P. Allen Smith Promised Me a Rose Garden

June 13, 2012 by

Three Double Knock Out® Roses surrounded by their own foliage. Photo: Robin Horton, Urban Gardens.

It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.
Antoine Saint-Exupéry

I always thought roses were the sort of flowers that only “rosarians”–people with a sophisticated knowledge of rose cultivation–could successfully grow. I was pretty sure this meant they invested hours of painstaking work to breed “museum” quality flowers that then required even more painstaking hours to maintain.

Octagonal brick garden house at P. Allen Smith’s rose garden at The Garden Home Retreat. Photo: Robin Horton, Urban Gardens.

But then one day I woke up and smelled the roses. On my visit this spring to P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home Retreat for the second annual Garden2Blog event, I was tickled to learn there were roses “for the rest of us.” Roses, that even I–someone with little to no gardening experience–could successfully grow.

In this video, P. Allen Smith and I discuss rose gardening easy enough even for novices:

Garden Celebrates First American Class of Roses and Evolution of Roses
Smith’s rose garden is by no means a small simple rose garden. It’s a spectacular 18,000-square-foot spread that features various Knock Out® Roses, Drift Roses (ground cover roses, great for small spaces), and one of the most comprehensive collections of Noisette roses in the country. The garden’s design was inspired by the Aiken-Rhett House and Boone Hall Plantation in Charleston, S.C. Marking the garden’s southern entrance local artist and blacksmith Stuart Schild created a beautiful hand-forged, wrought iron gate whose design is based on a 19th-century gate bonnet Smith unearthed in a junk shop.

Rose garden iron gate based on design of piece Smith found in a junk shop. Photo: P. Allen Smith.

Getting Over Fear of Foliage
The surprise for me, however, was the wide range of new, low-maintenance classical rose varieties on display. I’m what one might call the “Garden Curious.” I love gardens, have grown some things myself, am interested in doing more but but mostly ask others to dirty their hands carrying out my vision because…I’m afraid I’ll kill everything and also get flustered by long Latin names. There I said it.

The Knock Out® Rose, left, and the Double Knock Out® Rose, right. Photo: The Conard-Pyle Co.

Easy Does It
These Knock Out® Roses, however, give me hope. They are easy to grow, require little maintenance, are winter hardy, heat and drought tolerant, and don’t need spraying as they’re disease resistant. Also, in what sounds like an ad for a modern oven, these roses are “self-cleaning”–meaning they do not need to be deadheaded.

Abundant Blooms
The other thing: you get lots of roses. Like the clock that just keeps on ticking, these babies bloom about every 5-6 weeks from spring until the first hard frost. The plant’s own foliage is varied enough it almost appears like several different plants. Burgundy toned new growth contrasts nicely with fresh looking green leaves and, when the petals fall off, what’s left is a sweet star-shaped spent bloom. As I experienced in Smith’s garden, roses do not need to be by themselves, they actually like and do well in the company of other plants.

P. Allen Smith sharing plans for the rose garden when I visited last year. Photo: Robin Horton, Urban Gardens.

Know What Works, Then Mix It Up
My preconceived notions about roses were not entirely correct. I learned that roses can be a great no-care plants. But like anything else, you need to know what grows well in your particular zone.

“I wanted to plant a rose,” explained Smith, “that gives me more than I give it.” (Upon hearing this, blogger Caroline Binder whispered to me, “That’s what I look for in a man.”)

The Knock Out® is like an “intro” rose. It can be, if you like, a gateway to growing more sophisticated, traditional roses, or simply an easy care plant for a small space garden. What I also loved too about Smith’s rose garden was the way he mixed things up–roses combined with annuals, perennials, and more established shrubs.

Petunias edge the garden, with roses behind and between the iron tuteurs. Photo: Robin Horton, Urban Gardens.

In his card and DVD collection, P. Allen Smith’s Rose Garden, Smith suggests integrating roses with other companion plants like Clematis, Catnip, and Lavender.

In his card collection for rose gardens, Smith shares how-to-projects and advice for small space gardens.

It’s a bit like combining one fabulous antique in your living room with some contemporary finds and maybe a few things from an estate sale. I’ve done that, now maybe I can grow roses.

Disclosure: I attended the second annual Garden2Blog and received transportation, accommodations, and meals during the event. Event sponsors provided samples and product giveaways at no cost or obligation. All opinions are my own and I did not receive any additional compensation for this post.


  1. Carolyn Binder at Cowlick Cottage Farm said:

    I said that? LOL! A great share on Allen’s beautiful rose garden. Thanks, Robin!


    — June 13, 2012 @ 18:45

  2. Kylee from Our Little Acre said:

    Great takeaways from our visit to Allen’s rose garden. I would love to have spent more time in that garden. I loved all the things you did. Can you believe I only have two KnockOut roses? There are several varieties now and I should expand and get more. Thanks for the wonderful share of Allen’s wonderful rose garden!

    — June 13, 2012 @ 19:09

  3. Rev. Charlotte said:

    I gave away a Cherokee Rose and I have a lady Banksia that was pruned this year. Lady Banks needs a great structure to support it. Besides the French Pussy Willow it grows toward.

    I smelled a yellow knock out rose that impressed me!

    — June 14, 2012 @ 11:56

  4. custom sheds said:

    Lovely roses! I really love the garden.

    — June 15, 2012 @ 14:06

  5. Agen Bola said:

    I think this design is just great. So simple and unique! Have you seen anything else like it? I havenâ??t!

    — August 16, 2012 @ 22:37

  6. The Self-Taught Gardener Who Designed the Kennedy White House Rose Garden - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

    […] the wisdom of planting in the heat of summer, however, according to the White House plan, the rose bushes and other flowers were planted in containers and will be cultivated in them for a period to protect […]

    — September 16, 2020 @ 19:28

  7. The Self-Taught Gardener Who Designed the Kennedy White House Rose Garden - Insider Gardening Pingback said:

    […] the wisdom of planting in the heat of summer, however, according to the White House plan, the rose bushes and other flowers were planted in containers and will be cultivated in them for a period to protect […]

    — September 16, 2020 @ 19:45

  8. The Self-Taught Gardener Who Designed the Kennedy White Home Rose Backyard - Internet Cloning Pingback said:

    […] of planting within the warmth of summer time, nonetheless, in keeping with the White Home plan, the rose bushes and different flowers have been planted in containers and might be cultivated in them for a […]

    — December 26, 2020 @ 19:01

  9. custom sheds said:

    Wow! I love this! Thank you for sharing.

    — December 11, 2022 @ 22:10

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