Rose is a symbol of secrecy, peace, and then today. A less popularly known symbol now, the rose is also a sign of a secret. In sixteenth-century England, for example, a rose was at times worn behind the ears of servants, tavern workers, and others, indicating the wearer had “heard all and told nothing.”
And in Germany, around the same time, diners who found a rose as a centerpiece on their table, knew they could talk freely. Think about it, we even have an expression “sub rosa” which literally means “under the rose.” Historians believe this phrase originated with the custom of carving a rose over the door of the confessionals in a Catholic church.
Even Medieval alchemists — those searching for a way to turn common substances into gold — adopted the rose as a sign of secrecy. They came to symbolize their highly-guarded secrets of their art.
Perhaps no other rose — is so intertwined with history, war and peace than that which was developed in the twentieth century. Its renown is legendary. And its story is, well, the stuff that blockbuster movies and best-selling novels are made of. But what makes this story all the more remarkable is that it’s true.
The Peace Rose
Its tale is not nearly as well-known as it should be. But, there is no better true-life story that epitomizes the hopes and relief of a world following World War II. I’ll not keep you in suspense much longer.
The year is 1935 — June 15 to be exact. The location, France. Francis Meilland and his father pollinated a rose. The following summer, they took a portion of its eyes to graft. By October 16 of that year, the first buds were opening.
Three years passed. It is now 1939 and it appears inevitable that Germany is about to invade France. Meilland sends the eyes of this plant to rose growers he knows in Turkey, Germany, Italy, and the United States.
One of the recipients was Robert Pyle of Canard-Pyle, a well-known and well respect rose distributor and developer. He not only propagated the plants Meilland sent him, but in turn, he sent the results to the American Rose Society for testing.
In 1944, Pyle wrote to Meilland. He told his good friend that he planned to release the plants with the end of the war. A naming ceremony was planned by the Pacific Rose Society Annual Exhibition on April 18, 1945 — the same day that Berlin fell. Pyle thought the name “Peace” would be an appropriate tribute.
At the same time, Dr. Ray Allen, secretary of the ARS sent each of the 49 delegates of the very first meeting of the newly formed United Nations (then held in San Francisco) a single, long-stemmed “Peace” rose and this note: “We hope the ‘Peace’ rose will influence men’s thoughts for everlasting world peace.”
Did this rose actually inspire a world to negotiate peace? Probably not, but it symbolized hope for future peace. And where there is hope there is life.
And that brings us to today
Buying a dozen? While we may never know if we owe the classic dozen roses to our caveman friend, Ugh, we can say with just about certainty that the roses were grown by a commercial rose grower in huge rose fields in fairly temperate climates (Just try to imagine acres of roses!).
And if you bought your roses in the United States, then the odds almost guarantee that they were grown in one of these three locations: the San Joaquin Valley in California, in Texas or in Arizona.
Roses are grown in these fields for a full two years prior to being harvested. Then the plants are allowed to lie dormant are stored and then bare-rooted — basically, this means there is no soil on their roots — in huge, moist, refrigerated facilities to keep them fresh before being shipped to gardeners, nurseries and garden centers in winter or early spring.