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Robert Buist & Roses in Philadelphia in the 1800s
The first book published in America and devoted to roses is The Rose Manual, by Robert Buist. Published in 1844, the book was written with his American customers in mind, many of them neighborhood ladies whom he called his Patronesses. It was planned and written in minute detail as a complete handbook for the true novice and based on his twenty-years experience of growing roses. During that time, Robert Buist assembled the largest rose collection in the States. It took two years to write the book and it involved, among other things, visiting Philadelphia-area rose collections of other nurserymen as well as amateurs.

Buist was born in Scotland in 1802. He was interested in floriculture at a young age and became manager of the Edinburgh Gardens. In 1828, he emigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He died in 1880. The family business was carried on by his son, Robert, Jr.

The business in Philadelphia started out as Robert Buist's Seed Store. He sold gardening supplies, potted plants, shrubs, small fruits, and rose bushes. The business did well and by 1837, required larger quarters, so Buist relocated to 12th Street below Lombard. The business kept growing and by 1857, even more space was needed and the company moved to a location on Market Street. The final move took place in 1870 to 67th Street near Darby Road. The Buist farm, Bonaffon, was located in the section of Philadelphia through which Buist Avenue now runs.

Robert Buist wrote several books in addition to The Rose Manual: The American Florist Guide, Buist's (Robert) Family Kitchen Gardener, and American Flower Garden Directory -- the last was so successful it went through six editions.

Buist travelled to Europe every year or two to bring himself up-to-date with what was happening with roses over there. He purchased most of his stock from Mr. Hardy of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. In 1832, he saw 'Madame Hardy' for the first time and he wrote: Globe Hip, White Globe, or Boule de Neige of the French, is an English Rose raised from seeds of the common white, a very pure white, fully double and of globular form. A few years ago it was considered 'not to be surpassed,' but that prediction, like many others, has fallen to the ground, and now 'Madame Hardy' is triumphant, being larger, fully as pure, more double, and an abundant bloomer; the foliage and wood are also stronger. The French describe it as 'large, very double pure white, and of cup or bowl form.' Buist introduced 'Madame Hardy' in Philadephia as an Alba, though he wrote that it belongs perhaps more properly to the Damask or Gallica class.

In 1839, Buist visited another of his suppliers, Jean-Pierre Vibert, of Lonjeameaux, near Paris, where he found 'Aimee Vibert'. He brought this rose back with him to Philadephia and wrote: Aimee Vibert, or Nevia, is a beautiful pure white, perfect in form, a profuse bloomer, but though quite hardy doe snot grow freely for us; however, when budded on a strong stock it makes a magnificent standard, and blooms with a profusion not surpassed by any.

His advice is still valid a century and a half later.

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