Thanksgiving morning is a busy time filled with expectation, joy, anxiety and sometimes, raw courage. Since it too early for a calming and sanity restoring glass of wine before my twelve guests arrive, I choose a moment of serenity in the rose garden, and on second thought, just a small glass for medicinal purposes. After all, I am predominately Italian and Greek and in those countries, wine is a timeless beverage.
In my rose garden, beverage in hand, the time machine in my mind took me to the years when at my family’s Thanksgiving table, each of us was asked to describe what we were thankful for that day. Those were simple times and how easy it was to consider a generous number of answers.
Today, with the morning news my singular companion amid the day’s preparations, and yet on my mind, I struggled with how I would answer if asked today. It appears; we stand again on the precipice of a world war in an ageless clash of philosophies, while helpless refugees flood Europe and threaten to come to our shores hiding possible terrorists among them frightening Americans beyond their innate humanities.
I feared my holidays delight would dissolve into a black melancholy conjured by the morning news, until my eyes fell upon the “Peace” rose, born in a time of similar circumstance. Even if you know the story, it may be soul renewing to review once again.
The “Peace” rose, officially named Rosa ‘Madame A. Meilland’ was developed in the years 1935 to 1939 by third-generation French horticulturist, Francis Meilland working with his father in their commercial rose growing nursery and fields near Lyon, France.
Francis and his father, “Papa” Meilland, decided to name the rose in honor of Francis’s mother Claudia Dubreuil Meilland, who died tragically young of cancer. However, initially “Peace” was known only as 3-35-40.
In June of 1939, rose 3-35-40 attracted significant interest at the International Conference of Rose Growers in Lyon, France. In Germany, mad man Adolph Hitler after mesmerizing the German people moved across Europe with unimaginable speed to occupy France by May of 1940.
The Meilland family feared their fields would suffer the complications of war, if not their total destruction. Thus, acting quickly in advance of the German invasion, shipped all of their rose stock to friends in Turkey, Germany, Italy and the United States.
Wartime communication was meager. Even so, soon heartbreaking news arrived that the shipment to Turkey was destroyed when the German army seized the train carrying the stock. Subsequently, news arrived that shipments to Germany, where the rose was named, ‘Gloria Dei’ (Latin for glory to God) and to Italy, where 3-35-40 was called ‘Gioia’ (Italian for Joy), were successful.
The United States and Germany were enemy combatants, thus trade embargoes prevailed and communication nonexistent. The only way to ship the rose stock to the United States was to smuggle it out of France in a diplomatic satchel on one of the last planes to leave France prior to the German invasion (possibly the Hollywood version.)
Robert Pyle of Conrad-Pyle/Star Roses in the United States received the rose stock and successfully propagated 3-35-40, and submitted it to the AARS for its three-year testing program. With the liberation of France in 1944, and communication restored, Robert Pyle extolled the success of 3-35-40 to Francis Meilland and requested a name for the rose.
In early 1945, the Meilland family put aside the name, ‘Madame A. Meilland’, and contacted Field Marshal Alan Brooke, the principal author of the master strategy said to have won the war while at the same time playing an essential role in the liberation of France. In addition to offering their gratitude to Brooke for his service, they inquired if he would consider giving his name to the rose. Brooke declined the honor, saying he believed his name would soon be forgotten. Instead, he offered the name “Peace” as a substitute due to its enduring quality.
Even while the war raged on in Europe, the release date for the “Peace” rose was set for April 29, 1945 to coincide with the Pacific Rose Societies Annual Exhibition in Pasadena, California.
Mysteriously, on the same day, Berlin fell to the Allies, a truce declared and an enduring peace began in Europe. As part of the ceremony to launch the “Peace” rose, two doves were released to symbolize freedom and 3-35-40 received its commercial name with this statement:
“We are persuaded that this greatest new rose of our time should be named for the world’s greatest desire: ‘PEACE’.”
On May 8, 1945, each of the delegates of the recently created United Nations attending the inaugural meeting in San Francisco received a bloom of the “Peace” rose, accompanied by this message from the Secretary of the American Rose Society:
“We hope the ‘Peace’ rose will influence men’s thoughts for everlasting world peace.”
“Peace” is a hybrid tea rose, growing 4 to 6 ½ feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide with superior vigor, disease resistance, half shade tolerance and winter hardy to -9°F. “Peace” forms elegant buds of 40 to 43 petals opening to large cupped flowers with high centers and an average diameter of 6 inches. Its color combination of pale yellow with crimson edges is dependent on location and weather for its intensity. Peace has a fruity fragrance, varying in strength from mild to strong.
Several sports of “Peace” exist. ‘Chicago Peace’ (Johnson 1962) is a stunning combination of deep rich crimson with apricot, while ‘Flaming Peace’ (aka ‘Kronenbourg’, McCready 1966) offers profound claret petals with a contrasting yellow reverse. ‘Lucky Piece’ with its tricky spelling (Gordon 1958) is a pink blend with a strong fragrance, and ‘Peaceport’ a curious intense apricot with pink tones. The ‘Climbing Peace’ rose combines all the beauty of ‘Peace’ in larger flowers, yet, fewer of them.
In addition to these “sports” over 300 (known, others exist) commercial rose’s boast “Peace” as part of their ancestry. Some of these roses are ‘Garden Party’ (Swim 1959), ‘Super Star’ (Tantau 1960), ‘Pullman Orient Express’ (Lim & Twomey 1991), and ‘Pink Peace’ (Meiland 1958).
The “Peace” rose has been a part of every rose garden I have ever planted or seek to plant, selling over one hundred million by 1992. I hope you will consider giving “Peace” a place in your garden and your heart.
Lastly, I want to wish all of you a peaceful and magnificent holiday season from my garden to yours.
Until next time…
Sharon Radice Moore