Where we buy our roses

harmonypApril 1, 2012

This is a topic that has been hashed through in a number of prior threads. But comments in recent threads shows it is still a very emotional and current issue. So - for those of us who need to beat on it a little more, and indeed I feel compelled to do so, lets do it in an appropriate place - in a nice tidy thread of it's own.

Big Box stores - Lowes, Home Depots (that I consider a higher quality), Walmarts and Big Lots (perhaps a lower caliber, some may disagree), grocery stores. Taking away business from the mom and pop growers, and then the quality, loving caring growers who are struggling in this horrible economy. What are our obligations as rose enthusiasts to keep these businesses going, versus our own personal quality of lives (convenience, selection, and very importantly price).

I've been battered and have seen many others battered in this forum for admitting to buying from cheap outlets for roses. I've taken it personally, but then realize it isn't personal at all. I've thought - well here we go, these uppity rose people with money. But - it's not that either. Something about "rose" people equate with intensely passionate people. One of the reasons hanging out on this forum is so cool.

Bottom line, there are the non-real-rose people (not of this forum) - people who aren't motivated to learn about roses. No one is going to change their habits. They'll buy one or two roses from wherever they walk into first - big box or nursery. Roses either will or won't survive. They aren't reading this forum, and they cannot be reached here. But the people of this forum - this is a group of people who endeavor to learn as much about roses as they can. I doubt anyone on this forum outside of an accidental visitor, doesn't understand the issues of the rose industry. And of us - we have really a single motivator. And it is money. If we have the money to buy quality roses, we do. If we don't, we don't. Although sometimes we just fall into a whim - and pick up a cheapy just for fun or convenience - but that's the exception, not the norm.

When I started buying roses (and actually my first endeavor in my life into gardening), I was in a really bad place. My property had foreclosed. I was super lucky to have a great place to go, but I was so buried in debt I couldn't see my way out. I was wondering around a Lowes with a $20 bill in my pocket - a pretty rare occurrence at that time, looking pretty pathetic and lost, trying to figure out a strategy for looking forward to getting up in the mornings instead of doing so out of obligation. And stopped at a huge group of 3.75 gallon roses marked $17.xx, on pallet, with a sale sign: $5 each. I was staring and staring. None had blooms, I didn't know a HT from a Floribunda, or have any idea what it took to take care of a rose. A woman working in the garden department took a look at me, and kind of sized me up. She said "you know, we have to get rid of these. Why don't you take as many as you want for $2 each?"

Boy, did I light up. I felt guilty for spending that $12 (well, plus tax), but I brought home 6 roses - 3 Crimson Glory's and 3 Chrysler Imperials. And I read and read and read some more, and then found this forum, and became an addict.

Now I don't have to buy $2 roses any more. And yes, I have started supporting the businesses that deserve it. But do I still shop at Lowes, you bet I do. I buy handfuls of body bags at a time. And each time I do, it brings me back to that place of knowing things are going to get better.

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Great post! Before I discovered roses for the first time (yes, at a box store), I despised gardening, hated watering the yard, and paid for people to mow and hedge. Then one day many moons ago the HD by me had a rose table setup in the parking lot. I started reading the tags.
America, and Crystler Imperial. I thought they were beautiful. I bought those 2. I instantly became ingtrigued and amazed that there were such things as OGR's, HT's, Mini's, etc. Then I found this forum, and other rose lover's pictures of their gardens.
Suddenly, I found myself digging up boxwood shrubs and replacing them with roses. Then i had to make sure the accent plants all looked neat as well, and then i started caring if my grass was green all spring and summer. I didn't want a paid landscaper to accidentally chop my roses or other accent plants, so I started doing all the labor myself.
So for me, the discovery of roses at a box store changed everything. I now get them online because I enjoy more OGR types and less common ones. But what an amazing life changer roses became.
I am happy to support the true rose companies that I order from online, but sometimes the price for even a band makes me wince.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 3:40PM
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altoraMA(5/6 MA)

My first roses I bought at a local nursery. Then I bought a few at HD. THEN I started reading about roses..the ones I love, I can only get them by mail order. But if I go to HD and see something interesting for cheap money, I'll get it.
I don't think anyone should be bashed for where they buy their roses. I'm not convinced that the big box stores are putting the smaller places out of business either-the economy is terrible. People are losing jobs, homes, etc. At this point if I see something I like-and can afford-I'll buy it.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 5:57PM
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seil zone 6b MI

I've bought roses from just about every place you can think of. I inherited 16 from my Mom. Some she ordered from catalogs (pre-computer days) and some she bought locally at nurseries (pre-big box store days too!). The rest of my 120 some roses I bought.

