Luminaries: Ralph S. Moore

Published in Garden Compass

“In spite of the impossibility to even define, let alone create, the ‘perfect’ rose, it is this dream of perfection that keeps us always working and hoping.” –Ralph S. Moore

At 97 years of age, and after more than 75 years toward an exceptional career in miniature rose breeding, Ralph S. Moore can still be found in his nursery seven days a week. He makes notes for new crosses, selects promising seedlings and aspires to create the rainbow of crested roses that does not yet exist. Ever before him, the mirage of the ideal rose lures him on.

This muse compelled Moore to create more than 400 different hybrids to date, including 19 miniature roses for which he received the American Rose Society’s Award of Excellence. It also led him to found Sequoia Nursery in Visalia, California, which has been in business since 1937, and won him the honor of being the only living American to wear the Dean Hole Medal, the Royal National Rose Society of England’s highest distinction.

Moore’s enchantment with roses took root in the garden of his early childhood home and continued to flourish in his teen years after his grandfather taught him how to propagate roses from cuttings. He became interested in hybridizing miniature roses that could be easily grown from cuttings and then, in the early 1950s, registered his first miniature, Centennial Miss.

Encouraged by Centennial Miss’ acclaim, Moore developed some of the most remarkable rose hybrids of his time. He introduced miniatures with stripes from a genetic source in red, white, yellow, pink and orange combinations. His Green Ice and Green Diamond were the first green roses in the miniature line. One of his more challenging accomplishments was to make progress toward introducing the cresting characteristic of Crested Moss into the genes of modern repeat-blooming shrubs.

Dubbed “the Father of Miniature Roses,” Moore modestly regards himself as a rainbow chaser, still striving for excellence. Along with Sequoia Nursery’s head propagator Burling Leong, Moore is currently working on creating striped roses in shades of lavender. Carolyn Supinger, Moore’s longtime friend and employee, says, “He’s the most humble, generous and forward-thinking man I have ever met. He loves to share his secrets and plans to be around to see the results of his projects 15 years from now.”

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