Ralph Moore celebrated his 101st birthday on January 14, 2008, the same day he retired from 70 years of hybridizing roses, most notably miniatures. What follows is a brief look at what inspires a man to dedicate his life to always question, always wonder what is next, what the new rose will be.
Mr. Moore has a memory from when he was younger than three years old of his mother's roses just down the hill from their house. When he was in high school, young Ralph studied pictures in catalogs and taught himself how to propagate roses which he sold to local nurseries. In 1937, Moore opened Sequoia Nursery in Visalia, California. There is a house that fronts the property where he lives and will continue to do so as long as he wishes, after which it will belong to his son, Keith, who will move it.
Most of the research that has produced approximately 500 new roses, the majority of them miniatures, has been done at the nursery. On April 30th it closes forever. Moore has decided to give all of his plants, research, notes and as much of his wisdom as he can impart to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, where a rose breeding program already exists. '[But] Texas A&M professor of horticulture David Byrne envisions a program that will not only use Moore's discoveries in genetics but will also continue to sell his miniature roses to the public.' Byrne also plans gardens and classes because Moore was always a teacher. The property itself has been sold and the proceeds used to endow the Ralph Moore Chair at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis.
Moore had to get permission from Charles Schulz to name the above 3 roses after characters in the Peanuts comic strip. From left to right: 'Charlie Brown™', 'Lucy™', 'Woodstock™'
'Hope and Joy', a companion to 'Love and Peace', the rose in the opening thumbnail
There have been many honors bestowed on Mr. Moore throughout his career. The Ralph Moore Rose Garden in Visalia was dedicated to him on May 29, 2003 to honor his achievements as a rose breeder. On January 14, 2007, he celebrated his 100th birthday at the Visalia Convention Center where he received awards from the Royal National Rose Society of Great Britain and the American Rose Society along with a flag that was flown over the United States Capitol on January 8, 2007. A metal sculpture of roses climbing an arbor will be placed near the Texas A&M Horticultural and Forestry Sciences Building to honor Moore's life work. His friends and family commissioned the sculpture and made donations in his honor for each of the sculpture's more than 200 metal rose buds.
'Scarlet Moss' with closeup of the mossy buds
2 mini climbers: 'Sequoia Ruby' and 'Work of Art'
Writing is a second love of Moore's and it is how he plans to spend his retirement. He has written rose books; "All About Miniature Roses," "The Breeding and Development of Modern Moss Roses." He has also written poetry for 25 years. The book "Thoughts of Roses" is a collection of poems illustrated with pressed flower pictures. Here is one of his brief poems that I particularly enjoyed.
'Moore's Striped Rugosa'
In my little spot of ground
The Lord has given me
To test some of His roses
And set their spirits free
Freedom has many faces
Some we'd like to enjoy
But freedom can come to us
With a price we must pay
So freedom can be costly
Of time, money, devotion
But the joy of giving
Makes life worth living
Ralph S. Moore
'Just For You'
Ralph Moore's official retirement date was on his birthday in January, but when I last spoke to the folks at the nursery earlier in April he was still puttering with the plants on nice days. As long as he is there with the roses I guess he will. When an interviewer asked him how a person lives to be 100, he replied "[First] live to 99, and be very careful." He obviously hasn't lost his wit! The nursery closes today. Sad for those of us who wish they could order "just a few more" of Ralph Moore's roses. I just got an order of 9 beautiful little plants, one of them in bloom. Why, oh why, didn't I buy more? Hopefully, it won't be long before Texas A&M will be marketing them again. There is one question I just knew was asked in every interview... "What is your favorite of the roses you have created?"
"[My favorite rose is] the one I haven't made yet because it's perfect."
 Wikipedia contributors, 'Ralph S. Moore', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
 Eurekalert.org, Texas A&M University Horticultural Communications, 11-Jan-2008, 'More roses blooming at Texas A&M, thanks to Moore'
Ralph Moore's Minirama, Souvenir Edition 2008, pg 13, with permission
 Many of the facts in this article were taken from an interview in Tulare County Magazine, February 2008, Time Brings Roses, Dave Adalian.
All photographs are from Sequoia Nursery web site with permission; photographs of 'Hope and Joy', 'Love and Peace' and 'Moore's Striped Rugosa' are courtesy of Irene Lindsey (Images copyright Irene Lindsey, all rights reserved); photographs of 'Charlie Brown', 'Scarlet Moss', 'Sequoia Ruby', 'Topaz Jewel', 'Earthquake', 'Just for You', 'Grandma's Pink', 'Precious Dream', 'Green Ice' and 'Dresden Doll' courtesy of Paul Barden (Images copyright Paul Barden, all rights reserved).
About Jan Recchio
I'm a 'dabble' gardener. Been gardening since I was a child. I will plant anything that will grow for me and some things that won't, indoors or out. Outdoors I have theme gardens: roses, butterfly/hummingbird, heathers/dwarf conifers, a rock garden (in progress) and a new English-style cottage garden with an herb garden at it's 'heart'. Indoors I try to concentrate on orchids, African violets, anything that will flower or has lots of color and unusual houseplants. I try to stay organic and keep chemicals to a bare minimum. My non-gardening interests include quilting, counted cross-stitch and watercolor painting. I am a proud grandma, recently celebrated my 40th anniversary and before my retirement I was a clinical systems analyst (computer geek) for 24 years.