Sunday, 11 August 2013

Nicholas Moore and 'Pastel'.

I seem to have a little more time and a little less energy, so I have been paying more attention to my semps than has been possible for a while.

One of the best things today is the flowers on Sempervivum 'Pastel' (sensu Ivyhouse Nursery) - but in this case my plants appear to be correctly named.

Those grown outside in full sun have very brown rosettes:

While those in the alpine house remain greenish:

20130811 Sempervivum 'Pastel' (15)

This cultivar has also flowered for the first time here (after 3 years) with flowers that are much later than those of most of my collection.

Bred by Nicholas Moore (UK ) in the 1950s 'Pastel' is a hybrid between Sempervivum erythraeum from Rila and Sempervivum marmoreum ' Chocolate '.   It has an Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society (1976).  Rila is a mountain range in southwestern Bulgaria and its name is said to derive from the ancient Thracian language. S. marmoreum ‘Chocolate’ is described as a dark form of S. marmoreum brunneifolium.

In addition to plain vanilla ‘Pastel’, Sempervivum ‘Bronze Pastel’ and S. ‘Nouveau Pastel’ are listed in the literature, both introduced by Moore, the former in 1953, the latter in 1956. ‘Bronze Pastel’ is apparently of the same provenance as ‘Pastel’, while ‘Nouveau Pastel’, is said to be a cross between ‘Pastel’ and ‘Bronze Pastel’.  There is also a 'Brown Pastel', but that might just be a synonym for one of the others.

Nicholas Moore, from Kent, UK, hybridised sempervivums for many years and in the 1950s had articles in Amateur Gardening about his hobby (Mitchell, 1977). He is said to have introduced many “interesting and beautiful” varieties.

“Between 1930 and 1939 a number of expeditions to Europe,Turkey and the Caucasus were made in search of new plants. The result was the discovery of seventeen new Sempervivum species as well as varieties or geographical forms of species already known. Specialist alpine plant nurserymen received plants from these new discoveries, which were in turn passed to amateur growers. One such person was Nicholas Moore of St Mary Cray, Orpington, Kent. He used many of these new species and various selected forms for hybridising work, resulting in many new and quite outstanding plants to which he gave unusual cultivar names.” From Sempervivum cultivars in the Alpine Garden Society’s Plant Encyclopedia.

Moore himself was a fascinating character: a classics scholar and a much published poet as well as a horticulturalist.  He was also delightfully eccentric.There is an excellent account of Moore’s life and horticultural activities here:

And of his literary and philosophical career here:


Mitchell, Mary (1977) Sempervivum ‘PASTEL’. The Sempervivum Society Journal. Vol 8 (1) 1977: 11-12

1 comment:

  1. The brown one featured at the top of the page looks really nice. I have a lot, but never seen this colour. Will be looking out for one!