US: New varieties make roses easier to grow and many of them were created in Wisconsin

Gardeners might remember the roses their mothers or grandmothers grew that were prone to diseases, had few blooms and had to be tied up in burlap or covered with white plastic-foam cones to survive the winter.

Today’s roses are far different.
“There are so many beautiful roses out there that will bloom all summer long without a lot of work,” said Diane Sommers, president elect of the American Rose Society.

“More and more people are enjoying their yards and enjoying gardening. They don’t want to be spraying chemicals on their plants, and they don’t want to put those cones on their roses in fall. You don’t have to do that anymore,” she said.

Sommers, who is also a member of the Greater Milwaukee Rose Society, and a past president of the group, said thousands of varieties of roses are available, and a growing number of them are considered easy to grow because of hybridizers who made them user friendly.  A  number of roses also are easy to grow by nature.
Sommers, of Colgate, credits Greenfield resident Will Radler with spearheading this trend. The owner of Rose Innovations, he developed the series of Knock Out roses.

“He created this awareness that roses don’t have to be hard to grow. The Knock Out rose is the number one selling rose in the world. There are mass plantings of these roses everywhere. Now more and more hybridizers are focused on creating roses that are easy to grow, winter hardy, fragrant and disease resistant,” she said. Will Radler created his Knock Out roses for himself after he retired from Boerner Botanical Gardens. Then the flowers became world famous.  

'Silly not to share it'
Radler, who has 2 acres of gardens where he continues to develop varieties of flowers, said he marketed his first low-maintenance rose, a cherry-red shrub rose called The Knock Out, in 2000 after he took an early retirement from a 13-year career as director of Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners. That first rose, like those that followed, is impervious to bugs and black spot, blooms from last to first frost, is winter hardy and is self-cleaning.

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