Victor Lemoine (October 21, 1823 in Delme, Moselle - December 11, 1911) was a celebrated and prolific French flower breeder who, among other accomplishments, created many of today's lilac varieties. As a result of his accomplishments, the term French lilac has come to mean all cultivars of the common lilac that have double flowers, regardless of their origin.
Lemoine was born at Delme, Lorraine, France, and descended from a long line of gardeners and nurserymen. After completing college, he devoted several years to traveling and working in the leading horticultural establishments of his time, notably at that of Louis Van Houtte in Ghent, Belgium.
In 1850 Lemoine established himself as a florist and gardener at Nancy, France, and by 1852 the Revue Horticole mentioned Lemoine's double flowered Portulaca. In 1854 Lemoine produced the first double Potentilla (Gloire de Nancy), and the first Streptocarpus hybrids. It was about the same period that Lemoine turned his hand to fuchsias and introduced many varieties, including the double flowered hybrid Solferino. By 1862 he had introduced a white Spiraea callosa, in 1866 the first genuine double-flowered zonal Pelargonium geraniums (Gloire de Nancy), and in 1868 the first of his hybrid weigelas.
The greatest of his creations, though, were undoubtedly his lilacs. Starting in 1870 Lemoine and his descendants (Émile Lemoine (1862-1942) and Henri Lemoine (1897-1982)) introduced over 200 new lilac cultivars. In 1876 he created the double French hybrids and hybridized the first Hyacinthiflora lilacs. However, his work was by no means confined to lilacs. During the last fifteen years of his life he produced excellent new varieties of Astilbe, cannas, Delphinium, Deutzia, Gladiolus, Heuchera, Hydrangea, Penstemon, peonies, Philadelphus, and Weigela, as well as more modest efforts in chrysanthemums, dahlias, bush honeysuckles, Montbretia, Phlox, saxifrages, and Spiraea.
Honors and awards
Lemoine was the first foreigner to receive the Victorian Medal of Horticulture of the Royal Horticultural Society. He also received the George R. White Medal of Honor from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.
He was the father in law of Émile Coué, who had married his daughter Lucie in 1882.