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On a day when there has been so much truly dreadful news from around the world, this seemed the most appropriate of my flower images to post.

The Peace rose was first cultivated in 1935 by the horticulturist Francis Meilland (1912-1958), son of the founder of the great French rose growing company Meilland International SA. In 1939 Meilland, realising that an invasion of France was inevitable and fearing for the future of the nursery, sent cuttings of his beautiful new rose to colleagues in Italy, Germany, Turkey and the United States. It’s said that the cutting which was sent to the USA was smuggled out in a diplomatic bag on the last plane to leave the country before the invasion – though personally, I doubt this. The mythology around this rose has become almost too dense to unpick: as a fictional character once said, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

What does seem clear is that the exported rose cuttings all thrived, and as they were unable to communicate with Meilland during the Occupation his partners named it themselves – Meilland called it Madame Antoine Meilland after his mother and that remains its official name, but in Italy it was called Gioia (Joy), and in Germany Gloria Dei (Glory of God). The American grower, the Conrad Pyle Company, named it Peace (a name which is reputed to have been suggested to Meilland by Field Marshall Brooke after the Liberation of France), and this name was publicly announced in the United States on 29th April 1945.

It’s said that at the first meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco the head of every delegation was presented with a bloom of the new rose, along with a card which read, “This is the Peace rose, which was christened by 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.” However there is a problem with this story: Berlin fell on 2nd May 1945, three days after the official naming of the rose, and the inaugural meeting of the UN was actually a conference which ran from 25th April, while the Battle of Berlin was still raging, to 26th June. Nonetheless, you’ll find the story (with sometimes a slight smudging of dates) in almost every history of the Peace rose.

Since becoming generally available at the end of World War II Peace has become one of the world’s favourite roses, and has won many awards. It was the first of just sixteen modern roses to be listed in the World Federation of Rose Societies’ Rose Hall of Fame.