Sophia Warren’s Prize-winning Roses

A Novel

Coming Soon – On Submission Now

A yellow rose with pink edges appears above a quote: Rosa 'Peace" is quite possibly the most famous and best loved rose in the world. This hybrid tea rose, better known as the Peace rose, has endured for decades because of its unique history and symbolism. Excerpt from upcoming novel, 'Sophia Warren's Prize-winning Roses' by Katie R. Yen



a novel by Katie R. Yen

In this delicious tale of revenge gone wrong, readers are whisked through the world of competitive rose gardening as we follow Phyllis Hobhouse on her pursuit to dethrone her ex-best friend and reigning Queen of Roses, Sophia Warren. With no gardening know-how, will Phyllis’s roses be worthy, or will she resort to murder to win?

Both green thumbs and ‘fans of killing cacti’ will smile at the familiar travails of keeping plants alive, all the while plotting revenge.



“I’ve got a surprise for you, Philly!” Stanley called as he came in through the back door, carrying what appeared to be a bucket of dirt. She rushed over to see what it was, and could barely see his handsome face through a screen of thick leaves, glossy and green. Before she knew it, he placed the dirty bucket smack in the middle of the kitchen table, the same table where they took all their meals, read the paper, did their taxes, and – back when their children were still very young, sometimes changed dirty diapers.

“What’s the surprise?” Phyllis said, not putting two and two together.

“Happy Mother’s Day!” he grinned, holding both arms out toward the kitchen table. “Flowers, for the mother of my children.”

“Flowers? For me?”

“Not just any flowers. Roses!” he said, his face gleaming as bright as the full moon.  “Come here,” he said, walking over and taking her by the hand. She followed him to examine the treelike thing rising out of the dirty bucket. It seemed alien to her, like a creature from the sci-fi films she so adored.

“Don’t people usually gift roses as a bouquet?” she said, not quite sure what to make of it. He had never brought her cut flowers before, much less long-stem roses; she considered them to be too conventional a gift, and she too unconventional a woman. Aside from that, in all their years of marriage she had never shown an interest in gardening, and between the two of them they were barely able to keep the grass green through the summer.

“Why buy you something that’s just gonna die in a few days? This one’s real special, too. It’s a Peace rose. I heard it’s a real popular one,” he said. His thick, dark eyebrows were expectant, and she made an effort to show an interest.

“Well, thank you, darling,” Phyllis said. “You know, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a rose still attached to the rest of the plant before.”

“Well, this is what they look like,” he said, standing like a domestic Superman with his chest out and fists on his hips. “The guy at Ridgeworth’s said this one’s a real beauty. Helped me pick out the best one on the lot, too. Just like when we’d go Christmas tree hunting with the kids.”

While all the other couples and families were examining every tree from top to bottom, it was Stanley’s habit to take the kids and go straight to whoever was in charge of the tree lot, sweet talking them into handing over the nicest tree nature could grow, which they usually kept hidden.  Man or woman, it didn’t matter; few were able to resist his charms. By the end, they’d give him the nicest tree they had, full and without any bare spots, and on top of that, usually a discount, too.

She leaned in, meeting the rose eye to eye, and began inspecting it the way a Martian might if they were encountering a rose for the first time. Starting from the top, the plant had a mix of tight buds and half-open blossoms, one on each of its thorn-covered canes. With her fingertips she caressed their silky, veiny heads, the petals of which were a pale golden yellow rimmed with magenta, as if someone had traced the outline of the flower’s form with a tube of pink lipstick. All along the cane grew dark green, glossy leaves; she pinched them, rubbing their leathery texture between her thumb and forefinger. Beneath the leaves were brown-green stems, as skinny as drinking straws, and protruding from them were sharp outgrowths, hooklike sickles and scythes. Those, of course, were its thorns, which grew in no discernible pattern, popping out here and there like so many rows of devilish shark teeth.

Curious, she pressed the pad of her finger into the tip of a particularly large thorn. At first feeling nothing, she smirked, feeling proud of herself, then pressed harder. She pulled back instinctively, suddenly feeling its sharpness prick her flesh.

“Are you okay?” Stanley asked. She nodded. She had not drawn blood, but only surprised herself with the sudden pain. Lastly, she brought her face up close to the plant as if to kiss it, her nose nuzzling one of the open blossoms. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, smelling something like dried tea leaves with an underlying rosy perfume that she could swear was almost fruity.

“Do you like it?” Stanley asked, wrapping his arms around her soft waist.

