in 1985 by the late, great J.C. Raulston for which North Carolina's Arboretum honors him by bearing his name.  The clone he carried back was grown at Chollipo Arboretum from a plant they discovered in a school yard on Chindo island.

Since then it has gain popularity in our gardens, beginning to spread as more gardeners experiment with pushing its hardiness through zone 7 and potentially lower.  It has become one of my favorite backdrop shrubs for the border slowly replacing Skip Laurels that had long since held the throne.  The glossy large leathery leaves resemble a southern Magnolia and look healthy and lush regardless of what the season is.  It is considered highly deer tolerance but those in deer country will be skepical to the deer ability to test such claims.  If left unchecked it will produce a large shrub some list as 20ft but can easily be trimmed to an appropriate size for a smaller garden.  Photos that I have seen of the one at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum show it pruned into a small multi-stemmed tree with a canopy raised, making it quiet attractive as a stand along specimen.  Pruning is best done in late winter to promote even growth but can be pruned again by the end of July to ensure the flush of new growth will harden off before the coming winter.

I have not observed my own plants it in flower but some stock that came up from Georgia did bear blooms for us.  I suspect that it may require more heat to stimulate heavy flowering. The white clusters of blooms are borne in late spring and carry a pleasing fragrance, followed by a display of red berries that the birds devourer.  Though  I lack blooms I don't consider it to be a negative, instead favoring the attributes of the foliage to highlight such plants like my Abelia Kaleidoscope ( a past 'Damn Good Plant' nominee ).

Like many Viburnums, 'Chindo' is adaptable in many locations but will best perform in moist fertile soils.  I've grown them in particle shade to full sun and not seen any measurable difference.  Too much shade however will produce an open, airy specimen that lacks the screen characteristic that we often are look for.  Our plants at the garden center are planted in exposed winds and have shown no ill effect during the winters.

Hopefully my attempt of moving the spotlight onto this work horse of the garden will spark intrigue for you to introduce it into yours.  It has been as faithfully for me as an old hound dog to its master with little asked for in return.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The other Gardening Makeover

There is no doubt that the garden industry is going through a slump right now.  HGTV has dropped the G for gardening out of its program line-up, instead choosing only shows that deal with makeovers, crashers or any other connotation that makes you feel if it's as simple as rearranging furniture.  If I have to watch another fire pit, water feature or over sized gazebo, Tiki Bar or TV go into a garden I'll hang myself.  Do they really think that fire pits are great around children?!

Even in the land of gardening, meaning England, there is a concern that people are moving away from horticulture and instead taking up cooking that has largely replaced garden shows on television.  The Royal Horticultural Society ran an article recently about college programs showing a drop in numbers that I know is echoed here in North America too.

So what can be done?  How do we get the sexy back into gardening? What does it take to attract more people back to the industry again?  Its not a simple problem to fix, the whole image of gardening needs a nip/ tuck and maybe a tattoo to make it appealing.  Gardeners are seen to be of the older generation and don't come across as hip and cool, more hip replacement than anything else.  I struggled when I first chose to get into horticulture because of the image; but I was blessed to work at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew in England that is considered to be mecca-like for gardeners.  My time there exposed me to plant collecting where I was privileged to traveled the world in search of plants making me to feel like Indiana Jones instead of weeding Rob.

Too clean to be a gardener
Sure P.Allen Smith and Jamie Durie are rocking it the best they can but they're still no match for rock star of cooking, Anthony Bourdain once crowned a culinary assassin for his strong opinions.  Given the choice I'd rather watch Bourdains 'No Reservations' show than see another bloody fire pit going into a garden.  That man made it cool to watch a travel/food show and then talk about it amongst a group of men.  Try doing that with primroses!