I got involved on a rose forum in 2004 when Mom died and started to learn about the roses I'd inherited. That's where I got the idea to try growing them in pots. People thought I was nuts but I like a good challenge. The first year I tried the potted roses I bought 16 more really cheap bagged ones from Big Lots and such. I had no idea what I was doing and growing and wintering roses in Michigan in pots was an experiment. So I didn't want to spend a lot of money on them if they were just going to die over the winter anyway. They didn't die. As a matter of fact they thrived! That's when I really got hooked.

Since then I've bought roses from nearly every online nursery there is or, sadly, was. Some of them are wonderful places to deal with. Some of them I'll never order from again. I've also bought roses from every local nursery within about a 100 mile radius of my house. Some of them, unfortunately, no longer exist either. But I also still by roses from Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, K-Mart, Meijers and Costco when and if I find something I'd like to have. (I do not buy roses from Big Lots any more. They really just got too awful for words and they get no care what so ever and are usually half dead by the time they're even in the store.) A lot of those stores carry the older modern roses that are very hard to find at the online sites. I have a thing for the old HTs that my Mom and Grandmother grew so I look for them. Yes, those RMVed, black spot prone ones that people disparage. But they're my sentimental favorites. And some of them carry roses from specific hybridizers that I like and that do not sell their roses any other way. Walmart is practically the only place you can find John Sheldon's lovely roses. I know Regans sells them too but they close off their mail order season in January before I can even think about what I might or might not need or want. RATS! With limited space now, as well as funds, I only buy to replace lost ones usually. I don't know what will live or die until April most years. By that time a lot of the online nurseries have shut down their ordering or are so picked over that there's nothing left I want. So I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I used to be able to order 4 or 5 good sized bare root roses for about $30 to $40 dollars including shipping. Now days the shipping alone would probably double those figures. So I tried the small band roses. They're less expensive to begin with and shipping is less because they weigh less. I found, for the most part, they did not survive their first winter here. They are just too small and with my short growing season they do not get large enough to handle a real Michigan winter. So that means I'd have to buy the bigger/older potted ones. I don't have to tell any of you how much they cost or how much the shipping is now. It's outrageous! It isn't the nurseries fault. They have to make a living and their costs have skyrocketed too. I understand that. And when I find something I really can't live with out I bite the bullet and buy from them. But on a fixed retirement income that doesn't happen often anymore.

With the costs of everything going up, up and away and my income staying put I've had to cut back on my roses. So now if I find something interesting at one of the other places at a reasonable price I go for it. Are they as good quality? No, of course not. Do I know they could be RMVed or mislabeled? Yes, of course I know that going in and accept it. It's what I have to do to make ends meet and still feed my rose habit.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 8:15PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Honest to goodness, I wouldn't beat up someone who found roses they wanted at Lowes, or HD.

I've, however, never bought a rose at either place -- NOT because I'm being a snob, but because no Lowes or Home Depot in my area has EVER offered a rose that was worth buying and planting in my conditions.

In fact a large % of what they DO offer consists of roses I know from personal experience will not thrive here.

I HAVE bought roses at local nurseries, both chain and independent.
I would buy from them again, but the truth is that most of the really terrific local nurseries have gone bust and closed. Maybe they closed in large part because they were fine plantsmen, but poor businessmen, and couldn't stand up to the Big Box competition. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, those places I loved to visit are gone.

I've bought fuchsias, brugmansias, plumerias, and succulents (among other things) at all of those places, and probably will again.

But the places whose loss I mourn the most are the quirky, dedicated local and mail-order independent nurseries. And such places will always be my first choice.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 8:46PM
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I have been a gardener since I was 10 and my dad let me dig up a tiny pc of his prefect yard to plant a package of zinnia seeds.. I can remember being five --walking home from school and passing the yards full of roses, hygrangeas, camillias, daylilies and other flowers that grew in GA. If someone was gardening I would stop and talk to them about it.. After I got married, I started growing everything I could get my hands on--I 'collected' daylilies, azaleas, daffodils,hygrangeas, peonies but I always passed up the roses because I thought they were too expensive and fussy... Well, after being married for 20yrs, My beloved Father-in-law, drew my attention to a huge rose bush --covered in tiny yellow roses. The buds were a prefect form, soft clear yellow, about 3/4" long. He said " I love that rose. I gave it to Grandma 30yrs ago.." I was floored because he had never showed interest in any thing that you couldn't eat!! Well, he died, we moved away and the rose was mowed down/sprayed w/ round-up,chopped down with an ax and completely neglected BUT it still tried to survive... and bloom.. After 15yrs. we moved back, purchased this farm from my husband's siblings,and I wanted that rose back in the shape it was..I came here to find out how to save this beloved
rose. I started reading, looking and drooling over all the pictures. One day, I was out looking for red daylilies--going from nursery/garden center/roadside stand that had plants/flowers... And passed a garden center in my county. They had thousands of roses==I found out they sell to other nurseries/garden centers all over the country.. There roses were 5$ EACH.. I home w/ a truck load and that's when it all started.. Yes, I still buy from him, Yes, I have purchased from DA, Witherspoons, JP, our locally owned garden centers/nurseries and yes, from Lowes/HD and even purchased 4 from Walmart... I have only lost one rose and that was Electra purchased at Sam's club for 2$...

