Garden History and Historic Gardens of the NortheastFlower border - The Path to Gardens Past

February 1930- Better Homes & Gardens Articles

What Lemoine Did for Your Garden
Alfred Carl Hottes


[Editor’s Note: This article was compiled from notes of the late Dr. A. C. Beal, professor of floriculture at Cornell University from 1908 to 1929.]

There are scores of kings and thousands of heroes who wear their medals and whose names are almost household words, but the greatest plant breeder of ornamental plants is hardly known to the people. Wherever there are flowers in gardens, there also is the unseen influence of Victory Lemoine.Lemoine

Coming from a long line of gardeners, Lemoine was born in Dlme, Lorraine, France, in 1823, and for 89 years lived, worked, and died among flowers. His college studies finished at Vie-sur-Seille, he traveled for several years, observing plant life wherever he went. He early realized that even tho the flowers of the world are lovely in their native habitat, yet there is always an opportunity for improvement when they are moved to our gardens. One sort may have a red flower but lack hardiness, another may have a tiny purple but no pink nor lavender. Lomoine, true artist that he was, dreamed of flowers which he could produce, none of which had been previously known.

He started business in 1850 in Nancy and remained there all his life. A nurseryman, yes, and successful, but withal a breeder of plants second to none. His first recorded introduction (1852) was the double Portulaca; in 1854 he produced the double Potentilla, Gloire de Nancy.

Illustration Caption: In 1874 Lemoine produced the first double Tuberous Begonia, a type popular as a garden and florists’ flower. The crested type (shown above) soon followed and is the loveliest of all.

Illustration Caption: Printemps is a peony variety which blooms extremely early. It is a large, yellowish cream, quite single, and a welcome addition to the early flowers which open for Memorial Day.peony

But you will not be especially interested in the dates as much as to know what he did. Lemoine produced a variety of geranium, called Gloire de Nancy, which was the first double geranium. It has served as the parent of all the geraniums which are commonly grown in today’s gardens. The plants usually known as geraniums are really Pelargoniums. The Showy Pelargonium, more often called the Martha Washington, is a popular Easter plant for the house. Previous to Lemoine’s work with them they were only purple and single.

We are indebted to Lemoine for the best of our Weigelias; in this case, five or six species, some hardy, others tall, still others with larger flowers have been so mingled together that the result is a group of varieties to suit many garden needs. Some are early, others are quite hardy and with glorious bell-shaped flowers of such beauty that they are grown all over the world. Of the best, Avante-garde is an early pink; Abel Carriere is rosy carmine with a yellow throat; (continued on page 121)

Illustration Caption:deutzia One of the best of all Deutzias for garden-planting is named the Lemoine Deutzia. It is so profuse flowering that the plants are completely covered with masses of white blossoms.

What Lemoine Did for Your Garden
(Continued from page 27)

Conquerant bears bright pink flowers with the reverse of the bells carmine; Le Printemps is flesh-colored and flowers quite early.

Lemoine changed the old-fashioned Syringa (Philadelphus, or mockorange) so much that except for mass-planting the ordinary sorts are not grown. In some of the varieties the flowers are greatly increased in size; for instance, Voie Lactee, a single, wit enormous flowers produced in long shoots upon plants often 10 feet tall; Rosace has semi-double flowers, very fragrant. As a result of incorporating the blood of Philadelphusmicrophyllus, the Littleleaf Mockorange, a race of hybrids called Lemoinei was produced. The members of this family are low in growth and have small foliage. Most other mock-oranges are tall. Of this new race the most delightful are Bouquet Blanc, a semi-double with arching branches loaded with rather large cluster of bloom (the plants possess the low habit of growth); Avalanche bears small, single flowers in such profusion that the foliage is quite hidden; Manteau d’Hermine, Glacier, and Candelabra also belong in this desirable group. By using Philadelphus purpureomaculatus to cross with the garden hybrids, a series of varieties was produced with a touch of purple at the center; of these, Etoile Rose is rosy pink, Fantasie has a rose center, Oeil d’Pourpre is spotted with blackish purple, and Sirene bears a large flower with a purple center.

Equally important was Lemoine’s contribution to the Deutzias of our gardens. By crossing the taller species with the low-growing ones he produced a group of hybrids known as Deutzia lemoinei. These are mostly shrubs about three feet tall, hardier than the parents and with showers of snow-white flowers so profusely borne that the bushes are veritable banks of snowy loveliness. In another group has been introduced pink, which includes varieties such as Boule Rose, bearing a white flower-bordered rose.

