Robert Buist was born in Scotland in 1802. He became interested in floriculture at a young age and, as a young man, 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 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, needed larger quarters, soBuist 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: 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, J-ean-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.
[From Roses of America, by Stephen Scanniello and Tania Bayard, p. 17:] By 1844, roses were so important to the business of Robert Buist, a Scottish nurseryman in Philadelphia, that he published The Rose Manual, the first book in America devoted entirely to roses. Buist, who claimed he had the largest collection of roses in the country, was one of a number of horticulturalists who encouraged ladies to grow their own plants; roses were among those especially recommended because they could be successfully cultivated indoors in containers.