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The Most Famous Rose In The World 

Roses often have a story that brings the past to life. While learning about one rose, I discovered a story that explains why my grandmother grew it in her garden.

In 1951, the American Rose Society made Peace the first rose to receive its Gold Medal Award, coinciding with the signing of our treaty of peace with Japan following postwar occupation. Ten years later, more than ?30 million of these rosebushes bloomed worldwide.

But the development of this rose began much earlier, in 1935, as one of 800 seedlings produced in 1935 by French rose breeder Francis Meilland. Of his 800 new roses, 50 were selected and in 1939, Meilland saw the one with creamy ivory petals with pink edges, No. 3-35-?40 and knew he had a winner. The same year, at an international conference of rose hybridizers in France, this was the rose that everyone noticed.

With the beginning of World War II, Meilland realized the fate of his flowers could be in jeopardy so he sent cuttings of his new rose to grower friends in Italy, Germany and the United States. They were reportedly smuggled out of France to the United States just before the Nazi invasion. As the war raged, the rose breeder was cut off from all communications with the outside world.

In the United States, Robert Pyle of the Conard-Pyle Co. was amazed at the blooms on No. 3-35-40 when he propagated more plants from Meilland’s cuttings. Pyle sent them to the American Rose Society for testing. In 1944, after France was liberated, Pyle wrote to tell Meilland that he planned to release the plants once the war ended.

On April 29, 1945, the rose was christened “Peace” at the Pacific Rose Society Annual Exhibition, the very day that Berlin fell to the Allies. Noted for its color, hardiness and disease resistance, Peace revived the hybrid tea rose industry. In 1945, Pyle described it to Meilland as “a glorious rose, its pale gold, cream and ivory petals blending to a lightly ruffled edge of delicate carmine. I am convinced this will be the greatest rose of the century.”

With the formal surrender of Germany on May 8, 1945, the 49 delegates who met to form the United Nations were each presented with a Peace bloom. Peace was named the winner of the All-American Rose Selections Award of Honor in August 1945, and the war ended in Japan.

This rose certainly survived against all odds. Peace remains one of the most celebrated and popular roses in history, still thriving in gardens ?across the world.

This Memorial Day provides an opportunity to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation. It allows us to show support to their loved ones and families. My grandmother knew about that sacrifice firsthand. One son came home from World War II, but one gave his life. And so I now know why she was so fond of this rose. I accompanied her when bouquets were placed on the church altar, taken to the sick and to the bereaved.

While peace in the world may be difficult, peace in the garden is certainly possible. I believe my grandmother found peace in her garden and she made it our place, where she nurtured my love of all things growing.

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