Lemoine is responsible for the production of the first double lilac. From this one many other varieties were produced. The lover of superior lilacs is indebted to him for such varieties as Madame Lemoine, a double white; Miss Ellen Willmott, a large-clustered, late, double white; Victor Lemoine, a double, azure-mauve produced in such large clusters that the branches are arched with bloom; President Loubet, with carmine buds opening to purple-lilac. Among the singles no varieties are more noted than Congo, a deep red; Pasteur, which has a thin growth but with flowers which shade from purple-red to claret; and Reamur, a free-flowering sort with purplish carmine flowers. There are many other varieties in a group which blooms a week before the usual sorts and is characterized by such varieties as Lamartine, a rosy mauve; Pascal, with the typical lilac color; and Claude Bernard, a lilac-mauve.

Lemoine’s contribution to the galaxy of superior peonies is difficult to realize, so extensive is his list of varieties. It would not be rash to say that in every garden with five peonies, at least one is of Lemoine’s introduction. The following sorts are from these famous gardens of Nancy: solange, orange salmon at the heart; Madame Emile Lemoine (named for his wife), white overlain with rosy sheen; Mont Blanc, a white with a creamy center; Baronness Schroeder, a late, blush-colorred sort fading white; and LeCyngne, a creamy white, one of the loveliest in existence.

Two new strains of peonies were developed by Lemoine. One of these was produced by crossing Paeonia witmanniana with the Chinese Peony (Paeonia albiflora), from which species most of the other varieties mentioned have been derived. This is an early group welcomed in Northern gardens for guaranteed bloom on Decoration Day. The flowers do not last, but they are exquisitely beautiful and all gardens should possess them. The varieties bear such names as Avante-garde, a single, pale pink, lovely golden stamens with violet filaments; Le Printemps, which has six or seven petals and is yellowish cream; Mai Fleuri, which has a white suffused flesh; and Messagere, white, tinted cream.

Another strain resulted from crosses between the Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa or moutan) and the Golden Peony (Paeonia lutea), with the result that this lovely new group includes varieties which are yellowish, amber, and red, bearing such names as L’Esperance, a soft yellow with a salmon tinge; Surprise, a mixture of straw-color, pale salmon, and rosy purple; and Satin Rouge, bright blood-red, a unique color.

As a breeder of begonias Lemoine established the foundation for several races which grace garden and greenhouse. His hybrids are too numerous to mention, but all gardeners will be interested to know that the first double Tuberous Begonias were produced by him in 1874. In 1895, by crossing Begonia socotrana with Begonia dregei, he produced Gloire de Lorraine, the forerunner of the most profuse flowering of all types of begonias. It is from this type that J. A. Peterson, of Cincinnati, Ohio, has developed the exquisite Melior Begonia – the pride of the florist – a mass of soft pink blooms from November to Easter when grown by experts.

The phlox beds of summer are seldom without at least one variety which Lemoine has produced. Names found in the catalogs of phlox specialists are Eclaireur, a carmine; Tapis Blanc, a dwarf white; Etna, a orange-scarlet; Matador, a cardinal red with a deep eye; Pantheon, a large and beautiful rose; Coquelicot, a brilliant, advancing scarlet; Lord Raleigh, and unapproachable deep lilac-violet.

When the gladiolus was first receiving the attention of gardeners, it lacked a good form, diversity in color and markings, and a graceful spike. Lemoine exhibited a new strain of gladiolus at the International Exposition, in Paris, in 1878. It was known as Lemoinei Hybrids and resulted from a cross between the then popular Gandavensis varieties and the Golden Orchid Gladiolus (Gladiolus purpureo-auratus). These were hailed as an event in flower production, but Lemoine was not satisfied inasmuch as these varieties were bell-shaped and hung their heads. In 1889 he introduced varieties which were glorious in color and more open, resulting from crosses, using his previous varieties in Gladiolus saundersi, a species from Africa which had very wide open flowers. The strain was called Nanceianus and has served as the basis for most of our modern favorites.

Vicotr Lemoine was honored by horticultural societies in all parts of the world. In 1911 he was awarded the George Robert White Medal, of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, an organization of which he was a corresponding member. He was the first foreigner to receive the Veitch medal of the Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain. He was a member of the Societe Nationale d’Horticulture, the Royal Horticultural Society of Munich, and of the Royal Society of Agriculture and Botany, of Ghent, Belgium.

In 1885 he became a Knight of the Legion of Honor, and on April 3, 1894, he was elevated to the grade of officer.

Aside from his horticultural labors he served the people of his community as a member of the town council from 1871-1888.

It has been granted to few men to leave behind such a monument in the world as that left by Victor Lemoine in every garden where plants are cultivated.

New Perennials
J. G. Bacher

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