Only presenter I know to do a cooking show in a war-zone
If TV can make ballroom dancing cool with 'Dancing with the Stars' then surely we can reinvent gardening too.  Lets find some honest, down to earth gardeners and make a reality show about them like 'Deadlest Catch' or 'Gold Rush' and drop the poster boy presenters that only appeal to feminine types.  Men garden too and we want shows we can be proud to watch.  I want to follow the ups and downs of real gardening, the heart ache of droughts or deer attacks and the joys of harvesting the first apple, even if it is the only one left on the tree.  It worked for Kew gardens when a camera crew was based there for a year filming behind the scenes, why can't it work here?!  Changing up TV shows to appeal to the masses is just a start, but please, no more bloody fire pits!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Damn good plants - Vitex agnus-castus

Now here's shrub that deserves a lot more attention than what is given. The Vitex or Chaste tree has been noted in ancient literature for over 2500 years for its medicinal uses to treat 'women things'. Hippocrates ( or Socrates from the most excellent time traveling adventures of Bill and Ted )  made mention of it for treatment of menstrual disorders but it was also used in Greek festivals to honor the goddess of Agriculture, fertility and marriage. Women would adorn themselves with flowers to indicate there chastity during the festival.

The Romans, not to be out done by the Greeks also had Vestal Virgins carrying twigs of the Vitex as a symbol of the chastity. Women would also sleep on its foliage while their men were away at war to keep themselves pure. However, if a man consumed a concoction made with Vitex it would elevate his testosterone, just what you need when heading off to war or perhaps coming home. These traditions were later adopted in Cristian rituals and still continue in some parts of Italy with 'Novitiates' or freshman monks entering a monastery, walking on the flowers and leaves to indicate there chastity.

Vitex has being around for such a long time that it has developed an extensive list of common names with Chaste tree being the most freely used. Abraham's Balm, Chaste berry or Monk's pepper also come up with the latter referring to its pungent scent and reminiscent flavor of pepper for which it could be substituted for should you find that your cupboards are bare. It can be grown as a small single trunked tree but the large multi-branched form is very desirable in the landscape. Long panicles of lavender blue flowers will bloom for up to four to five weeks in June and if removed after flowering can rebloom again later but not to the same degree. Vitex is also quiet drought tolerant but grows faster and shows better when given regular watering. At maturity it can reach 15 feet but if pruned back in spring, as new growth emerges you can maintain a more reasonable size for the average garden. Full sun is a must for the best show of flowers.

So if your looking for a plant that's as tough as old boots for a hot, dry difficult spot then this might be the ticket. Don't worry, you don't have to stay pure to grow one, just show it some love every now and then to keep it happy!  Totally non heinous dude! (another Bill and Ted quote).

Monday, July 9, 2012

Technology in the garden

I've been left behind when it comes to cell phones. It seems everyone has some kind of smart phone that does just about everything in contrast to my old school flip top phone. It was only recently I got a grip on texting but its still a dreaded exercise in hitting a button 3 times to get a letter you need. However, my wife got her first i-phone recently and graduated into the world of apps, gadgets and gizmo's. Even our kids are having fun using the camera or playing games on it, though my littlest might play hide and go seek with it if we turn our backs.

Phones and apps are changing how we do things these days and they even apply themselves to gardening.  There's an app that will help identify a tree from a photo of its leaves and at one nursery they could control there irrigation from a smart phone instead of tracking back to a terminal to modify the timers.  I hope that one day someone will develop a sensor to go on the root ball of a plant and notify the owner when it comes time to water or even turn on a solenoid valve to water it until the plant is satisfied.  Maybe this is my calling! You can even look up details of plant by scanning a 'QR' code, the funny looking checkered box at the front of most plant tags to get more in-depth information, the silent sales man for the newest generation.

However, with all of this technology there is still a flaw that so far manufactures have failed to perfect and that's the screen.  Admittedly, in a regular room you can see pretty good, even play movies but try and do the same outside on a sunny day.  We see this all to often at the garden center as customers come in with their phones ready to show us pictures of all there garden problems. Lets not forget to mention all the family photos we're forced to look at as they scroll endlessly through until they come to the picture of their situation.  I know one day I get an accidental eye full of some racy photos that will burning themselves into my memory.  Oh by the way, a cell phone photo isn't good for a warranty claim either.  Its easy to make out a dead plant from a cell phone screen but we can't tell what it died from or that it even matches your receipt.  Of course we get the ones with pictures and no receipt looking for a refund because that's normally acceptable at most stores!

