These poor things were in unbelieveably awful condition. Take a really close look at the canes on the roses in the photo below. Look how many of them are dead or damaged.
This rose received particularly rough treatment while it was being cut back and processed. Its skinny little canes were shredded. No one in the 'quality control' portion of the process thought to remove it from the pile.
Usually I find mostly hybrid tea roses in these displays, and this was the case here, too. I was surprised to find Reine des Violettes, a lovely hybrid perpetual under different circumstances. I guess nothing is immune to this sort of treatment.
There ARE standards for the grading of bare root roses, as set by the American Rose Society.
Grade 1. Hybrid teas and grandifloras must have three or more strong canes, two of which are at least 18 inches (45 cm) long. Floribundas meet the same standards, but the canes need only be 15 inches (38 cm) long. Polyanthas must have four or more canes at least 12 inches (30 cm) long. Climbers and ramblers must have three or more canes 24 inches (60 cm) long.
Grade 1 1/2. Hybrid teas and grandifloras must have two or more canes at least 15 inches (38 cm) long. Floribundas must have two or more canes 14 inches (35 cm) long. Climbers must have two or more canes 18 inches (35 cm) long. Polyanthas which do not meet Grade 1 standards are not graded.
Grade 2. All classes must have two or more canes 12 inches (30 cm) long.
This is what a bare root rose SHOULD look like, with healthy green canes and abundant roots. There is no way that a decent root system could possibly fit into these little bags.
Notice that there is no indication of Grade on these packages. These are absolutely the bottom of the barrel, being packaged and sold for whatever paltry amount the sellers can get for them.
As I finished my shopping and got in line at the register, I noticed that the man in front of me had four roses in his cart. I asked if he was familiar with how to grow roses. He told me he wasn't, and I gave him some advice on how they should be prepared and planted. I also told him to save his receipt, and reminded him to be sure to bring the plants back if he has a problem with them. I didn't have the heart to tell him what I was really thinking.