Napoleon Bonaparte's wife, the Empress Josephine, was only 51 when she died. Napoleon had divorced her because he needed an heir, though reputedly he was still in love with this lovely and accomplished woman.
Her estate at Malmaison was 650 acres and 300 acres of that were landscaped in the English style of Capability Brown to look natural. There were also grottos, pavilions, wheat fields, and vineyards, and Josephine loved rare plants and exotic animals that were brought from far flung lands. She even grew pineapples and flowers in heated greenhouses.
But her favorite flower was the rose, and she built an impressive collection and imported many from afar. Josephine had the first European ever-blooming roses from China, and her eclectic collection allowed French hybridizers to create many new varieties. Her head horticulturalist, Andre du Pont, created over 200 new varieties at Malmaison, and by 1830, there were 2,500 different varieties of roses available in France.
Josephine commissioned Pierre-Joseph Redoute, a botanical artist, to illustrate the roses in her garden. And she was the first to create a garden focusing on only one type of flower. Tragically, after her death, her rose bushes were stolen, neglected, and lost.
This is Moya Andrews, and today we focused on Josephine’s roses.