there is such a thing as a "mad gardener," William Radler,
inventor of the wildly popular Knock Out Rose, might qualify. Radler,
who was director of the Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners
from 1981 to his retirement in 1994, is known as "Mr. Knock
Out" in the gardening community. But the nickname might also have
been coined by any visitor to his personal garden on the grounds of
his stately home in Greenfield.
lifelong interest in rose gardening began as a boy, where he found the
colorful Jackson & Perkins catalog in the living room of his
grandfatherís small house on the banks of the Milwaukee River. The
images of beautiful and bright blooms enchanted Radler in a world
where children were to be seen and not heard.
"As I paged
through the catalog, I envisioned having some roses of my own,"
planted about 150 roses in his parentsí small yard, and went on to
earn a degree in landscape architecture at UW-Madison, where he also
studied fine arts.
2-acre garden features 1,500 roses, all grown from seed. Named after a
German garden said to have the largest collection of roses in the
world, Radlerís "Rosarium" is designed to produce
breathtaking vistas from every angle. The Knock Out Rose, introduced
in 2000, is just one of its stars.
Out is the worldís record top-selling rose of all time. It was the
right plant at the right time," Radler explains.
The Knock Out is
technically classified as a shrub rose, but Radler prefers to call it
a landscape rose. It is a multistemmed, woody plant that is winter
hardy and resistant to the diseases that often plague other rose
varieties. With four "blushing" cycles during the growing
season, the Knock Out is also a prolific bloomer.
company, Rose Innovations, now has six full-time employees and more
than 20 rose varieties on the market. He names each new rose he
develops, including Winnerís Circle and Morning Magic. One of his
favorites, the Cancan Climber, is distinguished by a succession of
magenta, pink and cream on its petals ≠ó reminding him of the
swirling skirts of French dancers.
Rosarium is a wonderland, not just for rose enthusiasts but for anyone
who appreciates natural beauty. And it is always evolving. Specimen
plants include his collection of unusual evergreens and conifers, such
as a Japanese Umbrella Pine and Weeping White Pine.
fragrant plants," he says, so in early spring visitors will find
red tulips that are scented like oranges, and bright yellow sedum that
changes colors with the seasons. "Thatís part of the
excitement," he says. A bog garden and a "Weird Plant"
garden also add interest. Each of Radlerís thousands of plants are
carefully labeled and catalogued.
Radler grew his
silver maple tree from seed. He says he prefers to start small and
nurture a plant to maturity.
part of the magic of life," he says.
the services of Dave and Heather Schuster at Terra-Firma Landscape to
interpret his ideas for the gardenís structural features. A
rock-bottomed creek meanders throughout the space, punctuated with
charming bridges and waterfalls. A series of stereo speakers ensures
music can enhance the experience. The focal point, however, is a
towering 40-foot obelisk, surrounded by a stand of sugar maples.
Radler says the structure was originally built for the Frank Lloyd
Wright exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
addition is Golden Pond, stocked with large goldfish in shimmering
shades of red, white and blue. A shell-shaped outdoor shower, built of
stone, is placed nearby. It comes in handy after a day of working the
Not content just
to raise plants, Radler is now breeding tropical fish in 12 aquariums.
He points to his prize collection of bright yellow goldfish, which
originated in Asia. They are rare, he says, because "yellow was
the Emperorís color" and not readily available to the masses.
Radler says he
wants the Rosarium to delight visitors for decades to come. At some
point, he says, he hopes it could be used for rentals or fundraisers
for his favorite causes.
really a very practical person," Radler insists, but his garden,
and his work, reflect an imagination without limits.