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 9:30PM
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I'll buy my roses wherever I want.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 10:05PM
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I mail-ordered 15 roses this year from two separate specialty nurseries.
I bought one potted rose at full price from a local nursery.

No body bags this year. I have bought them in the past, but they are only impulse buys for me; I don't shop for them but if I run across something rare in a body bag that I've been wanting, I will pick it up. Last year I bought 'Lillian Gibson' in that way.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Musings blog

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 10:50PM
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I used to be more tempted by body bag roses but have had bad luck with the mislabelling. Still, some of the best roses in my garden were body bag plants. ( maybe 3 out of 350) I think it is nice that people buy from specialty nurseries but I think it is wrong to pressure people to do so or make a moral issue out of it. People's freedom to do what they want with their money is precious. I dislike it when businesses plead for help and support. I am pleased when a small business deserves my dollars though and it is also nice when they are glad to see you from year to year.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 8:20AM
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altoraMA(5/6 MA)

Queenbee-what is the name of your yellow rose??

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 10:51AM
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My first roses, 26 years ago, came from a local Ma & Pa nursery that has since gone out of business. I use to drive by them every day and loved all the beautiful roses on display. I still have a few of them but a lot didn't make it past the first few years. I now buy roses from any place, big box stores, nurseries or online. It is more what catches my eye than the place. I have had mixed success with all of them. I also have roses from trades, big bushes and cuttings. I have even gone "rose rustling" in old cemeteries.

At first I also got totally obsessed with learning everything about roses. I still like leaning new things about roses, mainly propagating them. I did join the local rose society years ago, but I wasn't into roses as much as the other members. We are talking people who had hundreds even a 1000 roses, I only had 50 at the time. I did learn a lot from that group though.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 11:35AM
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roseblush1(8a/Sunset 7)

My rose life started when I, too, was going through a rough patch. I had never gardened, but out of curiosity I checked out a small specialty nursery on a day when I forced myself out of my condo and out into the world.

The owner was kind enough to show me what I was seeing and my first lesson, if you will, is that "It's easier to start with a healthy plant".

If I had bought my first roses at a big box store, I am positive they would have died. I now know what I need to do to help them come back and become healthy plants.... most of them.

So, today it might be about money, but in the beginning, it was about buying healthy plants.

There was another specialty nursery in another part of town that sold bare root roses. The quality of his stock was so superior to what I could find anywhere else, I actually saved up during the year so that I could buy roses during bare root season.

I have yet to find another nursery that sold roses that were as healthy and with as good of a root system, so learning how to work with roses that were more stressed was part of learning how to grow roses. But, I do wonder how many people gave up on growing roses because they didn't know that the quality of roses varies a lot, depending upon where you buy them.

I am happy to support a small business as long as they are providing quality plants.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 11:49AM
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I haven't purchased any from big box stores. I've definitely looked though. The guilt for doing so wars with my love for a bargain.

I feel part of the problem are the local, independent nurseries. The same five roses are carried by all of them. There is a greater variety at HD and Lowes. In my metro area there are quite a few well-known, solid garden centers. Some carry nothing but Knock-outs. Others carry Knock-outs and a few Explorers. Some will special order, but you need to know to ask and they are still limited selections. Unless you are always organized and plan six months into the future, the big box stores are often the broadest available resources come spring.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 12:21PM
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I grew up with several unknown rose bushes in my childhood home. I still have no idea what they were; as I moved out from that house to start my adult life without ever discovering what they were; I was too young and hadn't realized I liked gardening yet.

Fast forward 20 years later to my first home. I wanted to find a rose similar to one I remembered in childhood home; a robust, over the top hot pink rose. I searched high and low in the local nurseries and big box stores; not knowing anything about online entities yet when I found Garden Web. My knowledge exploded overnight. I begin searching through all of the online nurseries recommended to me and wound up purchasing a few more bushes than intended (not many but more than I thought I would).

