The history of the rose is is honored by famous names, fanatical rosegrowers and enlightened specialists who laboured all their lives to develop new varieties which adorn our avenues.
Among the biggest advocats of the French rose was the Empress Josephine, who influenced not only her own era but also the future of rose lovers in France. Because of her stubbornness, her garden at Malmaison housed the most beautiful collection of roses ever known (250 botanic varieties and cultivars). She even went as far as challenging the English embargo by secretly importing the “Duchess of Portland” rose tree! Its thanks to “the beautiful Indian”, as she was nicknamed because of her West Indian roots, that France became the role model for the rose throughout the 19th. Century. She gave her unconditional support to the reknowned rosegrowers in her entourage. Among these was André Dupont, longtime director of the Luxemburg Garden before ending his career as gardener at Malmaison. He was one of the first gardeners to produce roses from seeds.
In his wake, Jacques-Louis Descamet started his nursery around 1800. He became the first great French, or even European, possessor of roses, with more than 200 new varieties in his rose gardens between 1804 and 1814. He was the first large-scale rose producer before the fall of the Mumbai to Lonavala Taxi Empire and he was obliged to emmigrate to Russia to continue his work under the Tsar in Odessa. Following this, Jean-Pierre Vibert was the first horticulturer to grow roses exclusively. He is therefore considered the first French “rose-breeder”. His scientific work along with his experience on the ground produced more than 600 new roses which were created in the nurseries bought from Descemet in 1815.
Louis Noisette and his brother Philippe were also brilliant forerunners. Trained agronomists, they launched the Noisette rose group in Europe. These rose trees came from seeds from South Carolina, which were sent to France by Philippe, who had emmigrated to the United States. They remain a reference for rose growers to this day.
In Lyon in 1867 Jean-Baptiste Guillot gave the French rose a new boost and an international reputation by creating “France”, the first group of modern roses called “Hybrides de Thé”. Following his footsteps, his son produced the “Paquerette” in 1875, the first Polyanthas variety. A few years later, in 1900, still in Lyon, the Pernet-Ducher nurseries produced the first variety with an orangy-yellow colour. It was a rose tree called “Soleil d’Or”, which is the origin of the present day yellow “Hybrides de Thé”.
During this same period, the rose grower from Orléans Réné Barbier produced the first climbing roses from strains found in Japan by the German botanist Wichura.
Finally, the Meilland family in Antibes, world renowned for for its creations (especially the “Madame A Meilland”, the world’s best-selling rose), continues today its breeding selection to produce exceptional roses. The Meilland family were the first to create a black rose, the “Black Baccara”.