By Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance Times
At first, Brad Jalbert didn’t know that his rose was going to be named for Bette Midler.
The Langley rose breeder with international credentials just knew that the New York Botanical Gardens wanted to honour “someone special.”
And the rose they wanted would have to be “bawdy, brass, and bold, but it also had to be divine.”
“I had a big white rose that looks like it has a dollop of whipped cream on top,” said Jalbert, who started Select Roses in Langley nearly 30 years ago to breed new roses – a number of which have gained international recognition, and are growing on four continents.
He sent the creamy white rose to an Ontario nursery – “I just breed them, somebody else grows them,” Jalbert smiled.
And when that rose bloomed in Ontario, it was a hit.
“When they saw the rose,” said Jalbert, “it was everything they hoped it to be.”
The luscious white rose, with the added bonus of “a little vanilla fragrance,” is now The Divine Miss M, named after Bette Midler to honour her work as founder of the New York Restoration Society.
Jalbert proudly noted that The Divine Miss M has successfully crossed the border, as well. “She has bloomed once for them in New York at the Peggy Rockefeller rose garden at the N.Y. Botanical Gardens this spring.”
Now Jalbert is getting a reciprocal honour.
He is being recognized at the N.Y. Restoration Society’s Spring Picnic next week, on June 19, at the N.Y. Botanical Garden in the Bronx.
“I am being honoured with some other people,” he said.
With him at the head table will be Stephen Scanniello, prominent gardener, rosarian, histoiran, and author – and the person who first approached Jalbert on behalf of the N.Y.B.G. with the request to honour “someone special.”
Jalbert is hoping to meet Bette Midler at the annual Spring Picnic – she is someone he admired long before he knew he had bred a rose in her honour – and he expects that part of his function at the picnic will be to speak about and promote roses.
Besides the Spring Picnic, Jalbert said, his trip includes a full schedule. He’ll be visiting other gardens by sepcial invitation from Scanniello while he’s in the New York area.
“I will have to go and be the Rose Man,” he half-joked.
It’s a role he has played most of his life.
Although he prefers staying in the background while working with and for roses, he’s “not nervous at all” when he has to take the stage.
“I can go on talking about roses forever.”
Perhaps it’s the result of a skill he honed as a public speaking and demonstration competitor when he was a 4-H member in Langley, so many years ago.
“I guess I’m a big deal now,” he laughed, “but my family keeps me in check.”