The one I got to duplicate the pink rose never made it for whatever reason (I picked Maria Callas a/k/a Miss All American Beauty - it did terrible for me) but all the others took off wonderfully (Tropicana, French Lace, Barcelona, Gertrude Jekyll and Papa Meilland). Personally I never saw any of those in person in any store near me.

I've looked occasionally at the ones in BJ's, and other large stores but honestly, never saw anything that caught my eye or anything that looked healthy. Maybe if I did, I would have taken a chance but knowing better at that point what was good or not, and what was interesting or not (for me) made me hold back.

I'm in my 2nd house now, and starting fresh. I still went directly online because I wanted bushes I can't get anywhere but, online. And because I want as good a start as possible and I can afford the difference between those and less expensive ones. But, I still am sure if I saw one in a large store, that looked good enough, and was one which made my heart flutter, I probably might take a chance on it. It just hasn't happened yet.

And I certainly wouldn't judge anyone else for doing so.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 1:13PM
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I used to buy a few hybrid teas, because they were so pretty and had such a lovely fragrance. Then I realized, they were just expensive annuals, in my little microclimate.

Then, I discovered the forum and found out that old fashioned roses, rugosas, Canadian hardy roses, etc. were what I should be buying.

Now, I buy lots of roses from Northland Rosarium (since it's close enough to pick up myself...so no shipping charges) and a few at the big box stores. If they have something I like (that's zone 4) I usually get a few.

I don't plant bare root roses, until late May, by which time they've leafed out. Probably all wrong, but it works for me...and the roses are happy in the old, for now unheated, farmhouse. The roses are in buckets, on a table, in front of the big southeast window...still in their little wrappers. I add a little water every few weeks, if they start feeling light and by late May, they're beautiful :)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 3:05PM
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Home Depot once carried some Buck roses for $8; I was happy to buy them. They were labeled David Austin roses, but that's beside the point. I knew what they were.

Wal Mart once had some Hot Cocoas; I was happy to buy them. I love the color.

I've bought Knockouts from Lowe's, both singles and doubles. I buy at master gardener sales, at the local rose club auctions.

I've found good roses in a lot of places and am happy to try them.

I love many of the online places I've bought from and buy from them because they usually have what I want, but if a local nursery carried it and I could afford it, I'd buy there. Last year I thought about buying a couple of austins from a local nursery, but at $30 apiece, I wouldn't pay that much. I know where I can get them for a third of the cost, plus shipping. Hey, I like to support UPS.

Roses and my garden are about the only thing I splurge on. It's a hobby, a passion, what I love most outside my family and church and friends. I think about the time when we will be living on a fixed income. Maybe one day I can't order from Pickering or Vintage, but right now I look at the roses I buy as part of the cost of educating myself on roses. I've often wished there was a correspondence school I could enroll in to learn about roses, but the gardenweb forums, both antique and here, and just buying roses, learning to propagate and sharing information and cuttings with people I've met here is the only way I know to learn about them.

My son and husband are so sweet; they give me gift certificates to rose places for my birthday. For Christmas, my husband says, wouldn't you like to order some roses?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 3:22PM
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I don't understand what all this fuss is abt., buying a rose at HD..... this is putting people to work, wherever it came from... and most local Nurseries buy their plants from a grower anyway, maybe the same grower who supplied HD and Lowe's, the point is that people had to propagate that plant and people had to transport that plant, etc. etc. There are very few Nurseries that actually do all the work, from start to finish, and they are the mail-order places.. and they have the selection that serious rose-folks want, I get most of mine from K & M because they graft on Fort., but now that I have mostly switched to OGRs and do want them on Fort. because of my growing-conditions, I am finding there is no Nursery that does this...so what do I do?? buy from Chamblee's, or Angel Gardens, or Rose Petals, or other growers who have just own-root? Anyway, someone , anyone, has got a job, and is employed, working w/roses, regardless if it is at HD, Lowe's, Wal-mart, or a Nursery actually growing that rose-plant.. which, with our economy, seems to be the Holy-Grail...... don't know if I make any sense but it's my 1-cent worth....sally

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 5:17PM
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aimeekitty(9-10, SW 18)

I never buy roses at Home Depot or Lowes because they dont offer the roses I want. I love roses with complex blooms, and very few Hybrid Teas appeal to me. The few HTs I really love, I"ve never seen at Lowes or HD. If I could walk into one and see the roses I wanted in person, I think I probably would buy them there and not pay the often expensive shipping of mail order roses.

in fact, even my local nursery, which has lots of interesting plants (far more than L and HD for example) doesn't have many roses I'm interested in either.
so again, I order all my roses online, mostly own-root.

