Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ralph S. Moore, January 14, 1907 - September 14, 2009.

Above: 'Baby Austin', 2001. A second generation R. soulieana hybrid rarely exceeding 10" tall.

On September 14, 2009, at 102 years of age, Ralph S. Moore passed away. I doubt there is anyone reading this blog today who does not know that Ralph was a pioneer, an innovator whose influence on modern rose breeding has been global. Many modern roses have Moore rose genes in their pedigree, and for good reason: Ralph's roses are easy to grow, prolific with bloom and have great genetic diversity. Moore roses are often also very easily propagated; something Ralph regarded as very important for the future of the modern nurseryman. There are so many things Ralph gave us that we should be thankful for.

Some years ago Carolyn Supinger, Ralph's nursery/office manager, shared with me a stack of Ralph Moore's writings that had been archived in the office for many years. Carolyn knew that I had an interest in playing the role of unofficial "biographer" for Mr. Moore and so she arranged for me to have copies of most of the written materials from the office. Among the stacks of paper we found there, one article in particular stuck out when I read it: it contained a carefully distilled page that summarized what I have come to think of as the core philosophy of Mr. Moore's work ethic. This brief article reads more like a "note to self" than anything else, which indeed perhaps it was. The following is a direct quote from the first page of the note:

I Believe In Miracles
(or Stick Around For Fifty Years and See What Happens)
by Ralph S. Moore

In any endeavor there are four things which contribute to success. These are:

a) Communication
b) Dedication
c) Persistence
d) Vision

A. Communication: Word of mouth / Directed study / Books, etc. / What the market wants.
LOOK AT YOUR PLANTS: - they can communicate a lot, viz.:
- Water
- Fertilizer, etc. to the breeder
- Small differences / bending the plant the way you want it to go.
- The "Burning Bush" experience. (see explanation below)

B. Dedication:
- It is being there
- Its is being in it for the long haul
- It is overlooking failures and disappointments
- It is knowing it is all worthwhile

C. Persistence:
- DON'T take NO for an answer!
- It is finding a way
- It is seeking advice, but not being bound by that advice

D. Vision: Possibly the most important of all.
- It is seeing things as they might be
- It is sometimes separating that VISION into parts which step by step are attainable
- It is being ready to change course
- It is finding a better way
- It is seeing the whole as though it were already accomplished; a reality.

So you don't believe in miracles? Sequoia Nursery / Moore Miniature Roses have been a miracle....things never seen or done before have happened here. THE ROSE is a miracle. A lot has been accomplished but much more needs to be done. Let us set our sights high....THINK the IMPOSSIBLE DREAM.

*end of quote*

To elaborate on what Ralph often described as The "Burning Bush" experience, I can add the following: to me, he described this as the experience whereby a person can become so focused on the goals immediately in front of him that he neglects to look around him and see what else is happening. If the hybridizer does not look carefully at his results, important and subtle features and shifts might go unnoticed, and so opportunities can be lost. Knowing how and where to proceed can be greatly influenced by recognizing when a new door has opened. This was a very important aspect of Ralph's scientific mind and it kept him alert and watchful all of his life, in all ways.

My personal thanks to you Ralph, for all your many kindnesses and for sharing both your knowledge and your plants in order to further my own breeding goals.

Ralph Moore obituary at The Valley Voice


  1. Paul,

    What a treasure, and how thoughtful of you to pass it on to us. I only met Ralph once, but I was happily able to thank him for 'Renae'. That day, a lively 'Sweet Chariot' came home w me.

  2. I never got the opportunity to met Ralph. I went to the rose convention in Denver a few years back even though I suffer from some social anxiety when in large groups. One of the things that convinced me to go was the possibility that Ralph might be their. Even though Ralph was not there I was glad I went because I did learn quite a bit. Everyone who met him seems to hold him up to the highest regard which I think tells a lot about the man. In reading old RHA newsletters it is amazing how much people mentioned how he helped them or encouraged them. I know I have gotten a lot of advice from others that originally came from Ralph. He is one of the two hybridizers that were my heroes when growing up the other being Bill Munson (daylily breeder). The third through sixth rose I bought growing up were all Ralph Moores. I have bought more Ralph Moore roses than roses from any other breeder.

    Paul do you have plains of putting the writing in a book or something similar. I would think many people would be interested in reading it. It would also be interesting to add pictures and descriptions of the plants he breed and plants he used to breed from. It would also be interesting to get stories and thoughts from people who knew Ralph. I think it might be a great way to preserve his memory and pass on who he was to future rose lovers.

  3. Rest in Peace Mr Moore. Thank you for making our world better. Beauty, oxygen and conservation. Send angels to continue your work, Sir.

  4. I met the man once. I am a nobody in the rose world...just a lover of the plant. But he made time to visit with me and shared his passion. I got a glimpse into those eyes full of life and love. I visited his nursery every time I went to CA to see my sister. What a great day it was when we discovered Sequoia Nursery in her town. We have living memorials of his life to treasure always...growing right in our backyards! Heaven sent for sure.