Commentary & sustainability analysis
With the end of the French Empire in 1815 following the defeat of Napoleon by English and Prussian armies at Waterloo and the Treaty of Paris French influence and colonial power declined and the British aspiration to Empire gathered momentum. French claims to land in the antipodes included the Marion Dufresne claim to Van Diemen’s Land in 1772, Louis St Allouarn’s claim to the west coast of New Holland in the same year and the claims to the south coast of New Holland under the name Terre Napoleon made by Napoleon’s Baudin expedition of 1800-1803. Many French names disappeared from the charts and without subsequent settlement all these claims were to lapse.
Classical influence was a major part of French public life from the styling of its leaders as Emperor, Empress and Consul to the architecture and aesthetics. Empire, honour and military glory still gripped the male psyche.
Paradoxically, France at the time of Empress Josephine was caught in a frenzy of ‘anglomania’, the fashionable social elite seeking out English fabrics and teas – even assuming English manners like eating roast beef, wearing riding coats, enjoying horse-racing … and setting up gardens in the romantic English tradition, á l’anglaise, in preference to the formal rectilinear parterres so popular in France at the time. In keeping with Roman and Greek tradition it was mostly the wives of powerful men who cared for these garden estates while the men were engaged in public affairs. In common with the rest of European society, France’s fashionable were also in the grip of ‘botanophilia’ and its love of natural history especially the plants. When the hopeful Revolution of 1789 turned into the Reign of Terror, botanophilia beamed out as a tantalizing other-world for the wealthy and influential – in a strange way it was an anodyne preoccupation for an age, a fusion of botany and horticulture: a coupling of science and aesthetics that could prevail for brief moments of respite in world away from grimy politics.
… may not only be regarded as housing the first international collection of roses – and thus starting their present popularity – but as being one of the first gardens in the new genre, where the design was explicitly to demonstrate the beauties of the plants themselves. This style has since become known as the Gardenesque … 
After Josephines death in 1814 Malmaison quickly fell into disrepair but the tradition of rose breeding and cultivation has continued to this day through people connected with Malmaison. Josephines favourites would now count as ‘heritage’ varieties, replaced by modern groups of cultivars like the teas, hybrid perpetuals, David Austin’s and so on.
Like her English contemporary Joseph Banks, Empress Josephine was a key link in the European network of social connections that included royalty, aristocracy, the wealthy, intellectuals and scientists, nurserymen, garden designers, social gardeners, explorer-gardeners, botanists and government officials. Because of her staus as first Empress of France she was able to set the fashionable trend of the day, not only in France but across Europe, and in so doing play a key role in delineating the future path of botany and horticulture by advancing the ideas and practice of: novelty plant introduction; botanical exploration and plant hunting; plant exchange and acclimatization; garden design and the use of professional landscapers; hothouse cultivation; botanical description; restoration of the rose as an aristocratic symbol; botanical illustration; and the elevation of science above politics.
Josephine freely shared her botanical spoils and is commemorated in the botanical names Amaryllis josephinae, (Josephine’s Lily, now named Brunsvigia josephinae), also a plant from western Australia described by Ventenat and called Josephinia imperatricis (now ), and the Chilean national flower Lapageria rosea, the Chilean Bell Flower, which recalls her maiden name, Marie-Josèphe-Rose de Tascher de La Pagerie (Napolean had invented the name Josephine from her Christian names since he did not like the very appropriate name by which she was generally known: Rose). The exquisite ‘Souvenir de Malmaison’ is a bourbon rose selected in 1843 by Lyon rose breeder Jean Béluze and it remains a favourite today.