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The Original Knock Out® Rose
Recently, a group of us from Star® Roses and Plants traveled to the IGC Show in Chicago. We took advantage of the geographical proximity to arrive one day earlier and visit William Radler, the hybridizer of The Knock Out® Family of Roses. Will still lives in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the same house where he created the original seedling (in his basement!) that would become so famous. In the photo below, Will Radler (left) and myself stand in front of the original Knock Out® Rose.
Many of the people in our group never traveled to Will’s house before, and I hadn’t been to his gardens in more than eight years, so it was a very special occasion for all of us. In fact it is kind of ironic that I never had the time to make the trip in all these years, because I was so busy trying to manage the tsunami wave of popularity The Knock Out® Family had thrown at the industry (and still is!). I was amazed to see the changes Will made to his home and even more so in his gardens during these years. However, I was happy to see that a couple of things did not change. First was the rose trial area, where he submits his new seedlings to the toughest environment you can imagine (that is, until he sends the selected few to our very own ‘Rose Hell’ test fields in Pennsylvania). The only major differences I noticed, apart from his many new seedlings, were the brick pathways between the rows and the very detailed signage in front of each plant. Some of the key plants he uses for parents are also still in the same spot, which shows how tough they really are.
But the truly special thing that did not change was the original plant of ‘Radrazz’, a.k.a. the original Knock Out®, where it all began. It is still in the same spot where Will planted it in the very early 1990s after sending us the cuttings. The plant is still thriving after all these years. Of course I did look at the plant before, but I have to confess I forgot about it. It could be because last time I saw it back in July 2005, we still had not quite realized how special the variety truly was, or that I am simply just getting old and do not remember things well any more… So it was a great surprise, and a very special treat for our group to be able to pay our respects to such a very unique, and iconic plant. As for me personally, standing with Will in front of unit #1 of the plant that has sold so many millions and made so many people happy since it was born 24 years ago was a very unique moment in my career. After all, how many of us in the industry can say that in our professional career, we had the opportunity to be part of horticultural history in the making?