A Brave Life among Roses


Francis Meilland dedicated his life to raising roses. He knew each plant intimately. As he strode through the nursery he came across one very special rose. “Ah, this one,” he said, “this one,” as he rubbed the particularly glossy leaf with a finely serrated edge. It was a masterpiece, unlike anything he had ever seen. Of all his plants, this one was sensational.

Meilland was anxious to give his precious rose a name and continue to work in his nursery but the year was 1939 and the threat of war hovered over Western Europe. His only hope was to preserve the precious flower from eminent danger. Soon thereafter, Nazi Germany had occupied northern France and were moving toward Paris. Waging blitzkrieg, the Nazis attacked one town after another spreading defeat and disaster everywhere.

With little time to spare Meilland took cuttings from his beloved plant and methodically packaged and shipped them throughout the world. He had no idea if they would survive. He could only hope. On one of the last planes that left France just before the Nazis gained control of the airport, one of his precious cuttings, cushioned in a diplomatic pouch, was destined for the United States.

Four long years passed. Meilland received a letter that one of his cuttings had reached a rose grower in Pennsylvania. It was ruffled and delicate. The petals were of cameo ivory and palest cream, tipped with a tinge of pink. His rose had survived. Later, on the very day Berlin fell to the allies, there was a special ceremony that took place in California. To honor the occasion, white doves were set free. After many years the fragile rose had survived the war and now received a name. It was called “Peace.”
The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. We are sent out as lambs in the midst of wolves. We need few resources to be faithful followers. All we need is guts.

Keith Wagner, It Takes Guts, adapted from Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Of War and Roses

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