Parentage: (‘George Dickson’ x ‘Souvenir de Claudius Pernet’) x (‘Joanna Hill’ x ‘Chas. P. Kilham’) x ‘Margaret McGredy”.
Hybridized by the French hybridizer Francis Meilland in the late 1930s, and introduced by Conard-Pyle Co., West Grove, PA in 1945.
The rose that is called ‘Peace’ in the United States and Great Britain is called ‘Mme Antoine Meilland’ in France, ‘Gioia’ (Joy) in Italy and ‘Gloria Dei” (The Glory of God) in Germany. ‘Peace’ is one of the most famous roses of the century if not of all times. It is one of the few modern roses surrounded by legend and myth. It was bred by Francis Meilland under the code name 3-35-40 and named it Madame A. Meilland, after his mother. Francis Meilland hybridized another lemon yellow rose with ‘Peace’ as the parent and named her ‘Grand’mere Jenny’, after his paternal grandmother.
One story goes that it was hybridized in France in the last years before World War II, and escaped as unnamed cuttings in the last American diplomatic bag to leave Paris as World War II began. Recognized as a winner, the rose was propagated by Conard-Pyle Co., a leading American rose nursery and released in 1945. Because it returned in peacetime to a liberated France, ‘Peace’ was the name the rose was given. Later, the ‘Peace’ rose took the world by storm after being the centerpiece on all the tables at the organizational meeting of the United Nations at San Francisco in 1945.
Another version of the story of ‘Peace’ is that it began in France when the Nazi invasion forced young Francis Meilland to smuggle three one-pound packages of an experimental rose into other countries. Two of the packages were confiscated, but the third made it to Robert Pyle of Conard-Pyle Co. in the United States. Ten years later, after this rose of outstanding character and quality had been tested throughout the United States, the ARS planned a special name-giving ceremony. At the Pacific Rose Society Exhibition in Pasadena, CA, Robert Pyle declared “We are persuaded that this greatest new rose of our time should be named for the world’s greatest desire – Peace.” Francis Meilland’s rose was given its American and English name ‘Peace’ on April 29, 1945, the day Berlin fell to the allies. Nine years after introduction, an American authority estimated that some thirty million ‘Peace’ were growing in gardens around the world. Nowadays, nobody seems to have kept count. With all the royalties coming from the sale of ‘Peace’, the Meillands were able to build a rose hybridizing empire on the Cap d’Antibes on the Mediterranean shores.
Another melodramatic story, so often told, is that the budwood of ‘Peace’ was smuggled out of the south of France by a heroic U.S. embassy official in November 1942, just hours before the German invasion. It’s a very good story, but the truth of the matter according to Francis Meilland, is that the budwood was sent to Germany, Italy and the United States via ordinary postal channels in the summer of 1939. Southern France at that time was not yet invaded. It was perfect timing. By receiving a few cuttings in 1939, Conard-Pyle was able to introduce this rose at the San Francisco conference to found the United Nations, the day Berlin fell in 1945. If these cuttings were received in November 1942 they could not have started budding until 1943, and they could not have built up enough stock of this rose in time for nationwide distribution three years later.
The day the war with Japan ended, ‘Peace’ was given the All American Rose Selection Award. A month later, the day the peace treaty was signed with Japan, ‘Peace’ received the American Rose Society’s supreme Award, the Gold Medal. ‘Peace’ has won most of the world’s top rose awards: Gold Medal, Portland 1944; All-American Rose Selection 1946; Gold Medal Certificate, American Rose Society 1947; Golden Rose, The Hague 1965; Hall of Fame, World Federation of Rose Societies 1976; and Award of Garden Merit, Royal Horticultural Society 1993. Today, ‘Peace’ is still the world’s favorite rose.
‘Peace’ is a vigorous, bushy, upright plant, 4-5 ft. tall with stiff canes covered with large, leathery, beautiful, dark green, glossy foliage with good disease-resistant quality. New growth appears light red. ‘Peace’ resents heavy pruning.
Buds are high-centered and cupped at opening. Blooms are double (40 to 45 petals), 5 to 6 inches across, near perfect in form and more or less continuous flowering throughout the season. Colors vary from day to day but are essentially creamy yellow edged in rose pink. It has a slight fragrance. It is a good exhibition rose and an excellent cut flower. It’s rated 8.0 on the 2017 Handbook for Selecting Roses.
Flowers were huge in 1940s. Somehow ‘Peace’ planted in the 1940s and still thriving today at well-maintained public gardens, war memorials, or at the homes of veteran gardeners are larger compared to the blooms on the ‘Peace’ plant you will receive from any nursery today. Even if genetic science tells you otherwise, still the ‘Peace’ sold today is just a pale imitation of the old ‘Peace’. Vita Sackville-West hated it and thought it horribly coarse.
Hybrid teas bred since the 1950s often have at least a little ‘Peace’ blood in them. Of the many mutations of ‘Peace’ introduced over the years, the most popular is ‘Chicago Peace’. Other sports of ‘Peace’ are ‘Berlin’, ‘Garden Party’, ‘Gold Crown’, ‘Glowing Peace’, ‘Love and Peace’ (2002 AARS Selection), ‘Perfume Delight’, ‘Pink Rose’, ‘Princesse de Monaco’, ‘Royal Highness’, ‘Speaker Sun’, ‘Sterling Silver’, and ‘Tropicana’. A Climbing form was introduced in 1950. ‘Climbing Peace’ is a climbing sport of ‘Peace’. It has shiny, deep green, almost-leathery foliage, and it has a very pleasing color, peachy pink suffused with apricot yellow. Its buds are exquisitely pointed, and they open into large, long-lasting flowers. It is so robust and healthy that you never have to spray it with pesticides. Its one real flaw is a complete lack of fragrance.
‘Peace’ is showcased at the following Display Gardens: Sturgeon Memorial Rose Garden, Largo, FL; Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta, GA; Julia Davis Rose Garden, Boise, ID; George L. Luthy Memorial Rose Garden, Peoria, IL; Richmond Rose Garden, Richmond, IN; City of Portland Rose Circle, Portland, ME; The Jim Buck Ross Rose Garden, Jackson, MS; and Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk, VA.
Until next time. Stop and smell the roses.
Rosalinda Morgan, The Rose Lady
Author of “The Wentworth Legacy”