Tom Carruth has a new gig

onederwMay 11, 2012

Maybe I'm the last one to know, but Tom Carruth, late of Weeks Roses and the man who developed Memorial Day, Julia Child, Chihuly, and many other noteworthy roses, is now the head rosarian at the Huntington Library in San Marino. Obviously it's a good thing that he will be overseeing such an important public collection, but who will bring us the next generation of fabulous new roses?


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Maryl zone 7a

I didn't know that. I agree. Good for him with his new job in a field he likes, but sad if he has stopped hybridizing new roses. Just when the big companies start to recognize that people want/demand disease resistant hybrid teas (et al) they go bankrupt from inept management. How many Knock Outs and other similar landscape roses can one see before getting jaded......Maryl

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 2:20PM
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That's what WE think, however what happened was when the producers began producing Knock Outs, the public bought THEM instead of any of the HTs and floribundas. The producers thought Knock Out would improve the reputation of "traditional roses" and perhaps increase their sales, but the reverse is what happened. Fewer people bought the HTs and floribundas, snapping up the Knock Out types, leaving all the others sitting on the shelves. Tom wrote an article a few years ago with Chris Greenwood, which I unfortunately don't have access to. It detailed how the American rose industry had lost over 60% of its sales in the previous decade (from over 50 millon plants to fewer than 18 million, definitely fewer now) and how they had hoped including Knock Out roses in their production would stimulate the sales of their other roses. What happened was Knock Out stole the other sales and eventually accounted for nearly half of the remaining production.

WE may be tired of them, but the people who are spending the most money are spending it more on Knock Outs than anything else. True or false, Knock Out series roses have the public impression they don't require the expense, time and labor to grow all other roses do. The producers aren't going to make HTs, etc., if they don't sell enough to keep them operating. Kim

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 2:54PM
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OK, here we go. This is the article I referenced. I will take this opportunity to correct myself. The loss of sales was over the previous twenty years, not the decade I remembered. The statistic of half the production being Knock Outs is from discussions with others who have more "inside information" and should include Flower Carpets and others touted as more disease resistant as well as less labor intensive, re: "landscape roses".


Here is a link that might be useful: The Rise and Fall of Our National Floral Emblem

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 3:02PM
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Wow, Kim, thanks so much for posting the sad truth.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 3:07PM
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You're welcome? It IS sad, isn't it? It's definite that budding millions of plants isn't sustainable and that own root production is the only way to remain viable. The upside is own root allows far more flexibility at a much lower cost, and is really the only way to insure a clean crop with newer varieties, so it should be a win-win in the long run. Kim

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 3:40PM
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seil zone 6b MI

Well my congrats to Tom and the Huntington Library! And I have a feeling he may still do a little dabbling in hybridizing on the side. It's not a habit you can easily kick. Like Kim always says "what if?"....

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 4:10PM
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Personally, if the institution wanted to pay for the time, it would be lovely as far as I'm concerned. He would have everything there available to make potential crosses and if he developed something worthwhile, they could patent it, license it and make extra funds. But, I wouldn't count on them being willing to pay him to hybridize. Kim

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 4:32PM
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landlady(USDA 8 or 9)

What's a Knock Out?
Sounds like something that happens in the boxing ring.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 6:41PM
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JessicaBe(5-6 Central Ohio)

Knock outs are everywhere ugh I see 10 whenever I go around a corner.. Its just the name of the brand and in my opinion they should be banned for one everyone is getting them and 2 they can spread RRD..

p.s. please correct me if I am wrong..

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 10:40PM
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I am so glad for this news. The roses need some TLC. They should give him some room in the perennial garden to space out the DA collection. It was planted insanely crowded and never looks its best. Best of luck to you. The Huntington is one amazing place especially now with the Chinese garden and the renovations to the Japanese garden.Hopefully they will give Descanso some good competition.

If you are reading this I would like to say thank you for Scentimental and Memorial Day two of my favorites.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 12:38AM
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I understand if you don't like knock out roses but I think everyone should grow what they like, especially if they are a novice. Now I feel a little shy about posting about all knockouts I am planting. I don't want to look dumb.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 2:46AM
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betsyw(NSW Aust)

Kim, do you know if this massive contraction in the US rose market extends to the global markets? I'm thinking the UK, Germany and France here, the health or otherwise of the EU domestic markets (excluding sales rights to the USA)

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 6:03AM
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betsyw(NSW Aust)

And what is it with the rather creepy hotlinked ads on this site now? The word Healthy seems to attract a yoghurt 'leech' . Jeez, how unappetising..

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 8:02AM
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diane_nj 6b/7a

I don't have an issue with Knock Out itself. I have a Blushing Knock Out that is terrific. The problem is that in this area, retailers have almost abandoned all other varieties except for Knock Out (and hybrid teas). I consider it a "starter rose" for new growers, and then advise them of other disease resistant varieties as they want to expand their rose garden. Many people only want to buy roses locally, so they miss out on excellent varieties like the Kordes "Fairy Tale" series (clean as clean can be for me).

JessicaBe, Knock Out does not spread RRD just by being planted in a garden. Go read anntn6b's eBook (it is linked in her post). Ann's point is that there are so many mass plantings of Knock Out now, that they too are starting to be affected by the mite that spreads the disease. Any large rose that is downwind of an area where the mite can be blown around and land can be affected by RRD.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 8:45AM
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seil zone 6b MI

Dolzadell, don't you dare stop posting about your KOs! I'm looking forward to seeing that hedge come to life!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 9:44AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

you can get rid of those hotlinks, but I can't remember how.

