MEASURED not alone by the number of
novelties, but also by their intrinsic value to the gardens of the world,
Victor Lemoine, the great French nurseryman, deserves credit as the greatest
plant breeder, "creator" if you will, that the world has ever seen. Not a
person who grows plants in a garden but what at one time or another, if not
always indeed, has handled something that was the product of this master
craftsman. His modest, retiring nature found a large share of its reward in
the mere achievement of the results, yet for many years horticulturists
looked forward eagerly to the announcements of novelties in the annual
catalogue of this redoubtable nurseryman.
Very often other hybridist plant breeders, who have made for themselves
reputations along special lines, devoted their time and energies to the
development of one particular group of plants; but Victor Lemoine
accomplished in fully a score of different lines, results that in each would
have sufficed to build the reputation of any one man. How many people to-day
even have a ghost of an idea of the debt of reverence due to the memory of
this transcendent genius?
Elsewhere in this number of THE GARDEN MAGAZINE reference is casually
made to the man's achievements in Lilacs, and Deutzias, and Astilbes, and
these are but typical instances of what he did in his little nursery at
Victor Lemoine came from a long line of descent of practical
horticulturists. For generations back his ancestors have been gardeners and
nurserymen. He was born at Belme, Lorrain, October 21, 1823. He died
December 11, 1911, being then in his 89th year.
After completing his studies at college and before establishing himself
in the place which his name has largely helped to make famous, he devoted
several years to traveling and working in the leading horticultural
establishments of his time, according to the custom of the profession in the
old world. At that time Mr. Louis Van Houtte had a famous establishment in
Ghent, Belgium, and part of the time Lemoine spent there. It was in 1850
that he established himself in a very small way as a florist and gardener at
Nancy where he earned the admiration and veneration of the craft the world
over. And in his later years he was much honored by horticultural and
scientific organizations of France and Europe, and he was the first
foreigner to receive the Victorian Medal of Horticulture of the Royal
Horticultural Society, and only a few weeks before his death the
Massachusetts Horticultural Society honored itself by granting Lemoine the
George R. White Medal of Honor.
Born October 21, 1823; died December 11, 1911. In his world famous nurseries
at Nancy, France, he worked incessantly in the hybridizing of garden and
greenhouse plants and to such purpose that there is not a garden to-day in
which the products of the master genius are not familiar friends
In a short note such as this, it is quite impossible
to even catalog the multitude of valuable productions and introductions of
Victor Lemoine. It would require a space of several pages in small type! Has
any other plant breeder, living or dead, produced a tithe of the permanent
worth of this master craftsman? Casual reference has already been made to
one or two lines of his activity, and we should remember that he was
concerned very largely in the modern Gladiolus, and to show still further
diversity, reference need only be made to the Begonia Gloire de Loraine
which alone is such a popular plant in its particular class that its absence
would now be greatly missed. Sixty years of continuous plant production is
in itself a wonderful record, and the work is still continued in the
succeeding generation under his son, Emile.
It was in 1852 that the first mention of Lemoine's work was found in the
Revue Horticole—a double flowered Portulaca. Two years later, under the name
of Gloire de Nancy, came the first double Potentilla, and at the same time
the first Streptocarpus hybrids which later on were developed by another
establishment into some of the most pleasing of greenhouse plants. It was
about the same period that Lemoine turned his hand to Fuchsias and
introduced many varieties, including the double flowered hybrid Solferino.
Work thus begun was continued without cessation, but the creation of
hybrids and crossings was occasionally varied by the introduction into
commerce of new species or varieties for which he was always on the lookout.
Thus a white form of Spiraea callosa came in 1862; in 1866, Hydrangea
paniculata grandiflora, and in the same year he produced and sent out the
first genuine double-flowered Zonal Geranium, Gloire de Nancy. In 1868 he
began the introduction of his hybrid Weigelas, which have not been
superceded to this day. It was in 1874 that the horticultural world was
surprised by the first double tuberous Begonia, and this great genus in all
its other branches has from time to time been greatly benefited by this one
man's work. Indeed without Lemoine the Begonia would probably never have "
arrived." He introduced new perennial Phlox and the hybrid large-flowered
Clematis in great number, including, more recently, the reddish-flowered
Andre Leroy and others.
Space forbids anything like even a partial catalogue of achievements of
which, however, a fairly complete list will be found in "Horticulture"
December 23, 1911. Our purpose has been to show in a broad way how much we
owe to Victor Lemoine. No mention has been made of the greenhouse plants and
of the improvements of previous crosses which continued to pour out in such
profusion from his nurseries. During the last fifteen years of his life he
devoted his energies to the improvement on Deutzias, Peonies, Hydrangeas,
Weigelas, Gladiolus, Astilbes, Lilacs, Delphiniums, Pyre-thrums, Heucheras
and Pentstemons; but in passing, mention must in justice be made to the fact
that he worked also with Montbretias, Dahlias, Saxifrages, Chrysanthemums,
Bush Honeysuckles, Spiraeas and Phloxes the results of which we all enjoy
the year round.
Truly as we look back we are positively appalled at the immense volume of
results, and again we ask: Has any other plant creator given us as much? L.