Information technology is a rapidly changing industry but is becoming a way of life. According to marketing analysts, the newest generation prefers to search Google for answers to problems then approach anyone for help, but how can you validated the sources? Gardening is something that can't be learnt from books, websites or even Apps. It is acquired knowledge through trial and error as every plant will grow differently from one garden to another. Connecting to your plants and their needs isn't a 3 or 4G network but instead sticking your hands in the dirt and being one with it.  Caution is required when researching your answers as you might not know the origin of the source. If its not local to your area then the results will be different. Anyone online will claim to be a Doctor of something then tell you that Round-up is good for roses until you learn from trial that its an error.

Online plant clinic, how can I help you?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

White Pines and the American revolution

The fourth of July will be upon us tomorrow marking America's Independence and for yet another year I get to hear all the jokes about being British in America.  Still I go on knowing that if it wasn't for the British, Americans would be speaking french, so all is not so bad.  Unfortunately I always qualify to work this holiday as 'being British' means I don't need to celebrate it although I've been naturalized or is it neutralized for five years now.  Yep, they let me in!

Something you'll be surprised to learn is that we never covered American history in our classes back in England, one doesn't like to loose and be reminded.  So I found interesting that the spark that ignited the revolutionary war wasn't over my nations favorite cuppa, that being  tea but instead over Eastern White Pines. Many others I spoke to, including Americans also wasn't aware of the importance of the Eastern White Pine to American history so it seem appropriate to write this piece and bring recognition to them.  

One of the first flags flown in defiance of the crown had a white pine emblem as its center piece and the first illegal coin minted for tender featured a pine too, the Massachusetts Pine Tree Shilling. The Pine Tree Riot or White Pine War of 1772 was one of the first acts of rebellion turned revolutionary, more than 18 months before the Boston Tea party that moved this country towards war. Of course we think the Rattle Snake flag with the motif 'Don't tread on me' is much more masculine to rally behind but at the time the lumber trade of Pines was a major commodity.

A painting depicting the Pine flag flown at the Battle of Bunker Hill 

The Eastern White pine is the tallest pine species in Eastern North America. Trees of up to 200 feet and clean of branches up to 80 feet from the ground were a common sight in the 'New World' as it was being settled by Europeans. William Douglas, who discovered the Douglas fir that was named in honor of him recorded seeing a  Eastern White Pine being 250 foot high. Wood from the trees was light yet strong making it versatile for building and furniture making and it's resinous wood was considered highly decay-resistance. Some say that if it wasn't for the Eastern White Pine the spread of colonization across the New World would of been much slower.

White Pines are prized for there bullet straight trunks, lending themselves to ship building particularly as masts for large sailing vessels. Previously masts had to be pieced together from pieces of Scot Pines but now a single trunk from a White Pine could do the job. Soon the business of harvesting and selling Eastern White Pines became a very profitable industry.

However, the crown claimed ownership of any White Pine over 12 inches in diameter and marked trees with the Kings Broad Arrow symbol, a series of three hatchet slashes on the trunks regardless of if the trees were on private land.  Britain's Royal Navy needed to maintain its dominance of the seas.  Eastern White Pines enable the fleet to be built from lighter wood creating faster vessels making a formidable force to reckon with in any battle.  To cut down a tree marked with the Kings Broad Arrow lead to a lengthy prison sentence so trees that were marked often fell to mysterious forest fires or targeted for vandalism in defiance.  Soon the practice of cutting down any  Pine was considered dangerous as you couldn't prove that it didn't have the Kings Broad Arrow.

