For years many gardeners have known about The Knock Out Family of Roses series. Roses that are repeat-bloomers, disease resistant, winter hardy and virtually maintenance free. And while I agree with all that is said here, the gripe that comes our way, at our garden center with this series, is that they get bigger than expected. Roses that take about 3 years to mature in size are expected to get 3-4 feet tall and wide. Most of us who have grown ‘Knock Out’ know that 4-6 feet is not out of the question. For many this is just too big of a footprint for smaller gardens. Alas, a new series of roses, Drift Roses, is upon us.
Conard-Pyle was responsible for introducing the ‘Knock Out’ Rose series to commerce and the breeding of Drift Roses comes to us from French hybridizers Meilland International. Right off the bat, these durable little gems are much smaller than ‘Knock Out’. Only about 18” tall and 2-3 feet wide, Drift Roses take up a much smaller footprint and look great in mass as a flowering groundcover. “Really the next generation from the Flower Carpet series, Drift Roses have been around to the public for about 5 or 6 years now” says David Wilson from Overdevest Nurseries L.P. in Bridgeton, New Jersey. Requiring little care, Drift Roses are easy to grow and will flourish at most any condition. Pruning should be done in early spring, cutting them back to about 6 inches, for best results. Of course proper tools make all the difference here. Rose gloves and a bypass hand pruner, my personal preference over anvil types, keep things simple and clean. Regular deadheading through the season not only keeps a clean appearance but also encourages reblooming. Their flower cycle is about every 5-6 weeks and this lasts until the first hard frost. Like all roses, Drift Roses appreciate full sun. Smart applications include pairing them in mixed perennial beds, massing them against a single specimen, using them as a colorful border plant and using them as a container plant.
Drift Roses are hardy to zone 4 and Knock Outs to zone 5. “In order to harden off your rose for the coming cold months, discontinue fertilizing them about 4 weeks before your first frost date” pallensmith.com. Fertilizing your roses too long into the season could cause excessive growth vulnerable to harsh winter elements. Watering your roses up until the first hard frost will insure that your plants are well hydrated as winter approaches. Finally, ample mulch at the base of your roses, 2-3 inches, will help keep a constant temperature around the plant all winter long.
“The Next Big Thing for Small Gardens” conard-pyle.com, of course has an assortment of flavors to choose from. Drift Rose varieties include: Apricot, Sweet, Coral, Pink, Red, Peach and Popcorn. Apricot offers a true groundcover habit while Coral is more of a mounding small shrub type. Peach is one of the most floriferous types available and Pink is low growing with deep pink flowers. Red, my personal favorite, has the most petite flowers of all the Drift Roses and Sweet has clear double-pink flowers that seem to “float in clusters atop dark green glossy foliage” conard-pyle.com. The most double-flowered of all the Drift series, Sweet looks great on hillsides or at the front of a border planting. Finally, Popcorn Drift Rose is a mutation from Peach Drift. Popcorn starts out yellow and fades to a creamy-white. Aptly named, Popcorn is hardy to zone 5 and possibly zone 4 after some more testing.
For the naysayers of the world, and they’re out there in the garden web forums, I say when planted in a thoughtful area, Drift Roses do quite well! Using a balanced fertilizer formulated for roses and making sure the soil is moist when applying, Drift Roses do well. Remember a common fault is too much fertilizer, which could certainly burn your plant.
Alain Meilland, head of Meilland International, was recently honored at the annual Great Rosarians of the World (GROW) event. Meilland International and Conard-Pyle Co. have long had a successful history together committed to bringing beautiful roses to market. Alain Meilland has worked in the rose field for some 50 years and his company is a six-generation, family owned and managed business. The world has much to thank this French company for including its illustrious ‘Peace’ rose. Developed prior to World War II by Francis Meilland (Alain Meilland’s grandfather), ‘Peace’ was used in the United States to herald the end of the war. To this day ‘Peace’ is still considered, by many, to be the finest hybrid tea rose of all time.