Rose Spotlight on Peace
WWI left a trail of destruction that stretched across European soil. Great losses in manpower and resources sent all countries involved into a devastating landslide. With millions dead and others in a state of depression, hope and beauty were precious commodities. It was during these tumultuous times that Francis Meilland was born. Following in his father’s footsteps, Francis found hope and beauty in his rose garden. During the years leading up to the start of WWII, Francis and his father Antoine chose fifty promising seedlings to watch as potential candidates for cultivation. One of these seedlings, 3-35-40, would survive being smuggled out of occupied France and eventually be given the title “The Rose of the Century.” This is the story of Peace.
Lemony petals kissed with sweet pink edges caught the eye of Meilland as he scanned the bed of seedlings he was watching. There, that one, that’s the rose I want to cultivate. There’s my Madame Antione Meilland. The year was 1939 and WWII was on the brink of escalation. After Hitler’s invasion of Poland, it became very apparent that France was soon to follow. Francis was close to launching this precious rose as Madame Antione Meilland, but he became concerned about the future of his rose nursery after the invasion of France and began to make plans to smuggle out his precious Madame. He was able to smuggle three pieces of budwood out to three different cultivators in Germany, Italy, and finally Robert Pyle in the U.S. As WWII tore through Europe and left communication lines severed, Meilland was unaware of how the smuggled roses were doing in their new environments. These rose refugees were not only surviving, they were flourishing! It was eventually launched in all four countries under different names. In France Meilland launched the rose under the original name, Germany called it Gloria Dei (Latin for ‘Glory of God’), in Italy it was named Giola meaning joy, and in the U.S it was called Peace. After the liberation of France, Meilland wrote to Field Marshal Alan Brooke, who was integral in the strategy behind liberating France, and asked if he would give his name to the rose. Brooke declined since he felt that the more fitting name for the rose was Peace. Peace was announced as the official name on April 29th, 1945, the day Berlin fell. In the midst of war and destruction, Peace started as a seedling and grew in strength and beauty until it could no longer be hidden from the world.
In 1945, at the inaugural meeting of the United Nations, the Peace rose was given to each of the delegations. Attached was a note that read, “We hope the ‘peace’ rose will influence men’s thoughts for everlasting world peace.” Across the decades this rose has remained a symbol of hope and peace in a world that is often in a state of disarray. How was Francis to know that this seedling, a tiny sprig of life, would inspire such grand emotions? He even wrote in his diary, “How strange to think that all these millions of rose bushes sprang from one tiny seed no bigger that the head of a pin, a seed which we might so easily have overlooked or neglected in a moment of inattention.”
With a story so rich in history and emotion, it is no wonder that Peace will always have a place in rose gardens across the world. Standing out above the thorns, the yellow and pink bloom inspires peace and serenity.