Though stooped in American history the Eastern White Pine hasn't been embraced as a landscape tree.  The desirable characteristic in the lumber trade of bare trunks until you reach the canopy doesn't lend themselves to screening very well and they are known to drop branches in snow, ice or heavy winds.  Its popularity as a cut Christmas Tree has also decreased with Fraser and Noble Fir to reign supreme.  I've heard many customers refer to White Pines as junk trees which is such a shame as they should get as much credit for this countries independence as our founding fathers.  Maybe this year I'll raise a Pine flag and toast its honor with a lovely cup of tea, some habits are hard to give up. Vive la Revolution!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Knock Out Rose - The new Elm?

I have a doomsday concern that I touch on a few posts back that has made me very worried.  I've noticed that Knockout roses are begining to show a weakness that should a disease successfully penetrate its armor it would spread rapidly through their population due to the frequency of their mass planting.  If we look back in history we have seen epidemics like this in the fate of  American Elms and Chestnut trees.

The story of these two great American trees is one of introduced foreign pathogens and the trees inability to adapt to the new danger.  The countries where the diseases came from had similar species that had co-evolved with the diseases and could survive an attack but on foreign soils the diseases had free reign.  Chestnut and Elms occured in such great frequency that a disease could skip from one tree to another without having borders to contain its spread.  Their stories are quite interesting and worthy of further reading but I'm getting off track.

Knock out roses were hailed as the greatest thing to happen to roses since the introduction of the first, single red in 2000, that was chosen for the 'All American Rose Selection' award.  Easy to care for with a long flowering period without the need to dead head and disease resistance.  Couple all of this with an agressive marketing campaign and you have an instant winner.  Pretty soon all the customers were coming in brain washed to say 'Knockout rose, Knockout rose'!  Now the new problem was that none of the other roses were selling even if they were also disease resistant.  After that, they took over like an invading army, sweeping across commercial landscapes to developments and into our own back yards.  I admit to owning one, a beautiful double pink that I bought for my wife as a Valentine gift, though at that time just a pot of bare stems in February.  It lives up to all the expectations and hasn't disappointed yet.

This year we have seen the increase of an incurable disease, 'Rose Rosette Disease', probably brought on by a mild winter and the increase of mite infestations. It was first described in 1941, tied to the increasing popularity of the Japanese Multiflora roses, recommended at that time for erosion control, living fencing and to attract wildlife to your garden.  The negative was that the Multiflora rose is greatly successful at producing a lot of viable seeds that will take over and choke out other plants.  Multiflora roses are highly susceptible to Rose Rosette Disease and at one point it was suggested that the disease be used as a biological control to stop the spread of Multifloras.  However the disease quickly spread and transitioned into cultivated roses and has remained in our gardens.

The disease is known to be spread by 'eriophyid' and 'rose leave curl' mites, which are easily transported in the wind up to 100 yards from its orignal source due to their extremely small size.  Just being down wind from infected plants will put you at risk.  Symptoms don't show immediately and detection of the mite is near impossible unless under a microscope, which even then are difficult to see.  Once the contorted stems begin to show the only control we have is to remove infected plants as quickly as possible. The disease will enter the plant it is spread through its vascular system so pruning affected areas is not an option.  It is not believed to be a soil borne disease so new roses can be replanted as long as the old rose's roots are completely removed.

Disease symptoms vary with rose cultivars, but combinations of all or some of the most distinct symptoms are used for diagnosis

- Witches Broom of stems
- Bright red leaves and stems
- Extremely thorny
- Distorted or aborted flowers
- Underdeveloped leaves and/or distorted canes
- Dead or dying canes and foliage
- Dwarf or stunted growth
It's ironic that the  success story of the Knockout rose could be its down fall due to its susceptibility to Rose Rosette Disease. Unfortunately the mass planting of Knockouts across the country will act as a highway for the mites to travel in the same way it swept through the Multiflora rose population.  I'm hoping I'm wrong but evidence seems to weigh in favor of this prediction that the knockouts may be down for the count!