In 1804, France was about to witness the creation by Empress Josephine Bonaparte of the greatest rose garden, one whose well-crafted plan and beauty are still praised to this day. In 1799, she bought Chateau de Malmaison near Choisy, where she fulfilled her lifelong passion for flowers. It also became her permanent residence after her divorce from Napoleon in 1810 till her death in 1814. Malmaison was a huge property where shrubs, flowers and trees of all varieties were brought to create gardens. A separate garden was planned exclusively for roses. It was her dream to create a rose garden which would have specimens of every rose species and every rose variety growing anywhere in the world.
Back in those days, it is hard to even imagine how all this would have been possible: to obtain roses of every variety in the world when there was an immense tension of war all over France? But when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. To fulfill this dream, Josephine gathered around her some of the great botanists and horticulturists of the day: Thomas Blaikie, one of the most remarkable gardeners of the time, who laid out the Malmaison gardens; Mr. Kennedy, the owner of Vineyard Nurseries in Hammersmith; and André Dupont, the director of the Jardins de Luxembourg in Paris who made possible the worldwide search for roses and brought them to Malmaison.
Empress Josephine commissioned Pierre-Joseph Redouté to draw her roses, to keep a record of the rose species and varieties in the garden. This resulted in Les Roses which has become Redouté's greatest work to this day. Redouté was a skilled artist as well as a botanist. He used the technique of stippled engraving, in which he used tiny dots to create engraved copies of his watercolor illustrations. Les Roses consists of three volumes in which about 169 Malmaison roses are illustrated, with descriptive text by Claude-Antoine Thory. The first volume of Les Rosesa ppeared in 1817, three years after the death of Josephine.
What happened to the Rose Garden after the death of Josephine? The garden suffered great neglect after her passing and had almost died by 1815. In some texts it is written that the garden was destroyed by the Prussians in the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian war. It was obvious for the garden to meet such a fate in war-torn France back in those days, but not all of it was lost. The collection was recreated at La Roseraie de L'Haÿ les Roses by Jules Gravereaux, which welcomes visitors.
Except from: Naheed Shoukat Ali (naheed) Fragrantica Writer.