If it wasn’t for my grandmothers, I may not have developed such a love, even yearning, for gardening. There is something nurturing yet at the same time almost primal about having one’s hands in the rich, moist soil whether planting seeds, pulling weeds or collecting the harvest. That earthy aroma, the warm sunlight, a light breeze and time to savor these gifts of nature passes all too quickly.

Some of the greatest joys of my childhood were visiting my grandparents in Buffalo and helping (or so I thought) them tend to their flower, fruit and vegetable gardens. My father’s parents lived in a large 2-story home that at one time had housed the family grocery store. The Great Depression ended their ambition as storekeepers but their 7 kids had room to grow. Despite being on a small, city lot, they had magnificent pear and plum trees underplanted by flowers, herbs and vegetables. Who knew chervil tasted so good? Sometimes, when they came to visit my parents, they would bring a whole bushel of juicy Bartlett pears that my siblings and I would consume to our heart’s delight.

My mother’s parents were forced off their rather decent sized lot when the New York Thruway was built and resettled onto a postage stamp size lot a few towns over. Everyone’s back yard was treeless and bordered by a chain-linked fence. I remembered you could see all up and down the block. My grandmother brought her beloved rose bushes to her new home along with peonies and sedums. Soon a garden was created around the perimeter of the backyard for grandma’s roses and grandpa’s tomatoes and hot peppers.

Grandma & roses 1968

My grandmother next to her rose garden. Photo by dmp, 1968.

The three species my grandmother planted abundantly in the backyard were roses, coleus and self-seeding snapdragons. I was introduced to ‘Mister Lincoln’ and ‘Queen Elizabeth’. I never knew flowers had names before! I was mesmerized. Her favorite and, later mine, was ‘Peace’. She had 5 ‘Peace’ roses in her garden, one in the center back and two flanking each side as if standing guard over her aging yet peaceful life. Of course, peace and content are often short-lived and my grandfather died in 1977. My grandmother went to live with my parents. They turned part of the family room into a bedroom for her and I (in my younger years) turned the small garden bed I used to tend outside her windows into a small rose and Easter lily garden for her. ‘Peace’, of course was the first rose I planted along with every Easter lily anyone gave her.

peace-heirloom

‘Peace’ rose from http://www.heirloomroses. com

My grandmother almost made it to her 96th birthday. Every time I see a ‘Peace’ rose now, my mind wanders back to those unforgettable summer days spent hanging out on the glider in her back yard with the sweet smell of freshly mown lawn, the soft fragrance of roses drifting by and warmth of grandma’s love.

Scrolling through my horticulture news feeds a few weeks ago I came across a notice from the U.S. Postal Service about a new forever stamp. The ‘Peace’ rose forever stamp was introduced to the public last April at the headquarters of the American Rose Society in Shreveport, LA. At the ceremony were Sonia Meilland-Guibert, the granddaughter of the French rose breeder who created ‘Peace’ as well as a representative of Star Roses and Plants (formerly the Conard-Pyle), the company that introduced this rose to the American public at the end of World War II.

peace stamp

Peace forever stamp from https://store.usps.com

Why make a stamp honoring the ‘Peace’ rose? Because of its beauty and the heartwarming story that comes with it.

‘Peace’ was developed by third generation French rose breeder, Francis Meilland. Always on the lookout for new and unique roses, he meticulously made crosses and grew out the progeny. From a group of promising offspring, one tagged simply 3-35-40 (reputedly corresponding to the 3rd hybridization in 1935 and 40th cultivar selected for test proliferation) stood out among all others. Its perfect bud opened into a full, 40 to 43 petaled, 5-inch blossom of ivory yellow frosted at the edges with a soft pink. Leaves were a glossy, dark lush green and plants were erect, stately and vigorous.

Sam McGredy IV, the famous Northern Irish rose breeder is believed to have stated, “For the record, ‘Peace’ is the greatest rose of my time. It’s as nearly perfect as a rose can be.”

400px-Rose,_Peace_-_Flickr_-_nekonomania bud

A perfect ‘Peace’ rose bud. From: commons.wikipedia.com

Francis Meilland was so enamored with this new rose that he named it after his mother, Claudia, who had died at an early age. ‘Madame A. Meilland was introduced in France in 1942. She had many admirers and plans were to share her with the rest of the horticultural world. The impending invasions of France cast doubt upon these aspirations but with little more than hope and faith, bundles of budwood were hastily dispatched to Germany, Italy and the United States. Breeders in all 3 countries were enticed by its beauty with the Germans naming it ‘Gloria Dei’ (Glory of God) and the Italians calling it ‘Gioia’ (Joy).

In America, Robert Pyle of Conard-Pyle Co. in Pennsylvania propagated the budwood. A few rose plants were transported to the American Rose Society to be critiqued. It was 1945 and World War II was coming to an end. On VE Day, April 29, 1945, Conard-Pyle introduced the world to ‘Peace’ with the timing of the release being coincidental but meaningful. War weary citizens gladly purchased and planted this lovely rose both as a commemoration of the war and a return to peacetime activities, like flower gardening.

Since then, over 175 million ‘Peace’ roses have been sold. ‘Peace’ has won numerous horticultural awards and has been used as a parent in hundreds of crosses including my second favorite rose, ‘Double Delight’.

double_delight_fb

Double Delight from http://www.heirloomroses.com

A more detailed story of the ‘Peace’ rose can be found in Antonia Ridge’s book, For the Love of a Rose. With the release of the rose in 1945 came this simple statement: “We are persuaded that this greatest new rose of our time should be named for the world’s greatest desire: PEACE.” And I can’t help but think that as we approach another Memorial Day and honor those who served and passed before us, that if only all fighting would cease, the world could be at peace and this sight might be even more beautiful than this breathtaking rose.

Dawn