I try to support my local nursery for interesting plants (non roses) as often as possible. I want to see them do well. They give me great advise and I like seeing and buying the plants in person. (seriously, my nursery gives me GREAT advise!!) I do sometimes buy a cheaper plant at L or HD, but not that often.

I don't see the harm in letting people know they have other options (like mail order roses) but I'm not going to beat someone up about it, that's just rude. :)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 5:52PM
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My garden is really full, so I don't buy more than a rose or two per year. I usually spend the bucks and buy one potted up in a nursery. Expensive but always successful.

My roses come from many sources. Some came in bags from HD, my wonderful Just Joey came potted from Target, when they still carried plants. The wonderful Our Lady of Guadalupe standard was in the doorway as I was leaving HD. Its smell and blooms knocked me out and as I got to my car, I knew I had to turn around and get it while it was still there! I have ordered roses by mail, gone to Regan's and picked out from their blooming roses, and gotten roses from garden web friends.

My Chicago Peace was supposed to be a Peace and how lucky for me it wasn't! Who knows that I would ever have tried a Chicago Peace if my HD bagged rose hadn't been mislabeled.
If you rose folks knew how much the daylily folks paid for newly released daylilies, you would know that ANY rose, no matter where you got it, is a bargain!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 9:13PM
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I believe the first rose I bought was from a nursery. The reason why I can't remember is that I bought the same rose three times before I gave up on it. I grew up in Nebraska so I had never seen or heard of hybrid roses til I moved to Kansas. One day my class took a trip to a nursery and I saw the most beautiful rose that I had ever seen. It was creamy white and smelled lovely. I thought one day when I had my own place I would grow that rose. Two years later I move into a duplex and tried to grow JFK but it kept dying on me. After the third time I gave up. A few years later I moved into a smaller duplex. As it turned out I had a lot more room to garden after I had brought my plants from the other place. I went to this nursery that I heard all these great things about and ended up buying five roses plus some other plants. From there I bought roses from Walmart but mostly from Kmart. The problem I had is that the damn things kept dying on me.

In April of 2007, there was a late hard freeze for several days and I lost a third of my garden plus several roses. Then my favorite nursery decided to close its doors and I was heartbroken. Someone there told me about gardenweb, which taught me the reason my roses kept dying. The graft has to be buried underground to survive our cold winters. I still might get a rose or two at Walmart or Kmart if there is something unique but mostly from Lowes. They've done a great job of getting roses and plants that do well in our area. I rarely get roses or plants for that matter, from HD and BigLots I stay away from because they treat plants awful. I did buy two body bags several years ago, one was mislabeled and given away. The other I still have and its my gang buster rose but I'm not sure if its pink peace or pink promise.
My last four roses came from Eurodesert because I wanted to do my part even though it was the most I have ever spent on roses in my life. Money has become tight again, temp job ended but I might look into these bands that has been mentioned.

In 2008, I decided to give JFK one more chance and I'm glad I did. After all it was the rose that started it all.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 9:53AM
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Campanula UK Z8

I can only imagine the rose market in the UK is very different because there are no bargains to be had in these supermarket outlets. That is not to say it is not possible to buy cheap plants but really, they are complete rubbish. Wouldn't have them for free. Ratty dessicated petunias. Other outlets are the garden centres, a kind of horticultural supermarket we imported from the US back in the late 60's. The prices in these places are higher than from nurseries because they only offer potted roses, usually only in bloom season and they are selling to the impulse buyers. Course, they come in a shiny pink pot with a big old label....and they all sell the same 50 or so hybrid teas and floribundas, all the bloody austins, of course, at a really high price and a tiny handful of 'classics'. Partly, the habit of buying bare root roses directly from specialist nurseries is still very strong amongst rose lovers, but also, the cost, as well as the quality, remains competitive - after all, there are not a million middlemen and no ludicrously huge premises. And before the usual response that it gives someone a job, then you really need to take a look at how this operates in the UK - basically, we pay a sort of supplement to workers (tax credits) which enables businesses to employ people for less than a living wage (the really crappy aspect of a welfare state) - well if you thing this system is a fair and reasonable one, then try working at Asda or Walmart yourself for a few years before bleating how great it is that they are actually getting rich from sheer exploitation rather than offering a fair wage for a fair days work. Even more to the point (unless you are poltically engaged), there are no old roses to be bought from major shopping outlets (although you might find the odd Fantin Latour or Compte de Chambord and never see a species rose) so unless you want to lose any semblance of choice, it is no use whining when those places which do offer variety have gone and you are left with the dictates of the market to the detriment of all else. But hey, principles are principles, not some cheap clothing you can toss away when they are worn out.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 5:31PM
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