Royal City Rose Honours New Westminster’s 150th Birthday

A superstar rose, named in honour of New Westminster's 150th birthday.

Credit: Brad Jalbert

When the City of New Westminster’s horticulture manager asked for a rose to name in honour of the city’s 150th birthday, he had no idea he’d be getting such a star.

During the summer of 1998, I went about making my usual rose crosses and wanted to mate two of my top favourite floribundas together.

‘Pretty Lady’, a floribunda from England, was known to be an outstanding garden rose, with foliage highly resistant to black spot and other fungal diseases. She was extremely winter hardy, free flowering and produced an abundance of vigorous shoots, all driven by one of the strongest root systems I had ever seen on an “own-root” rose. Her colour was a pretty soft pink but lacked the impact that people often want in a landscape shrub.

Enter ‘Living Easy’, a rose I consider to be the finest floribunda ever introduced and easily the best overall garden rose I have ever grown. ‘Living Easy’ has outstanding foliage, flower power and resistance to disease, and again produces a massive “own-root” system capable of supporting all this growth. Living Easy has large double flowers in brilliant shades of apricot, peach and salmon with hints of yellow. The over-all effect is simply stunning.

Her Lineage

Rose seedling ‘Jalapri-007’ was conceived during the warm summer of 1998 and born on a cold spring day March 1999.

Parentage Pretty Lady (seed parent, mother) by Living Easy (pollen parent, father).

‘Pretty Lady’ proved to be a rather reluctant mother with only a handful of seeds germinating from the dozens of flowers pollinated. As they say, it “only takes one”—and what a beautiful baby she was!

From its birth date, ‘Jalapri’ grew with amazing vigour and remained free of any rose diseases in my maternity ward greenhouse. Back then, I was still spaying my seedlings so I truly didn’t realize just how resistant or how good this baby was going to be.

‘Royal City Rose’

Royal City Rose grows to about 3 feet rounded and flowers late spring until frost.

She is highly resistant to disease, extremely winter hardy, grows with incredible vigour on her own roots and will tolerate some shade better than most roses.

Three hours of direct morning sun or better is all you need to enjoy her glorious roses.

This rose can be pruned with hedge clippers if needed or in typical rose fashion each spring. ‘Royal City Rose’ produces masses of new shoots each season, which will help to make her a very long lived shrub rose.

Her initial flowers were pretty, a nice solid clean apricot with amazing petal substance and pretty hybrid tea-style pointed buds. I had many seedlings to select from that spring and she was just one of dozens of pretty babies! Not fully realizing her potential at the time, she was just left to grow on with other seedlings for further consideration. A full 99 percent of the seedlings are composted by their second season, so this baby had to impress me if she was to remain in the race.

New Westminster seeks rose for birthday celebration

Claude Ledoux, horticulture manager for the City of New Westminster, approached me that summer asking about the possibility of having a rose named for their fair city. I explained to him the high cost of “purchasing” a rose-naming and the difficulty in breeding a truly good one. He was not in a rush but wanted me to keep my eyes out for a healthy rose that would be fitting for his city’s up coming 150th birthday.

He said that the chosen rose had to be trouble free, winter hardy and one that an average gardener could enjoy with minimal fuss. A tall order, I thought! He also said he wanted a pretty colour, nice classic rose shape bud, and he wanted it scented! I almost chased the guy out of my greenhouse, geeesh, what was he asking for, some miracle rose?

(I wonder if ‘Jalapri’ was listening to our greenhouse banter that day.)

This is ‘Jalapri’ feeling pink! Time of year and temperatures can have an effect on colours. September 2007

August 2008

‘Jalapri’ rose bud

‘Jalapri’ bush showing its healthy foliage and plant habit.

‘Jalapri’ shows her stuff

The following spring, I was selecting rose seedling to be potted up or field planted for further testing. ‘Jalapri’ had outgrown her pot but was looking rather awkward and gangly with all her shoots so I was about to compost her. When I yanked this pot-bound rose out of her tiny home I noticed her incredible clean and healthy root system. She was beyond pot bound yet not a sign of root rot or stress to the overgrown top portion of the plant. Interesting…

‘Jalapri’ was reprieved and sent to our small growing field for a second chance. I’ve never ever seen a rose hit the ground and take off growing in every direction like this rose. She quickly grew from a gangly seedling to a beautiful, mature, rounded shrub with loads of attractive flowers that seemed to defy the elements. She was evaluated for a few years before more cuttings were taken for a larger field test. During this time, my friend from the New Westminster Parks and Recreation Department kept hounding me for his wonder rose! But I hadn’t mentioned Jalapri yet since she was just in the early testing stages.

Putting ‘Jalapri’ to the test

During the spring of 2005, I rooted another 20 ‘Jalapri’ for further field tests. I was amazed how quickly she formed roots and was just thrilled with the vigour she was showing. The young plants were planted in a row at the end of one rose field with orders that no pesticide of any kind was to touch her foliage. I then planted some very disease-prone roses next to her in the same row. I wanted to know how well she would withstand poor neighbours! My baby grew with the most amazing vigour I’ve ever seen in the rose field, completely outgrowing and out-flowering any other rose in the field. The disease-prone indicator plants next to her quickly became infected with black spot and other rose diseases, but Jalapri didn’t show a spot on her foliage from spring until hard frost. 

She had thrown down the gauntlet and was ready to do battle with the very best roses on the market. My findings and photos of her were sent to Claude from New West Parks with all our findings left just between us.

The following season, more cuttings were taken, and in the spring of 2008, Jalapri was planted in a field next to another rose in her same colour class—a multi-award winning, world-famous AARS rose that’s considered to be the best apricot garden Ht rose you can buy. During that summer, my baby showed her stuff, she out-flowered, outgrew and all-around outperformed her world-class competition.

Little did we know, the final completion would come down to -17° C temperatures with heavy wind chill blowing on these roses during B.C.’s record-cold December/January of 2009. Most of our roses were killed to the ground and had to be cut back hard and left another year to re-grow. Thank goodness for own-root roses, as they can bounce back from this type of hard pruning.

Jalapri suffered some winter dieback but had plenty of nice live canes above ground to make her ready for spring 2009 harvest. A few of the winter worn plants were potted as mother plants and placed in a warmer greenhouse. True to her nature, 007 broke dormancy with a bang and started to send out vigorous new shoots in every direction. She simply can’t and won’t be held back.

A special rose for a special occasion

Early in 2009, Jalapri became ‘Royal City Rose’ and was chosen to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Western Canada’s oldest city and British Columbia’s first capital. Plants of the ‘Royal City Rose’ will be on sale at Select Roses for the fall digging of 2009, with a select number of plants available from the City of New Westminster in June.

A large bed of ‘Royal City Roses’ was donated by myself and planted around New Westminster all spring.

Brad Jalbert picks Aphids

Brad Jalbert, owner and breeder for Select Roses in Langley, B.C., is considered a leading hybridizer of miniature roses in the Northwest. His varieties are recognized worldwide for their unique qualities and remarkable colour range. He also actively works with Metro Vancouver parks and gardens to help improve and establish sustainable public rose gardens.

Select Roses features a large display garden and attracts gardeners interested in high-quality garden roses and expert gardening advice. The greenhouses are spring through mid-summer with thousands of roses for gardeners to enjoy. The display garden reaches peak bloom during the later part of June. Select Roses also has an interest in unique rhododendrons and features them in the spring display garden and nursery plant sales area.