Gardening / Insights

How the Peace Rose survived WW II: A true story of courage and grit

Peace, rose, flower, WWII, WW2, Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul

If plants could talk, the Peace Rose could tell a tale as gripping as a World War II spy novel.

It’s a tale of faith and grit.

And it all came waltzing into the kitchen one day when Marty returned from the post office.

“I think you’ll like these,” he said, holding up a sheet of postage stamps. “See the yellow and pink rose?”

I couldn’t see the stamps clearly from across the room, but I recognized the flower.

My heart swelled with joy. “Is it… is it a picture of a Peace Rose?”

“Uh-huh,” he said. “How did you know?”

I reached for the bookshelf and pulled out a copy of Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul. Then I flipped through the pages until I found my favorite story, Of War and Roses, written by Carol McAdoo Rehme.

In 2000, I worked with a team of garden writers to write and produce Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul as part of the bestselling series by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. It was published in February 2001 and spent three months on the New York Times bestseller list.

Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul

Time travel: France in 1939

The story is about Francis Meilland, I told Marty. He was a rose breeder in France who had dedicated his life to these plants. He knew each one intimately.

One day, while strolling through his nursery, Meilland reached out to rub a particularly glossy leaf, its finely serrated edge curling slightly over his finger. “This is a masterpiece,” he thought.

The rose was unlike anything he had ever grown before. This plant produced the most beautiful blossoms.

How to smuggle a plant

Monsieur Meilland was anxious to experiment, to develop the rose further and give it the name it deserved. But it was 1939 and he was running out of time. Within months, the German Army had occupied northern France and was making its way toward Paris, attacking one town after another.

Pressed for time, Francis Meilland took cuttings from his beloved plant and methodically packaged and shipped three parcels to fellow plantsmen in Germany and Italy. A third package was entrusted to the U.S. consul, who took it with him as he left France and promised to send it to an American grower.

Cut off from the outside world

As the war raged, the rose breeder was cut off from communications with the outside world. No faxes. No cell phones.

Four long years passed. Then a letter arrived from a rose grower in Pennsylvania, praising the beauty of Meilland’s masterpiece. The bloom was delicate and unique with creamy yellow petals delicately edged with pink.

Peace Rose, Organic Gardening

The Peace Rose, the world’s favorite rose, has a war-torn history. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Meanwhile, back in our Kodiak kitchen…

“This is a beautiful story, Marty. Mind if I read the rest of it aloud?”

“Sure, go ahead,” he said.

“His rose had survived. But, for Francis Melland, the crowning glory came later. On the very day that Berlin fell [April 29, 1945] and bells of freedom rang across Europe, rose growers gathered far away, in sunny California, at a ceremony to christen his splendid blossom.

To honor the occasion, white doves were set free to wing their way across a sapphire sky.

“And, after so many years, the fragile rose that had survived a war finally recovered its name.


My voice wavered as tears ran down my cheeks.

“What’s this?” I asked myself.

Was today’s news bothering me?

All the suffering caused by war?

Or maybe I was recalling my Mom’s death (which inspired me to submit Yellow Irises for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series).

I looked up at Marty and continued to read, slowly.

Monsieur Melland’s Peace Rose not only survived against all odds, but it also remains a symbol of hope.

Later in 1945, a Peace Rose was handed to each of the delegates at the inaugural meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco, each with a note that read:

Peace rose, Kodiak, Alaska

Today the Peace Rose remains one of the most popular roses in history. I love that.

Because war and suffering continue to fester across the globe. And I believe peace will prevail.

Somehow it was fitting that the U.S. Postal Service created the Peace Rose as a Forever stamp…

Peace Rose, Cool Climate Gardening

Peace Rose Forever stamps were issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2018.


Thanks for stopping by. May you enjoy a lifetime of peace.

Need a little help? I’ve got a couple of resources for you:

Hi gardeners! Want to create your dream garden? You can do it, step-by-step with Marion Owen: The Gardener’s Coach. Visit my YouTube channel: The Gardener’s Coach.

Compost is the answer to everything in the garden!
And if you have enough of it, you won’t need much of anything else. To learn more, take my 60-second assessment.


  • drbhaskerbanerji
    July 23, 2023 at 8:33 PM

    Am an Ardent admirer of the Rose ,” PEACE,’
    It is so beautiful , and elusive- one longs for PEACE.

  • Matthias Meilland (grandson of Francis Meilland)
    September 18, 2022 at 11:12 PM

    Thank you Marion Owen,

    Just a little correction. The budwood of Peace (3-35-40) was given to Mr. Pyle (Conard Pyle – Star Roses & Plants) in 24 July 1938 following the spring meeting 28 June 1938 in our office in Lyon.

    3-35-40 was ranking #6 at this meeting.

    Cheers and thank you again 😉

  • Kathleen Pearson
    August 26, 2018 at 5:18 PM

    Oh, yes, I do believe that peace will prevail in the long run, even tho it might be far off for absolute world peace, as we humans count time. It has been foretold and I think we are in the birth pangs of it in present day.

    • marionowen
      September 5, 2018 at 5:01 PM

      I believe peace is prevailing, Kathleen, in spite of what we hear on the news and social media. Love is stronger than evil. Period.
      Thank you so much for your comments… see? It adds to the positive-ness that the world craves!

  • Kathleen Pearson
    August 26, 2018 at 5:08 PM

    This is my favorite blog that you have written, so far. I think I vaguely remember hearing that there was a peace rose, but I didn’t recall the whole story. Thank you for this timely reminder of that beautiful rose and the story behind it.

    • marionowen
      September 5, 2018 at 4:59 PM

      It’s an amazing story about the rose, isn’t it? Perseverance, faith, all that rolled into a wonderful tale. Glad I could share it…

  • Ren
    August 26, 2018 at 4:52 PM

    What a very lovely piece, it brought a smile to my face and warmed my heart.
    Thank you!

    • marionowen
      September 5, 2018 at 4:58 PM

      So glad I could help bring a smile to your face, Ren. Love to you!

  • Deborah
    August 26, 2018 at 4:48 PM

    Wow, great information.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • marionowen
      September 5, 2018 at 4:55 PM

      You are most welcome Deborah. Glad you enjoyed it… I hope the rest of your summer goes well. I’m working on a new post… Cheers to you, Marion

  • Terri Breckberg
    August 26, 2018 at 3:40 PM

    Thank you for opening your heart and sharing.

  • Candy Falatko
    August 26, 2018 at 1:40 PM

    Thank you for this, Marion. Hope all is well. I just talked with a friend from Kodiak that filled me in.

    • marionowen
      September 5, 2018 at 4:53 PM

      Thank you, Candy, for checking in. I’d started writing this post before our boating accident. And then, of course, put it on hold. When I got back to the computer, there it was, waiting for me. My head wound is healing, as is Marty and the boat, which we hope gets back in the water in the next few days.


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