American Florist, Volume 2(38): 269 (Mar 1, 1887)
Substitution
"Rose Grower"

The action of the executive committee of the S. A. F. is causing no little talk among the craft, and especially among those doing a mailing business. The question is asked, does the evil of substituting exist to the extent inferred by the action of the executive committee, or are these gentlemen taking upon themselves unnecessary trouble in endeavoring to bring about a reform in this the most disreputable of all practices connected with the profession? Multitudes of amateur customers protest in most emphatic terms against this vicious and unholy way of doing business; that the evil exists we have abundant evidence.

The writer of this has a letter from one of the most distinguished French rosarians in which he asks the question, "Why do American plantsmen consent to send out varieties of roses known to be untrue to label?" citing in support the fact of a Pennsylvania gentleman sending to him every year for varieties of roses that appear on every rose-growers' catalogue in America, telling the Frenchman "I cannot depend on the roses gotten from my countrymen." Is not this a sad commentary on the profession in America? Another writer in a prominent journal says very few of the hybrid perpetual roses disseminated in the United States are true to name. Instance after instance could be given where amateurs have been victimized. A lady in a neighboring town sent the required price to a distinguished (?) florist for twenty-four roses—all different varieties—and on their coming into bloom she had those three time-honored servants of the rose grower—Bon Silene, Sprunt and Safrano—but she got twenty-four labels, all different "purchasers' choice," and doubtless the gentleman filling the order thought she got all she was entitled to; but what a reproach on honorable dealing? Two prominent members of the executive committee made the statement that certain parties had the question of substitution down to a system, for on the walls of the packing rooms were hung— for guidance—a list of varieties to be used in substituting all good sorts; but if other varieties were sent, why not label them true? They also said that the above could be verified by workmen in their employ. Instances are numerous where the trade has been victimized, and it has been done in a very adroit manner; but that day is about gone by, for there is too much intelligence abroad to suffer this to go on unnoticed.

Enough mistakes occur in handling and shipping plants without adopting a systematic method of swindling. That this practice should be stamped out does not admit of question by any honorable man in the business. The action taken by the executive committee of the society deserves the hearty and earnest support of every man in the craft who has the good of our profession at heart; the movement inaugurated augurs well for the craft. The methods mentioned above operate injuriously to those desiring to do a straightforward business. Take, for instance, an amateur who makes his first investment in plants; he gets ten or twelve varieties of roses; he plants, tends, flowers them, and makes his notes; next season rolls around; he finds many of his roses winter-killed, and he concludes this year to send his order to B; well, B sends the list true to name, but imagine the purchaser's disappointment to find them entirely different from his varieties of the previous year. Does the result of his dealing with B give confidence, when in fact he has received just what he asked for? I give this to show how it operates to the disadvantage of those doing a square business. We must recollect also that there are thousands of new customers every year who become plant purchasers.

That the profession on the whole are honorable men cannot be doubted; they are honest in their intentions, but in the scramble for wealth there has fallen on the profession a certain laxity of thought and a seeming condonence of the evil mentioned. We need a thorough toning up and a higher and better appreciation of our calling than to stand by and wink at this blot upon our good name as a craft.

Another pernicious practice is seemingly gaining ground; that is the changing of names of not only new plants but time-honored varieties of plants that have been known for a generation—instances are numerous where noted plantsmen have renamed plants for heroes of the south in order to catch trade in that quarter; but how can we check this? By exposing and upholding the matter, until for very shame they cease doing it. Let the society at its next annual meeting give Mr. Robert Halliday the time necessary and he will show the ugly features of this last-mentioned disease, and he has a remedy as well. Let the executive committee faithfully carry out its programme; let the blow strike where it will, and the voice of the Society of American Florists will say amen.