By Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance Times
“She was famous for her brownies,” according to Brad Jalbert.
And now, thanks to Jalbert, a world-class rose breeder, the late Beverly Anne Clay will also be famous for a rose.
The Langley rosarian, who recently made headlines when Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Society purchased the right to name one of his roses The Divine Miss M, has named a beautiful pastel peach-coloured rose in honour of Mrs. Clay.
Jalbert travelled to New York last month to celebrate – and be celebrated for – the rose’s naming at the New York Botanical Gardens.
“It’s a big deal to meet a star,” he said “but to me, the local ones are more important.”
Jalbert, whose roses have won prestigious international awards, also stocked the rose garden at the Derek Doubleday Arboretum with some of his favourite scented roses in her honour.
His company, Select Roses which he started in Langley in 1990, donated the roses on the single condition that the garden, in front of the Arboretum’s new Rotary Interpretive Centre on Fraser Highway, next to Langley Airport, would be named after her.
“We donated all the plant material for the rose garden and will continue with our support of it,” said Jalbert. “When we made that offer, the only condition was on the rose garden’s naming.”
He first met Bev Clay and her husband Les when his family came to Langley in 1974.
His first job in the business that would see him grow to world-class recognition was at Clay’s Nursery.
“They were the first people to hire me into the industry.”
And they remained friends throughout.
One of the things that connected them was certainly their love of gardening – and her famous brownies. Bev Clay was well known for her baking skills, and her willingness to share both her baking and those skills through teaching.
Les Clay, a renowned rhododendron expert himself who with Bev owned and operated Clay’s Nursery from 1964 to 2001, continues to spend a lot of time among Jalbert’s roses.
“Les is the perfect combination of a gentleman and force of nature,” said Jalbert. “Working for him and Bev as a young man was a great pleasure.”
Of thousands of seedling roses started each year, only a hundred or so are chosen for a second year of growth and testing.
And of those, only a select few are given names – often commissioned by groups or individuals who pay $7,500 to $15,000 for the right to honour a person or organization, or maybe an event.
The rose Jalbert selected to name after Beverly Anne Clay is one of his proudest achievements.
Bev Clay passed away last December.
The grand opening of the Beverly Anne Clay Rose Garden at 21177 Fraser Highway will be held this Sunday, July 7, from 2 to 4 p.m.