Welcome to the November 2002 edition of my web site! The roses I write about are the Old Garden Roses and select shrub and miniature roses of the 20th (and 21st) centuries. For tips on rose culture, pruning, propagation and history, see the "Site Resources Guide" box in the navigation panel at left. To return to this page, click on the "thorn icon" in the margin at left. Articles from the previous months are archived and can be viewed by clicking on the listings in the left margin. Oh, and please don't write to me for a catalog or pricelist.....this is an information site only, not a commercial nursery. If you wish to buy roses, see my sponsor, The Uncommon Rose. Thanks!
the Ralph Moore Miniatures
Every year, new roses are introduced into commerce. Some of these are met with a lukewarm response from the rose buying public, either because they are not particularly good (or improved) hybrids or stylistically they are not what rose growers are looking for. No matter what the reason, many roses do not survive in commerce beyond their first 10 years after release. If catalogs stop offering a variety, and the buying public has moved on to thie current "bigger and better" model, whats to stop that rose from slipping quietly into obscurity and on further into extinction? Read on and we'll see.
At left: 'Toy Clown', from 1966. 'Little Darling' X 'Magic Wand'
At a recent lecture on "Misunderstood Roses" by Andrew Schulmann, Andrew pointed out an excellent example of a rose that nearly never made it in commerce because it wasn't "the right shape": 'Moonsprite'. It was a rose that would have been perfectly at home in the company of the David Austin roses, but at the time of its introduction it was an oddity and the public didn't take to it well. If it weren't for a few insightful growers who recognized its merits, it may have been allowed to fall into extinction. Therein lies the potential fate of most any rose thay enters commerce. Even the darlings of the newest catalogs, harbingers of a bright, bold new rose future are subject to the test of time. All roses must pass this test, it seems; the Old Garden Roses we still have in commerce remain with us today because they were deemed virtuous above and beyond their peers, and thus were saved for future generations.
At right: 'Trinket', from 1965
How do we preserve endangered or rare roses? How do we decide which cultivars are worthy of our preservation efforts? In a discussion on this topic I participated in recently, someone lamented the fact that a favorite rose was apparently being deleted from rose catalogs because the breeder of that cultivar had an "improved" (and patented) rose available to supersede the older one. Why, this person asked, must some of these perfectly wonderful varieties be allowed to fall into obscurity, and why wasn't anyone doing anything to preserve such roses? Well, I think that any attempts to archive and protect potentially threatened roses will be done ostensibly by devoted individuals, not by the commercial rose industry, whose main motivating force must necessarily be the making of money.
In the 1960's, rosarians like Graham Thomas began assembling collections of what remained of the old European roses from the 1800's and previous. Thomas was certainly one of the first to recognize the need to gather these roses for the enjoyment of future generations, but he was certainly not alone in his quest in the decades to come. In America, dedicated collectors began collaborating in an effort to collect, and in many instances identify, the "lost" roses that grew hidden in old established gardens and cemetaries. Banding together as entities such as the Heritage Roses Group and the recently rejuvenated Heritage Rose Foundation, these dedicated people work to educate rose growers and to reconstruct the histories of these living "antiques". (For a wonderfully detailed account of the efforts and activities of these preservationists, be sure to read Thomas Christopher's book "In Search Of Lost Roses")
At left: 'Strange Music', from 1986. 'Little Darling' X "33 stripe"
It is not only the heritage roses of 150 years ago that face the danger of potential extinction. Every rose introduced into commerce must make its brave bid for permanence in the realm of the rose growing public. Considering the thousands of roses man has bred, its not surprising that so very few of them earn their rosy immortality. This is not to say that there aren't a great many excellent roses out there, but everyone I know runs out of room eventually and they must choose which will stay and which must go! Choices must be made, and its the older varieties that are usually the ones to get the boot, or in this case, the shovel.
As most of my readers must know by now, I am an ardent fan of Ralph Moore and his hybrids. Moore roses have a certain feel about them; an unmistakeable style that comes from decades of hybridizing refinement and careful selection coupled with his unique and brilliant vision. Once upon a time if you had asked me what I thought about miniature roses, my response would have been a lukewarm "They're nice enough, if you go for that sort of thing". That was before I met "the Master" Ralph Moore. My first meeting with Mr. Moore was over the Labor Day weekend in 1998, when the temperatures in the Valley were in the low 100's. On a blistering afternoon, Carolyn Supinger, Ralph's general manager, introduced me to the man whose enthusiasm and infectious fascination for roses would alter my own future. I was met by a man whose enthusiasm for his work was obvious, and the energy that propelled his work was immeasurable and unflagging. A Three hour whirlwind tour of the Nursery (being shunted from one 120F greenhouse to the next!) and its wondrous contents left me dazzled and exhausted. So much to see, so much information came rushing at me, offerred so freely by this gentle man. This day changed my life and altered my future, to be sure. I have enjoyed exchanging information with Mr. Moore every year since, and gradually acquired more and more of both his Miniature Roses as well as his full sized shrubs for my garden.
Last year I made a decision, with the encouragement of Carolyn, Mr. Moore's manager, to gather together a collection of as many of the Moore Roses as I could make room for. Considering the fact that there are well over 400 registered Ralph Moore roses bred over the past 70 years, thats one heck of a project! However, it goes without saying that of the 400 plus roses introduced, not all of them have survived to be with us today. Carolyn is engaged in an effort to gather together as many of the older varieties as she can find from private gardens and other nurseries.* I believe there are now over 300 Moore roses now safely gathered at Sequoia Nursery as part of that archive. At the time that I write this article, Carolyn has helped me to establish an archive of Moore roses in my own garden, and I believe I now have over 300 of those roses growing in my own collection. All of this I do for the sake of archiving 70 years worth of one man's creative work, to help guard against their disappearance.
*If you want to help Sequoia Nursery in their search for some of the "lost" roses, take a look at their published list to see if you have any of these varieties.
As most of you likely already know, the vast majority of the Ralph Moore roses are Miniatures, among them several of the first Miniature Rose Hall of Fame roses, including 'Beauty Secret', 'Magic Carousel', and 'Rise 'N' Shine'. However, since these are all well known roses I would rather show you f a few of my favorite lesser known varieties.