“It’s … interesting,” she said. She had never really paused to appreciate a rose before, or any other plant, for that matter, but it seemed unlike any other she had ever seen. On the surface, it really was a lovely creature, feminine and alluring; get too close, though, and it could be something dangerous.

“You know, the Peace rose is a lot like you, indomitable and beautiful. Here, read this,” Stanley said, tugging on a large plastic tag that hung from the plant. “It reads like a biography.”

“Would you read it to me?” she said, slumping into her seat. He kept one arm on her shoulder as he read:

Rosa ‘Peace’ is quite possibly the most famous and best loved rose in the world. Its vigor and hardiness make it popular with gardeners, and it is beloved by florists for its long-lasting blooms. This Hybrid Tea rose, better known as the Peace rose, has endured for decades because of its unique history and symbolism.

In mid-1930’s France, third-generation rose grower and visionary horticulturist Francis Meilland was cross-pollinating rose seedlings in trial beds at his family’s nursery outside Lyons. After four years of careful work, he had grown a particularly outstanding rose, with generous blooms ranging from creamy ivory to pale gold, rimmed with a delicate pink blush, the leaves a lustrous dark green, and the stems long and straight.

As the storm clouds of World War II approached, the future of France and the Meilland rose nursery grew uncertain. Seeking to protect their work, Meilland sent four cuttings to fellow cultivators around the globe: one each to Turkey, Italy, Germany, and one to Pennsylvania nurseryman Robert Pyle, sent in a diplomatic bag to America on the very last plane to leave free France. Shortly after the roses ‘escaped,’ France was invaded, and for the duration of the war the Meilland family had no idea if any of the cuttings survived.

Isolated under the wartime occupation, the Meilland family named the rose ‘Madame Antoine Meilland,’ in honor of Francis’ beloved mother. Meanwhile, the rose was thriving in Italy, where it was named ‘Gioia,’ Italian for “Joy,” as well as in Germany, where it was hailed as ‘Gloria Dei,’ Latin for “Glory of God.” At the same time, the rose was being put to the test in America, grown in test gardens all over the country to see how it would fare the various climates. From the dry heat of the south to the damp cold of the north, the rose flourished in nearly every climate zone. Unfortunately, the rose cutting sent to Turkey never reached its final destination.

While the war continued in Europe, Robert Pyle patented the rose, giving it the name “Peace,” and eagerly waited for the war to end to share the good news with his friend Meilland. By pure coincidence, the Peace rose was formally introduced to the public the day that Berlin fell. Peace roses were presented to delegates at the inaugural meeting of the United Nations, and shortly thereafter, the UN Charter was ratified. Further solidifying its unique place in history as a harbinger of harmony, the war in Japan ended the very same day the Peace rose received the coveted All-American Award from the American Rose Society.

With the war over, people across the globe rushed to plant the easy-to-grow Peace rose. As for Francis Meilland, he and his family survived the war, and he continued breeding roses until his death. At his funeral, mourners honored him by dropping Peace roses from their own gardens into his grave; no other rose was laid to rest with him.

In Robert Pyle’s name-giving ceremony for the Peace rose in 1945, he said, “Peace is increasingly essential to all mankind, to be treasured with greater wisdom, watchfulness, and foresight than the human race has so far been able to maintain for any length of time. Towards that end, with our hopes for the future, we dedicate this lovely new rose to: PEACE.

So, dear gardener, we hope that you will enjoy watching Peace flourish in your garden, and in your heart, as it has for so many before.

Finished reading, he said, “See? This isn’t any old rose. It’s a rose that’s willing to go the distance, a rose with a will to survive.”

Phyllis sighed.

“Philly,” he said, squatting beside her and looking up into her downcast eyes, “I know you don’t go for flowers and chocolates, but I wanted you to have something special for mom’s day this year. The kids might be grown and gone, but you’re still their mom, and you’re still important to them, even if they don’t know how to tell you.”

Phyllis smiled weakly, remembering this wasn’t the first time her children had forgotten her on that special Sunday in May. Her sons, Bruce and Wayne, used to call, but only after mild coercion by their father, and her daughter Selina never did, but trying to cajole her youngest into anything had the opposite effect. Seeing his wife’s distress, he distracted her with a kiss, his stubble gently chafing her upper lip as she had come to enjoy.

“Let’s go plant it, you and me, right now,” he said. She raised her brows in surprise. “Never mind, scratch that. This is Mother’s Day, and you’re not doing any work. You tell me where to plant it, and I’ll do the digging. I’ll even do it in my undershirt, the way you like.”

At this last suggestion, a little sparkle came into her eye, and she shook her head mischievously.

“No?” he said, surprised.

“No,” she repeated. “No shirt at all.”


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