The most popular, best selling garden rose of all time is the rose known everywhere as 'Peace'. There are a number of stories about this rose, whose official name is Rosa 'Madame A. Meilland'. Some of these stories conflict in details but there is agreement on most essentials. Anyone interested in reading more about the amazing string of coincidences in the development of 'Peace' is urged to read the book "For Love of a Rose", authored by Antonia Ridge
'Peace' was one of many roses pollinated in June of 1935 by the commercial rose growing Meilland family whose nursery was located near Lyon France. In the summer of 1936 eyes from new seedlings were grafted onto rootstock, and buds opened in October. The rose that was to become known as Peace was then one of many and was identified only by a number, 3-35-40. Over the next four years Francis Meilland, the third generation of the Meilland growers, together with his father Antoine 'Papa' Meilland, recognized the rose '3-35-40' as the most promising of the new roses. In June 1939 there was an international conference of rose growers in Lyon France and 3-35-40 attracted widespread interest and praise by rose growers of many countries. Unfortunately for the Meillands and many others, World War II began several months later, and France was soon occupied by the German army (May 1940).
Under the German occupation the Meilland farms were to be used for growing food, not roses. The Meillnds hastily shipped all of their rose stock to friends in Turkey, and also sent a shipment of budwood from the test rose 3-35-40 to friends in each of Germany, Italy and the United States. Tragedy struck the Meillands when the shipment of rose stock to Turkey was destroyed as a result of German military forces commandeering the use of the train carrying the roses, and the shipments to Germany and Italy, while initially successful, did not escape the complications of the war. Because of trade embargos the only way to ship budwood to the US was to smuggle it out of France in a diplomatic satchel, and consequently the budwood did make it the U.S.
Giving '3-35-40' a Name
It was the intention of the Meillands to name '3-35-40' Rosa 'Madame A. Meilland, in memoriam to Claudia Dubreuil, the mother of Francis Meilland, and wife of 'Papa' Meilland. During the war years the Meillands received welcome news from Germany and Italy that the rose, which the German grower named "Gloria Dei" (or 'Glory to God') and their Italian friend called "Gioia" (or 'Joy'), was proving to be an outstanding rose.
Since Germany and the US were enemy combatants the Meillands had no news from the US and didn't even know if the bud stock made it to the US.
One story states that the Meillands originally chose Jackson & Perkins as a US partner for '3-35-40' , but that J & P declined to work with them because the Meillands wanted a larger royalty than J&P normally offered, so the Meillands contracted with Conrad-Pyle. Regardless of the accuracy of this story, the Meillands' shipment made it to Robert Pyle of "Conrad Pyle / Star Roses", and Robert Pyle was able to propogate the budwood. After successfully growing '3-35-40' Conrad-Pyle submitted the rose to the AARS for its (three year) testing program.
Based, in part, on the success of the rose in the AARS test, Conrad-Pyle started the field growth of thousands of grafts of '3-35-40', and in one of many coincidences scheduled a future launch date April 29, 1945 to coincide with the Pacific Rose Society Annual Exhibition in Pasadena, California. At this time Conrad-Pyle did not have a name for the new rose.
In 1944, after the liberation of France, Robert Pyle was able to communicate with Francis Meilland and inform him that the rose would be released after the war ended.
On the scheduled launch date Berlin fell to the Allies and a truce was declared in Europe. As part of the product launch two doves were released and the rose was given a commercial name with statement:
We are persuaded that this greatest new rose of our time should be named for the world's greatest desire: 'PEACE'.
The new rose 'PEACE' was officially awarded the AARS award on the day that the war in Japan ended, and on May 8, 1945, with the formal surrender of Germany, each of the 49 delegates to the newly created United Nations were presented with a bloom of "Peace", accompanied by the following message of peace from the Secretary of the ARS.
We hope the 'Peace' rose will influence men's thoughts for everlasting world peace."
There is no doubt that the marketing success of "Peace" benefited from the end of World War II and the emotional appeal of name "Peace" at the end of the conflict.
Conversely, the success and popularity of "Peace", together with its superior growth and disease resistance, contributed to the rebirth of rose gardening and the commercial rose industry, as well as the development of hybrid tea roses. There are numerous "variants" of "Peace (e.g. Climbing Peace, Chicago Peace, Flaming Peace, Pink Peace ) and there are over 300 commercial roses which identify Peace as part of their parentage, and it is believed that many of the commercial roses that do not declare the parentage derive in part from "Peace".
As for the Meillands, whose rose farms and family assets were destroyed by World War II, the commercial success of "Peace" enable the family business to recover and subsequently continue to develop new, beautiful roses.
In what might be a moral to a parable Francis Meilland, who died in 1958, wrote in his diary:
"How strange to think that all these millions of rose buses sprang from one tiny seed no bigger than the head of a pin, a seed which we might so easily have overlooked, or neglected in a moment of inattention."