RHA Newsletter 7(2):
THE STORY OF PEACE
by Earl Aronson
The story of the Peace Rose is more than 40 years old. It tells of a rose that survived the world's most savage war before it got its current name.
Francis Meilland of France, the hybridizer, in 1958 found in the yellowing pages of a notebook what might be described as "the first pollen-charged brush-stroke which gave rise to Peace."
"The object we had in view with the 'Joanna Hill' x ('Charles P. Kilham' x 'Margaret McGredy') cross was to produce a new rose of great hardiness with very long shoots and with a robust and decorative foliage. …
"We still have a very clear picture in our minds of the exact place in the seedling bench occupied by the original plant of 'Peace' among so many others whose colours varied from yellow and pale pink to more brilliant copper, and some bicolored flowers."
Meilland, whose family has developed many delightful roses, recalled that the seedling then was not very sturdy. But in 1936, he and his father noticed the glossy foliage surmounted by large buds. That fine fall, he added,
"these buds produced flowers quite marvelous in shape and size with a greenish tinge, warming to yellow, and progressively impregnated with carmine round the edges of the petals.”
Work continued and in June, 1939,
"this plant proved the great revelation of the season and attracted the most attention among visitors."
That summer, buds were sent to Germany, Italy, and the United States.
"With brutal suddenness, war broke out September 3, 1939, and all communications with France ceased, After the invasion in June, 1940, the same thing happened with Italy and then England. The result was that the German firm which was to have distributed this rose, No. 3-35-40, put it on sale under the name of 'Gloria Dei,' and the Italian firm sold it under the name of 'Gioia.' In France, my father decided to dedicate this rose to the memory of my mother, Mme. A. Meilland, who had died a few years previously.
"Until June, 1945, we had not the least idea as to what had become of this rose in the United States, It was only then that the Conard-Pyle Company told us of the successful experiments it had been making in cultivating it, and that in agreement with certain other rose growers of repute, it had decided to call it 'Peace,' to symbolize, as it were, the happy event to make the end of the (war's) trials and suffering."
Peace was scheduled to be baptized under the auspices of the American Rose Society on April 29, 1945, coincidentally the day Berlin fell.
When the United Nations first met in San Francisco, heads of the 49 delegations received a single Peace rose, accompanied by this message from the Rose Society:
"This is the Peace Rose which was christened at the Pacific Rose Society Exhibition in Pasadena on the day Berlin fell. We hope the Peace Rose will influence men's thoughts for everlasting World Peace."