Roses grow ahead of their time; Flowers: Just-announced All-American winners show good resistance to disease.; IN THE GARDEN


Forget the Y2K bug for a moment. Instead, revel in the timeless beauty of the Year 2000 All-America Rose Selections winners: Knock Out, Crimson Bouquet and Gemini.

The three are ahead of their time in disease resistance, yet they showcase reds and pinks in a display of timeless colors that gardeners just cannot resist, says Henry Conklin, president of AARS.

* Knock Out offers the best disease resistance. The cycle of bloom and growth provides a continuous show of color from spring until late fall. It's a maintenance-free flowering shrub that thrives in all climates and has a petal count of five to seven. The deep, almost fluorescent cherry red blooms are 3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter and give off a light tea rose fragrance. The medium, rounded, bushy plant grows 3 feet by 3 feet. Clusters of three to 15 flowers bloom alongside glossy foliage tinged in eggplant purple in a swirl of Burgundy. It's hybridized from a combination of eight roses including Carefree Company.

* Crimson Bouquet is a vigorous grandiflora with buds that spiral open to reveal 4-inch bright red blooms with 20 to 25 glowing petals. The rounded plant grows 4 1/2 by 3 1/2 feet with 14- to 18-inch stems. Deep glossy, green leaves provide a handsome backdrop to its scarlet personality. It, too, offers good disease resistance. The Kordes Co. of Germany hybridized the plant with a combination of Bad Fussing and Ingrid Bergman; Bear Creek Gardens is the introducer.

* Gemini blends shades of coral pink and rich cream into a hybrid tea with large double blossoms. The upright plant produces blooms that slowly spiral open to reveal 4 1/2 -inch flowers with 25 to 30 petals. You can cut long-stem roses from this disease-resistant rose.

AARS roses are evaluated by expert rose growers during rigorous trials throughout the United States. Plants are scored for 15 traits, including color, fragrance, disease resistance, bud and flower form, vigor, hardiness, growth habit and foliage.

Crimson Bouquet and Gemini are trademarks of Bear Creek Gardens/ Jackson & Perkins Roses. See www., or call 800-292-4769. Check garden centers for bare-root selections in February and potted ones in April and May.

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