I hope the Tea/China area is finally given some attention. It looked absolutely terrible last few times I was there. Huge amounts spent on the Chinese garden (beautiful though it is), but the rose area had almost no budget at all, did not even have a full-time maintenance person, and Claire's time appeared mostly taken up by fundraising. The Huntington is a wonderful place, but it seems to revolve around fundraising. TC may be fundraising, not hybridizing.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 10:59AM
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RRD may be putting a damper on some future plans. Without research, and some assurance, I can see where some might draw back from the long hours of planning and production.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 11:10AM
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landlady(USDA 8 or 9)

So Knockouts are all those roses we are now seeing planted at places like Costco? The ones that occasionally make me wonder why I think I love roses at all? Is "Knockout" a brand, like "Austin"? Or a class, like HT? Or ???? Are they all from the same breeder? Or are they like "EarthKind" that have been given a label after being tested for something????

I still don't quite understand their position in the rose world.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 11:14AM
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When I first saw KO roses 3 to 5 yrs ago (bad memory) it was hate at first sight. I knew what real roses are supposed to look like because my mil has a few beautiful HT's which I have always admired.

Last year at Lowe's a man asked me ( I don't work there) what KO roses where, and I told him they were landscape roses and he and I were very disappointed as they had nothing else, so I left with nothing.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 12:49PM
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rosetom(7 Atl)

I think anntn6b's primary point was not that KO's can get RRD, too. Rather, their supposed non-maintenance nature and PR means that mass-plantings are left untended for long periods. If they become infected with RRD, then they aid in the spread of the disease because no one checks them to cut off the infected growth, rip them out or burn them, etc. They just sit spreading the disease into new places.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 12:59PM
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Don't apologize for what you plant. Only you know what pleases you, grows well where you grow it and cooperates with your gardening style. Some here like futzing with their roses, some don't. I know people who micro tend them unmercifully, but that's their style of gardening. I also know some (myself included) that show no mercy for any plant which requires intensive care. Whichever type you are is your business and right for you, no apologies required. They're your choice and your right to make them.

Initially, Knock Out was a variety, like Iceberg, Queen Elizabeth, etc. It has been massaged into a brand like Austin, English, Carpet, etc. The initial cultivar does have superior to all other roses released prior to it, resistance to the five strains of black spot we have in this country. Its creator deliberately exposed his seedlings to all five families, strains, types, populations, whatever you choose to call them, and selected the roses which held up best, longest to all five types. This isn't to say they WON'T get spots, but it takes significantly greater disease pressure to cause them to collapse than it does any other cultivar previously created. They represent a compromise, as all improvements in anything do. The best compromise we have been offered to date. Some roses may resist spotting in some places longer than Knock Outs may, but over the long haul, Knock Outs retain much more of their foliage, longer and provide more color, longer than any other rose previously released, over the entire country. They aren't perfect, no plant is, but for the most consistent resistance to the greatest number of black spot strains, over the longest period of the growing season in the greatest number of places, Knock Out and its variants represent the best we've ever been offered.

Of course many will become bored with them. Familiarity breeds contempt. See too much of anything, and you begin resenting it. Icebergs, Carpet Roses, Knock Outs, oleanders, box woods, you name it, see it everywhere and you tire of it. But, if it works...

I don't doubt one of Tom's duties, if not initially, probably eventually, will involve fund raising. It's the nature of the beast, unfortunately.

Betsy, I don't have the information to what extent any of the issues which have caused the collapse of our rose industry have affected other rose markets, but I would venture a guess they have. The same major issues which are killing the ARS have already killed the Royal National Rose Society in Britain. Disposable income is dwindling globally. "Leisure time" is diminishing globally. Land and water prices are skyrocketing globally. Availability of all resources is diminishing the same everywhere, greater in some places, less in others, but we're all feeling many of the same squeezes for many of the same reasons.

Many fertilizers and other chemicals require petroleum for their creation and distribution and we all know that story. More and more municipalities and countries are banning the use of synthetic chemicals on ornamentals. You aren't going to grow what demands the chemicals you can't get or can't use even if you could get them.

Personally, I was much more willing at $2 (and less) per gallon of gas to hop in my truck and run down to pick up a $6, 2 cu .ft. bag of potting soil or $6, 20# bag of rose food than I am at $4 - $5 a gallon for a $15 bag of soil or $20 bag of rose food. MY income certainly hasn't kept pace with those prices, and I would hazard a guess that most of the world's population's haven't, either.

I'm fortunate to have area in which to garden. It isn't perfect, and much of it is too steep for my energy and abilities these days, but even if it wasn't, I used half the water last year than I did the previous year and it cost the SAME amount as I paid for the greater usage the previous year. I'm sure similar issues exist in the other markets. All of which put very similar pressures on the sales of "past time" expenses no matter what country you live in. If similar declines haven't occurred elsewhere, I'd bet they are headed for them. Kim

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 1:23PM
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Best wishes to Tom, and congratulations on his success in surviving the absolute end of an era. We're witnessing the closing of those days when there were annual introductions of new HTs and Floribundas illustrated, and annouced with much fanfare, in slick catalogs. Of late, many of the best of those new introductions were hybridized by Tom. Among the most recent of his remarkable creations is 'Crescendo', a remarkable HT that didn't appear early enough get the hype it deserves.

My hope is that Tom will find a way, even under current constraints, to continue to exercise his unparalleled talents as a hybridizer of quality roses.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 8:06PM
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Tom released a Crescendo, too? The most recent one I find was Zary's in 2010. Kim

Here is a link that might be useful: Crescendo

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 9:44PM
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